Every week, The Friendship Files features a conversation between The Atlantic’s Julie Beck and two or more friends, exploring the history and significance of their relationship.
This week she talks with two young women who met on Bumble BFF—the friendship mode of the dating app Bumble—when they both were living in Austin, Texas. (One has since moved to New York.) They discuss becoming friends through an app, blind friend dates, and the stigma that’s still attached to swiping for friends. (Editor's note: This interview was conducted in July 2018.)
Kristina Baptiste, 24, a copywriter and social-media manager at a music magazine in New York City Dree McCarrel, 27, a social-media manager for a beauty brand in Austin, Texas
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Julie Beck: When and why did you guys start using Bumble BFF?
Dree McCarrel: When Kristina and I met, I was doing social media freelance. I’m very extroverted, so I was feeling totally cooped up when I was working at home. I wanted to meet friends who had a similar lifestyle, who wanted to meet up and work at coffee shops and go swimming in the middle of the day. I just felt like I had all this freedom and all of this time that my other friends didn't have. I had used Bumble for dating and I love meeting new friends. And so right when the feature rolled out, I was down to try it.
Kristina Baptiste: I moved to Austin not knowing anybody. I was dating somebody at the time who lived there, but I didn't have any of my own friends. I met people through him, but I wanted my own friends. I was hanging out with a lot of guys, and I was kind of over that whole social scene. So when I heard about this feature I thought, I’ll try this. What do I have to lose?
Beck: Was it a similar or different experience to using dating apps for actual dating?
Dree: There is a really similar vibe actually to the beginning of it. It’s the same feeling of “Why are you on here?” Are you on here because you are a freak and you have no friends? Or because you just want to meet new people, or you're new to the city, or maybe you like going out a lot and your friends don’t like doing that? It’s the same with dating. I feel like you go on the app and you’re like, “Are you on this because you’re just ho-ing around town, or do you want to meet interesting people?”
At the time, the BFF feature, it was new. And I would say girls did feel kind of awkward. A lot of girls would say in their bios: "Just looking for friends, obviously, but I'm also moving in six months so would love to meet a roommate!" They were always trying to act like they weren’t just there to meet friends. But you definitely get to a certain point where, similar to dating, you're like, “All right let’s take this IRL. Let's meet up.”
Kristina and I laugh about this a lot. We had to both go on pretty awkward friend dates. It’s just like normal dating. But then when Kristina and I met up, we just hung out for hours. It was similar to when you go on a really good date.
Beck: How long were you using the app before you guys met each other?
Kristina: I think I started using it in February 2017, and I think Dree and I matched in early March.
Dree: It was definitely March, because I was dating a musician at the time and I got really sick after South by Southwest [in early March]. So I almost ghosted the chat because I was never checking it. I think she messaged me after South by.
Beck: Do you remember the first message you sent each other?
Dree: Kristina has it!
Kristina: Dree deleted her Bumble recently so I went on my account to screenshot them.
Oh, it’s really simple: “Hey what’s up?” And then Dree responded: “Hey hey living out my Sunday funday dreams, aka cleaning my apartment. (Laughing emoji face.) How are you?” And it goes from there.
Dree: There’s less pressure to be super clever or whatever because you’re not flirting. Kristina was just like, “Hey what’s up?” I feel like whenever we’re on the dating version of Bumble, you'd feel like you have to have some silly intro line that's going to test their sense of humor.
Beck: If somebody just said “Hey what's up” in a dating context, would you feel fine about that, or would you be like, “Eh, they're not really trying”?
Dree: I don’t think I would respond.
Kristina: It depends on the person, but if they have no personality and nothing interesting profile-wise, I don’t think I would.
Beck: You said you went on a few other friend dates before you met each other. What were those like?
Dree: I feel like happy hour is where I go with friendship dates, and normal dates too. I’m still friends with other Bumble BFFs, kind of peripherally. But Kristina and I, when we became friends, we straight up hung out for like six months, nonstop.
Kristina: It got to the point where I was sleeping over there all the time. We were having a nonstop sleepover. It was great.
Beck: Tell me about your first friend date.
Dree: We went to this place on the east side of Austin. It's called Brew & Brew, because it's coffee and beer. We went in the afternoon because we were like, “Oh, we’ll do work.” So we both brought our laptops and stuff, and we did not open our laptops.
Kristina: No, didn’t do any work at all.
Dree: We started drinking beers together, and then we both found out we were both in this Dogspotting Facebook group [where people share pictures of dogs they see in public.]
Kristina: Oh my gosh, yeah!
Dree: We saw this amazing dog at Brew & Brew and I took a photo of it, and it did really well on Dogspotting. So when it comes up in my Facebook memories, I'm like, “Oh my god it's our friendiversary!” This dog marks the day we met. It was a great dog, too—his name was Brick; he was a little dog with dreads.
Kristina: Both of us are dog-obsessed.
Beck: How did your friendship develop from there?
Kristina: The third friendship date was actually really funny. I think Dree went to Miami or something, and on the airplane there was this old couple from Austin, and they were really cute. Ron and Betty. Do you remember them? You tell it.
Dree: Oh my god, I forgot about this! I'm not meaning to scream, but this is really cute. I went on a trip to Miami, right after our second friendship date. When I was flying there, I sat next to these two elderly people named Ron and Betty. I’m very liberal and the woman ended up roping me into a conversation about politics, and she was super liberal too, and she was hilarious. So when the plane landed, they were like, “We need to meet up for drinks in Austin.” We exchanged phone numbers, and they wanted to get margaritas at this old bar on the west side of Austin. They told me they go there every Tuesday.
Right when I got back, Kristina and I met up for dinner [on a Tuesday]. We had a couple of drinks, and I was like, “You know what we should do right now? We should go hang out with Betty and Ron.”
Kristina: And I was like, “Sign me up, this sounds amazing, let's go.”
Dree: We have a photo of us with them, too. He taught us how to dance—
Dree: I have their phone numbers. I need to go back; it’s been almost a year since that experience. But it was so fun.
One thing to add that I think is really special about our friendship is I feel like both of us just totally welcomed each other into our lives. Like Kristina’s childhood friend, he is moving in with me. He's one of my best friends now.
Kristina: He moved in recently, right Dree?
Dree: Yeah, he moved in yesterday.
Kristina: So fresh, I love it.
Beck: So how's it going with the new roommate? Do you guys talk about Kristina all the time?
Dree: Yes, for sure. Kristina was here a couple weeks ago, so we all hung out. It's funny because he and I, whenever we go out together, people always ask us if we’re twins, because we look alike. But Kristina and I spent most of our friendship going out and trying really hard to convince people that we were twin sisters, even though we look nothing alike.
Kristina: There's a true story on National Geographic or CNN of these two twins, they're from England, one’s black and one’s white. So our big line is like, “Hey, you know that story on CNN?” The big thing about Dree is she can’t tell a lie—she’s the worst liar in the world. She'd laugh halfway through and I'd have to take over.
Beck: Did anybody ever believe you?
Kristina: A lot of drunk boys definitely believe us.
Dree: The obvious target for that lie is boys.
Beck: Did the process of becoming friends feel different from the way you’ve become close to other friends you didn’t meet on the app? Did it feel more like dating?
Dree: Once you have the first friendship date and it goes well, I feel like you’re just already friends. It’s so much lower pressure than actually dating someone. But to be honest, the friendship breakup, or not wanting to go on a second friendship date, is definitely more awkward. With dating, there’s such a standard way. "I feel like we didn’t have chemistry," "I feel like we'd be better as friends"—you can’t really use any of those lines on friends.
Beck: Dating apps are basically totally normalized ways to find romance now, at least among younger generations. But it feels like there’s still a bit of stigma or weird vibes around using apps to find friends. Do you think that’s true?
Dree: I think it probably depends on the city you live in. Because in Austin everyone is new. People are always moving here for a couple years and moving away. Austin is so laid-back about it.
Kristina: I think people can be really judgmental, like, “What’s wrong with you that you can’t make friends by yourself?” But it's honestly really hard to do it naturally. I tried organically for the first couple months [after moving to Austin], but people are a little more reserved these days; everyone’s on their phone. Everyone's solidified in their friend groups.
Dree: If you meet someone at a party and you think they're cool, you don’t know if you’re meeting someone who has the intention of expanding their friend group. Making new friends can be a lot of emotional labor and a lot of work. So maybe you get along with that person, but they’re not necessarily looking to be best friends.
There’s something about choosing to go on an app that shows a sort of deliberateness and care. It shows that you want to be serious about cultivating your friendships. I feel like we’re used to that kind of seriousness for romance, but it still feels like friendships are just supposed to … happen naturally, and you should be chill rather than intentionally looking for something. People think you’re supposed to just slip and fall into friendship, when as adults it does have to be as intentional as dating if it’s something you need or want in your life.
If you or someone you know should be featured on The Friendship Files, get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org, and tell us a bit about what makes the friendship unique.