You don’t have to search hard to find stories of loneliness in 2023 in a post pandemic world. New digital technology is combating the problem, but can there be solutions in the real world too?
There are a litany of articles, agony aunt columns, papers, and research that have looked into personal and cultural experience of loneliness. The isolation caused by a global pandemic really brought the issue into focus. One of the biggest responses we can see from this is the emergence of Social Discovery Apps. It’s a growing sector with a lot of exciting start-ups and established dating platforms are exploring more and more.
Apps that help people find friendship and combat loneliness have such potential to grow. Side note – we’re excited next month to bring some of those exciting companies together in our inaugural Social Discovery insights conference in London. Find out more here.
One of the biggest advantages of a Social Discovery app or platform is how it removes the doubt. A common problem for people we see is they don’t know how to make friends in the real world. There is an anxiety about overstepping the mark. It’s not clear what is appropriate in social situations that crop up in our day-to-day lives at work or out and about. You might make a connection with someone out in the real world, but there’s no clear and easy way for the two of you to indicate if you’re looking to expand your friendship circle, or just having a friendly moment. Potential friendships go by the wayside because of the ambiguity of real life conversation and social situations.
That issue is completely removed on Social Discovery apps and platforms. When you meet someone on Bumble BFF, it’s clear that the other person was looking for friendship too. When you meet up with a regular group of rock climbers on meetup.com – it’s clear these people are looking for like-minded people to share their hobby with. That clarity is a really simple benefit of these apps, but such a massive one.
What’s super interesting, is in the news of late, we have seen how that clear and clarified experience is making its way to the real world. Perhaps the biggest example of attendees of the Taylor Swift ‘The Eras’ tour. Friendship bracelets have been a huge part of the experience for fans at the show. Fans are creating, buying, sharing, and swapping friendship bracelets throughout the tour with other fans, staff and even security dogs!
If you’re wearing a friendship bracelet at the concert, it’s clear you are looking to have friendly moments with others. Pear Rings are another example of this but in the dating world. In what the company behind it calls the world’s largest social experiment. People can buy a pale green ‘pear ring’, and then whenever they are wearing it, it is a clear but subtle indication to those in the know that they’re single and open to being approached in real life.
Another example in the UK of this physical manifestation of openness to friendship, is a new bench in Hungerford. The project, supported by the town chamber of commerce and Hungerford Town Council, placed a ‘friendship bench’ in Canal Wharf. On the bench, it reads:
“This bench is designed to be a safe place where people can connect if they want someone to talk to, or if they want to help someone in need. By sitting here, you commit to being a friend to whomever may sit with you.”
The bench also includes a QR code that links to a number of resources online that might help those going through difficult times.
Technology and digital solutions are leading the way in combating the loneliness epidemic. But solutions for the real world that use some of the same key benefits of Social Discovery apps is welcome and hugely interesting development.