Here’s how they all stack up.
I’d always been a Florida gworl. Born and raised in Jacksonville, I had a tight-knit circle of friends who were, shocker, also based in Florida. But in 2021, I decided to trade in my flip-flops for cowboy boots to move to Houston, Texas, a casual 800-plus miles away from home. My then-partner — whom I started dating a month before the panini and Miss Rona did their thing — already lived there, so that was one little nugget in the city’s favor; it was also a chance to really change things up. The thing I was most nervous about was finding a new tribe. Making friends as an adult is hard! But now, nearly two years since I made The Big Move™, I finally found one really fun way to meet new people and (hopefully) make new friends in the process: apps.
Although relationship-building apps are far from a new concept, dating apps and I have historically gone together like Rihanna and new music — it’s just not happening right now — so I’d never considered friendship apps until recently. Working remotely doesn’t allow for much socialization during normal business hours, and meeting new people IRL after work or on weekends isn’t as easy as it was pre-2020. Trying out friend-meeting apps from the comfort of my couch seemed like a more stress-free option than, say, going outside, so I took the plunge without too many reservations.
Over the course of five weeks, I tested out five different popular apps to find friends — Bumble BFF, Hey! VINA, Nextdoor, Clockout, and Wink — to see which ones are actually the best for expanding your social circle. As I experimented with a different app each week, I considered everything from how easy they were to use (FYI, if you’re familiar with Tinder’s interface, you’ll have no problem navigating most of these) to how it pairs you up with another person. Below, you’ll find my reviews and ratings for each so you can decide whether you, too, should try finding your new community with just a few taps or swipes on your phone.
What’s special about Wink?
Wink regards itself as the “best place to make new friends from all over the world.” Like Bumble, you can use the app to potentially find love interests and new friends. The difference with Wink — which is often referred to as “Tinder for friends” — is that you’re able to link it to your Snapchat account. Once you exchange Snap info with a Wink match, all your interactions go through SC instead.
The best thing I found was that it was easy to navigate; the interface feels very Tinder-esque with its swipe-based feature, allowing for almost effortless usage.
From the get-go, I noticed the app didn’t have personalized prompts to answer for your profile; just straightforward info about yourself (name, location, etc.). It also almost feels like Wink is an extension of Snapchat, which I’m sure is a plus for some people, but not so much for me. I deleted Snapchat years ago, so using Wink felt like a step backward. Though I was able to log on to the app without a Snapchat account, with users constantly asking for my Snap info, it just didn’t seem worth it to continue.
Overall Score: 2/5
Not having any personalized prompts when you’re trying to forge new relationships didn’t sit well with me from the beginning. Plus, the Snapchat of it all also didn’t lend itself to a great experience for me, a non-Snapchat user. Even disregarding all of that, I didn’t end up chatting with anyone on Wink that seemed interested in meeting up in person. A few exchanges actually gave big catfish vibes, since they were so insistent on keeping convos on the app. Personally, I wouldn’t consider it the best place to meet your next forever friend.
What’s special about Clockout?
If you’re looking for a potential business partner or new work bestie, this app could be your new go-to. “Made specifically for post-grads and young professionals,” Clockout aims to provide a way to plug in with your peers that may work in a similar field. You can also find local workshops, seminars, or panels in your area.
Work-life balance can be rough. (I WFH, so I know this all too well.) Since Clockout matches you with people who have similar career trajectories — using the swipe feature à la Tinder — it was nice to have opps to chat with others who I have something in common with, can network with, and even vent to about the daily grind one day.
The profile setup is pretty lengthy, so you’ll need to set some time aside to get everything up and running. As you’re answering the prompts, you’ll notice that the app — which currently has 60,000 members — is solely dependent on your professional life and less focused on your personality, so you better like the people in your field. A perfect example is my first match, who asked me a bunch of questions about my professional life rather than about topics that weren’t work-related. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, but there’s so much more to me than my job.
Overall Score: 3/5
It’s giving... LinkedIn. Clockout appears to be less of a place to make lifelong friends and more of a place to chat with fellow young professionals. And with a limited amount of members, there isn’t that much variety (yet), which could be an issue for those in smaller cities. I’m in one of the largest cities in the U.S., and I still found it lacking.
What’s special about Hey! VINA?
The concept of Hey! VINA is simple: It’s for women, by women. Self-described as “Tinder for (girl) friends,” this women-owned app is currently available in 158 countries around the world, with the goal of making it easier to find new connections wherever your heart and wanderlust take you.
Since it’s a women-owned business, I’d say that the environment feels much warmer and inviting than those of other apps. Just look at these profile prompts: “What’s your love language?” “Are you an introvert or an extrovert?” It’s the personalization for me. There’s also a “Party” feature that places you in a group chat based on your shared interests. The users in my “Party” groups — which were centered around astrology, music, and TikTok — were so conversational and friendly, I could see how people could gain a whole new friend group from the app.
As great as the more detailed prompts are, this means the setup process is a bit longer than other apps’ (mine took about 15 minutes), so you’ll need to set some more time aside to answer questions (like the aforementioned introvert/extravert Q) before entering the space. Plus, it only allows you to have one photo of yourself on your profile at a time, which is, like... fine, but it doesn’t allow you to physically show your personality as much, so you need your words to shine even more. Thank God I’m a writer.
Overall Score: 4.5/5
The vibes are immaculate. Getting to know people in a way that doesn’t feel like a dating app is a major yes for me. While it does utilize the swipe right or left feature, it’s much more customized to each individual user, asking questions about yourself in between swipes to get a better understanding of who you are and who you’d pair best with. Fingers crossed I’ll get to meet some of my “Party” people IRL soon!
What’s special about Nextdoor?
Nextdoor aims to help you to make connections with your neighbors and people in your community. Unlike other meetup apps, there’s no swipe left or right feature. Instead, it feels more like Facebook, a place where you can post statuses about events in your neighborhood or what you’re looking for nearby. Think local yard sales, dog walkers, or babysitters.
The app is a great way to find things to do in your area and allows you to stay plugged into your community, using statuses as ways to engage in conversations with others. (V user-friendly for FB fans.) There’s also the option to buy or sell things, with users even giving away items they no longer need — for free! I’m talking free furniture, free tech products, free kittens. You read that right: Free. Kittens. Wish I could say I jumped at the opp, but I held back.
The multi-step setup process could be a bit confusing, and without a profile verification process, it doesn’t feel as safe as other apps. Plus, no swipe feature = more challenging to meet people individually. So, if you’re looking to make friends on this app, it may require a bit more courage, and I just didn’t have that during my trial run.
Overall Score: 2.5/5
As innovative as it seems, it falls a bit short as a potential friend-meeting app; building meaningful connections is just not its specialty. IMO, it’s definitely worth it if you’re looking to hire someone to provide a service, or vice versa.
After more than a month of experimenting with friend-meeting apps, here are my rankings, from best to worst:
- Hey! VINA
- Bumble BFF
Hey! VINA and Bumble BFF proved to be the best options for making connections, with the former juuust edging out the latter. They both focus on *your* personality and *your* interests and have millions of users, so the pools of potential besties are incredibly large. Given the welcoming atmosphere of Hey! VINA, I actually plan to continue to use it beyond my little experiment; the users I’ve chatted with have been so friendly and open to connecting IRL (once all parties are comfortable, of course), so there’s a lot of friendship potential.
Nextdoor and Clockout focus much less on building interpersonal relationships, but they seem like they’re great for connecting with neighbors or fellow post-college grads, should that be your brand. And Wink, oh Wink... the Tinder-like nature of it just didn’t work for me.
Five apps later, I still haven’t found my new tribe yet — hey, it’s only been a month — but in the nearly two years since The Big Move™, I feel like I may just be a few steps closer. And I have a couple of apps to thank for that.