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It's hard to find a friend — especially as an adult. Several tech companies are trying to make it a little easier.

Back in March 2016, dating app Bumble launched a new feature called Bumble BFF. The premise was simple: Take the existing Bumble infrastructure and let people use the app with the specific goal of making friends. Why? Because the company realized that many people on the app were already doing that, and they might as well just make it a full-on feature.

Making connections with strangers on the internet with hopes of finding friendship is a pastime going back years. From Craigslist's "Strictly Platonic" (RIP) section to apps like Meetup, Peanut (which is aimed at moms looking for friends who are also moms), GirlCrew, and Patook — there's no real shortage of places trying to help you make some new pals.


While the stigma around online dating seems to have faded a bit in recent years — a 2015 Pew survey found that 15% of American adults have used a dating app, up from 11% just two years earlier — a lot of people still feel weird about making friends on the internet, with some going so far as to say that people you meet on the internet aren't actually friends at all.

Internet-based friendships are totally real. For example, I've never met writer and comedian Lane Moore — at least not in person — but we're still good friends.

Moore is probably best known as the creator of Tinder Live, a monthly show that is exactly what it sounds like: People gathering in a room to swipe through Tinder profiles projected onto a screen. She's also the author of the upcoming "How to Be Alone." Her knowledge of dating apps (thanks to her show, she's about as close to a professional Tinder-user as it gets) led me to reach out to ask her a few questions about the internet and what role it can play in non-romantic relationships. Surely, an internet-savvy Tinder power-user would be a huge fan of friend-matching apps, right? Wrong.

"I feel like this is the loneliest time in history in a lot of ways, and I've seen a lot of people say similar things," she tells me. "We have more ways to connect than ever before, but we all feel really lonely."

Lane Moore. Photo by Mindy Tucker.

But in a time where we have more access to each other than any other point in human history, how is it that so many of us still feel lonely?

Or is it simply that we feel lonely because there are so many people telling each of us that "internet friends" don't count in the same way your next-door neighbor might?

In a January 2018 article at Inc., Amy Morin makes the argument that we're not lonely in spite of the internet, but because of it. There are certain aspects of Morin's argument that make a lot of sense to me. For instance, she suggests that the internet has created a culture where we put too much of an emphasis on the quantity of friends we have, at the expense of the quality. There's also the fact that the faceless nature of the internet can sometimes make it difficult to read social cues. Both of those points are perfectly reasonable, but I'm not sure I buy the conclusion.

The internet is just a tool, and maybe there's simply no app or algorithm that can single-handedly cure such a human problem like loneliness. We are perfectly capable of fostering strong friendships online, but like any relationship, there's work required that goes beyond the swipe of a screen.

Moore makes the case for friendships that begin on the internet, especially for the world's introverts and outcasts.

"I think there's that desire to feel connected and seen," she says. "Especially if you're somebody who's been stuck don't feel like you fit in some way. I feel like those are the people who internet friendships are really incredible for."

She tells me about the last time she took Tinder Live on the road, meeting many of these online friends for the first time in person by taking them up on offers to let her sleep on their couches (hotels are expensive!). It was a shockingly good experience.

Just how people sometimes find romance when they're not looking for it, that's true of friendship, as well — and that might be the factor apps can't account for.

Moore was in Minneapolis for a Tinder Live performance. Following the show, she messaged one of the matches (the point of the show is to have a little good-natured fun at the expensive of the people she matched with, making jokes about cheesy lines on their dating profiles and whatnot) to let him in on the fact that his profile had been featured, and thanked him for being such a good sport about the whole thing. Then they kept chatting, and long after Moore had left Minneapolis, they stayed in touch, striking up a pretty good friendship.

"We met because he was unknowingly part of my comedy show where I would joke about trying to steal his jeans, in a city that I don't even live in," she says, laughing. "And he's been just such a really lovely friend. And I love that's how we met. I think some of [the reluctance to make friends on the internet] is just conditioning because I think all those stories are beautiful and really fucking cool."

Photo by Mindy Tucker.

To Moore, the idea of actively seeking out a friend through an app feels like some sort of job interview for friends. While she's all for people using them if they help them make new connections, she just doesn't think they're for her.

"All the really great friendships that I've had have it's always just been part of beautiful story, a thing that I wasn't necessarily expecting," she says. "And then we kept bumping into each other or we kept connecting or you know, they, they kept reaching out to me or I kept reaching up in them and it's just, you know, this kind of thing."

So whether or not you're a fan of apps designed to help you make new friends, it's important to remember that just because a friendship starts online doesn't make it any less valid than one that began at work, school, or a social event. What's important is that you put the effort in to maintain that friendship, and watch it flourish.

All images provided by Bombas

We can all be part of the giving movement

True

We all know that small acts of kindness can turn into something big, but does that apply to something as small as a pair of socks?

Yes, it turns out. More than you might think.

A fresh pair of socks is a simple comfort easily taken for granted for most, but for individuals experiencing homelessness—they are a rare commodity. Currently, more than 500,000 people in the U.S. are experiencing homelessness on any given night. Being unstably housed—whether that’s couch surfing, living on the streets, or somewhere in between—often means rarely taking your shoes off, walking for most if not all of the day, and having little access to laundry facilities. And since shelters are not able to provide pre-worn socks due to hygienic reasons, that very basic need is still not met, even if some help is provided. That’s why socks are the #1 most requested clothing item in shelters.

homelessness, bombasSocks are a simple comfort not everyone has access to

When the founders of Bombas, Dave Heath and Randy Goldberg, discovered this problem, they decided to be part of the solution. Using a One Purchased = One Donated business model, Bombas helps provide not only durable, high-quality socks, but also t-shirts and underwear (the top three most requested clothing items in shelters) to those in need nationwide. These meticulously designed donation products include added features intended to offer comfort, quality, and dignity to those experiencing homelessness.

Over the years, Bombas' mission has grown into an enormous movement, with more than 75 million items donated to date and a focus on providing support and visibility to the organizations and people that empower these donations. These are the incredible individuals who are doing the hard work to support those experiencing —or at risk of—homelessness in their communities every day.

Folks like Shirley Raines, creator of Beauty 2 The Streetz. Every Saturday, Raines and her team help those experiencing homelessness on Skid Row in Los Angeles “feel human” with free makeovers, haircuts, food, gift bags and (thanks to Bombas) fresh socks. 500 pairs, every week.

beauty 2 the streetz, skid row laRaines is out there helping people feel their beautiful best

Or Director of Step Forward David Pinson in Cincinnati, Ohio, who offers Bombas donations to those trying to recover from addiction. Launched in 2009, the Step Forward program encourages participation in community walking/running events in order to build confidence and discipline—two major keys to successful rehabilitation. For each marathon, runners are outfitted with special shirts, shoes—and yes, socks—to help make their goals more achievable.

step forward, helping homelessness, homeless non profitsRunning helps instill a sense of confidence and discipline—two key components of successful recovery

Help even reaches the Front Street Clinic of Juneau, Alaska, where Casey Ploof, APRN, and David Norris, RN give out free healthcare to those experiencing homelessness. Because it rains nearly 200 days a year there, it can be very common for people to get trench foot—a very serious condition that, when left untreated, can require amputation. Casey and Dave can help treat trench foot, but without fresh, clean socks, the condition returns. Luckily, their supply is abundant thanks to Bombas. As Casey shared, “people will walk across town and then walk from the valley just to come here to get more socks.”

step forward clinic, step forward alaska, homelessness alaskaWelcome to wild, beautiful and wet Alaska!

The Bombas Impact Report provides details on Bombas’s mission and is full of similar inspiring stories that show how the biggest acts of kindness can come from even the smallest packages. Since its inception in 2013, the company has built a network of over 3,500 Giving Partners in all 50 states, including shelters, nonprofits and community organizations dedicated to supporting our neighbors who are experiencing- or at risk- of homelessness.

Their success has proven that, yes, a simple pair of socks can be a helping hand, an important conversation starter and a link to humanity.

You can also be a part of the solution. Learn more and find the complete Bombas Impact Report by clicking here.

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