Writing by Melissa Shedden // photographs by Michelle Lucking
With platonic connections going the way of romantic, meeting friends online is the new normal.
When Kate Thomas boarded her flight from Brisbane to Perth — a trip that would mark the end of her life on the East Coast and start of one on the West Coast with her partner Matt — she couldn’t anticipate how lonely the relocation would be.
“Matt’s friends and family were incredibly welcoming, but I felt a real yearning for friendship that was my own; one in which I wasn’t just “Matt’s girlfriend,” says Kate.
The 31-year-old People & Culture Manager can’t quite remember if someone recommended Bumble For Friends or if she stumbled upon it herself, but one night recalled deciding to give it a go. Having used Bumble and other apps in her single days to connect with romantic partners, Kate admits it felt a little strange to be making a profile looking for friends.
Yet, herein lies the new norm. Recent Bumble Gen Z Friendship research found 37% of Gen Z women in Australia say they feel lonely every week and 75% say they actively want to make new friends. In July, Bumble launched a standalone app for friendship, helping young people find meaningful connections.
Kate matched with Michelle, 26, a primary school teacher, over their similar profiles – both from Brisbane, moved for love, missing home and wanting to meet like-minded friends separate from their partners’ mates.
“When we matched, we had a couple of mutual Instagram friends which added some normalcy to the whole scenario. Conversation was easy, it just flowed, and we made plans to meet for a meal within a couple of days.”
Kate remembers sitting down to dinner with her and both her and Michelle saying – almost in sync – that they felt like they’d been preparing for a blind date.
The verbal vulnerability made them both shake off their nerves and they ended up chatting and laughing for the next two hours.
“A week later, I brought my partner to her place to meet her (then) fiance and the boys hit it off just as quickly. We knew we’d hit the jackpot,” she says, adding, “after meeting Shell, I felt like I had gotten what I needed from Bumble For Friends so stopped using it.”
In April this year, Michelle was a bridesmaid at Kate’s wedding. Kate describes her as “her best mate, kind, fun, funny and the type of person you can bring to any event or party and she’ll have made five friends within minutes.”
Plus, in August this year, Michelle welcomed a baby girl with Kate expecting her baby girl in January.
“Our little ones will grow up together here in Perth, with both of us making regular trips home to Brisbane to see our families, which we think is so special,” Kate says.
That initial friendship with Michelle was the kernel of a friendship network. Not long after they met, Michelle had another friend from Brisbane, moved too, joined later by another connection, also from Brisbane.
“We have this group of four Brissie girls spending most weekends together as if we’d been friends since school. I now consider the four of us and our partners my core friendship group. Michelle and I still laugh about how Bumble For Friends started it all.”