Need to find some cool people to hang out with? There truly is an app for everything. (Image via The Telegraph)
Thoughts x

True friendship might be one (right) swipe away.

With your next semester of college lurking around the corner, there’s a lot to be anxious about — and rightfully so. I would be shocked if you weren’t stressing over that upcoming 400 level class, finding a killer internship or, if it’s your first experience with college, integrating yourself into the social scene. Maybe an assortment of all three? Don’t worry, friend. I’m here to help. After all, if I, a self-proclaimed, tightly wound ball of extreme stress and introversion, made it to my senior year — you’ve totally got this.

In fact, a little support goes a long way. That’s why the lattermost fear is so common for any human being, regardless of demographics. A trip down the always enticing Google rabbit hole will prove fruitful … well, assuming answers like “join a club” or “just get out of the dorm” are your cup of tea.

For my fellow introverts and struggling workaholics, this is a classic case of “yeah, no.” Whether it be an issue of time or comfort, physically going out might not be the best strategy for forging friendships. Thanks to the advent of social media, it doesn’t have to be.

As the rising stardom of dating apps like Tinder and OkCupid has proven, a (probably) genuine connection is right at your fingertips. Riding on the coattails of their achievements, many developers made their own foray into the online relationship business.

However, some took another direction and opted for a platonic version. Centered on assisting your efforts to construct your own #SquadGoals, these five apps are the perfect companion for your return (or entrance) to college.

1. Meetup

Meetup might be the most prolific entry on this list. Since launching as a website back in 2002, it has made its way onto both Apple and Android devices, while also upgrading features to remain ahead of the curve every step of the way. Its maintained relevance is particularly impressive considering, as of two months ago, Meetup became old enough to drive.

Supporting a healthy medium between online chatting and actually going out, the app strives to find various hobbyist activities in your area and form groups based on common interests. When logging on for the first time, you can expect to find gatherings in categories ranging from hiking to women’s programming sessions. In the rare event that nothing listed is quite your style, don’t be discouraged. Instead, step up to the plate and create your own event.

Having a common interest from the outset allows conversation to flow with ease both in person and on the app’s messaging system. In a congested college setting, this is bound to come in handy. Should you want to network with others in your field of study, Meetup is a natural place to start. Alternatively, if you’re getting real tired of seeing the same faces day in and day out, this is an instant route into fresh crowd exposure.

2. Bumble

I know what you’re thinking. I’m not fooled, writer. Bumble is one of the most popular romantic dating apps. I don’t want a date — I want friends. You’re trash at this recommendation thing. Well, I’m offended but, as a consummate professional, I’ll let it slide and continue my explanation. Just know that I’m hurt. Truly.

As I was trying to say, Bumble does have its roots in romance. I can’t deny that. Nevertheless, it evolved its algorithm in 2016 to carve a fresh niche in a crowded industry. Dubbed Bumble BFF, the secondary feature recycles the iconic swiping mechanism and replaces the profiles of potential lovers with a host of (unfortunately) same-sex best friend hopefuls. The standard “swipe right” if interested and “swipe left” if not so much still applies. In addition, the developers preserved the 24-hour time limit for first contact in hopes that you won’t waste your efforts on a stagnant account. They thought of everything, didn’t they?

Actually, yes. The app even goes as far as to color code every individual you converse with. A wholesome shade of green surrounds friendly connections, while a fiery yellow encloses possible partners. As a result, it’s way more difficult to slaughter a budding friendship with an accidental steamy photo. Say it with me: thank you, developers.

3. We3

Let’s face it — one-on-one conversations are intimidating for both parties. All the responsibility for epic one-liners and overall chemistry feels like it belongs squarely on your shoulders. The other person is likely in the same boat. It’s an utter cesspool for stress. Wouldn’t it be nice to let someone else take the reins and not be wracked with guilt for it?

Enter We3. As the name suggests, this app throws a wider net, electing to pair you with two new friends minus the benefits. The matching criteria echoes dating apps like OkCupid and Match, favoring manual selection based on similar interests and goals. You’ll immediately be prompted to answer a series of questions about yourself and those responses will remain private until the app places you into your first “tribe.” There are no restrictions on how many tribes you can reside in and, if you aren’t into a particular group vibe, feel free to leave.

The unique trio dynamic sets We3 apart from other competitors on the market while removing a bulk of the pressure to perform. You can take a step back from chatting and let your other tribe mates shift the conversation topic before jumping back it. Three is hardly a crowd in this scenario.

4. Patook

Worried that your fellow app users have more sordid intentions than mere friendship? I’m here to tell you that your concern is valid. While a majority of individuals are genuine, most mobile friend finders don’t have any countermeasures to prevent their features from being transformed into makeshift dating apps.

Luckily for you, the creators of this entry contested this prospect with great fervor. Advertised as “strictly platonic,” Patook has absolutely zero patience for inappropriate behavior. More swiping lingers in your future, but the bios require a level of detail not found on the likes of Tinder and Bumble. It even encourages users to list their preferred conversation topics. Score!

The principal allure of this app over others is the digital gatekeeper touted by developers as “the most advanced flirt detection algorithm in the world.” It’s a true expert at recognizing pick-up lines, pet names and raunchy dialogue. When it suspects something fishy, it prevents the message from reaching you and also informs the sender of their misconduct. Repeated offenses culminate in blocking or permanently banning the user in question, allowing you to feel safe within the apps environment. Never fear — Patook is here.

5. Atleto

The “freshman 15” isn’t just a myth, you know. Nevertheless, it definitely isn’t restricted to college newbies. With a vast assortment of tasty (and not-so healthy) options available in the campus dining facility, you may find that your palate transitions into that of a limitless 12-year-old left home alone. While you learn to flex your self-control, it wouldn’t hurt to squeeze in some good, old-fashioned exercise.

In the best two-for-one package available on the App Store (or Google Play Store), Atleto inspires physical activity while also linking you with workout buddies to share in the agony. Oops. I totally meant excitement. My bad.

I find that the best aspect of the app is the depth of the matching system. Location and exercise type are a given, but Atleto takes compatibility to a whole other level. Any and all dating apps need to take note, honestly. It outright refuses to pair individuals with different amounts of experience and skill.

You’ll never have to sweat being the worst athlete in your crew as everyone is handpicked to fit the same mold. There’s plenty of alternate reasons to sweat. You don’t need another one.

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