If Sex and the City taught us anything — other than the importance of a great pair of shoes — it’s that having a group of supportive women by your side is crucial. But finding those all-important friends can be unexpectedly difficult, especially after education.
We have a ready-made selection of people our age, who share our everyday experiences, and suddenly we don’t, and it can be difficult to determine who makes the cut. Like Carrie Bradshaw, we find ourselves navigating a complicated world of job issues, flipping between cities and romantic relationships.
So how are we supposed to find our Samanthas, Charlottes, and Mirandas?
The Female Loneliness epidemic
This is a pressing question today. Amidst the present loneliness epidemic, some 52% of women in the UK are struggling to make new friends (YouGov). Only 15 percent of people in London have made a new friend in the last five years; making new friends is much more difficult than people think.
In a post-pandemic society, we have become increasingly individualistic and as we grow older, our wants and needs from friendships shift, so it’s unsurprising that some of our old companions might fall by the wayside. Then there is the question of juggling families and careers, leaving many women with less time and resources to seek out new friends with shared interests.
So what’s the solution? If the 2010s were the dawn of the dating app (think Hinge, Tinder, Bumble and Grindr), then the 2020s are the rise of the friendship app - assisted by AI. Friendship apps are becoming more popular, with the Match group estimating the friendtech market to be twice the size of the dating app market.
AI is key to many of these flourishing socialtech solutions; it creates a smoother user experience, helps users build effective profiles and can even suggest opening lines.
Can AI replace real-life friends?
AI’s foray into the socialtech space hasn’t been without criticism. The birth of the Snapchat AI bot earlier this year drew almost 200 million views on TikTok, and led to a debate about the pros and cons of combining the technological capabilities of AI with the human notion of friendship.
Some speculated whether AI friends could ever replace real-life ones completely. Another factor is the supposed taboos around making friends online; finding romantic partners online has only become socially acceptable recently.
Replacing our friends with AI won’t solve the loneliness epidemic - it was never going to! While many seek advice, book recommendations and even horoscopes from ChatGPT, AI won’t replace real person-to-person connections. It is, however, incredibly useful in fostering them.
How AI enhances friend-making technologies
Friendtech apps leverage AI in numerous ways. AI can provide users with dynamic friend matches based on accurate and sensitive algorithms, taking into account keywords and interests in women’s profiles (e.g. dogs, cocktails or vegetarianism), as well as location and age.
In using app and location-specific data to create a bespoke set of algorithms, AI is able to deploy matching patterns that significantly improve the chances of women finding the friend they’re looking for.
Whether the user is seeking a workout buddy, a travel group or a fellow bride-to-be, AI can significantly improve the experience of women looking for compatible friends. Finding these friends is incredibly important; we no longer live in a society where women only rely on family and romantic relationships as they grow older.
We change and grow and make new friends who correspond with different points of our lives - and if AI-powered tech can help us find these friends, then we should embrace it with open arms.
While helping build new friendships, AI technologies can also carve out more time for existing ones. The Snapchat AI bot, in spite of its criticisms, has been used by the masses for a variety of functions that better serve friendships, including recommending gift ideas for friends and suggesting dinner recipes to cook together.
Meanwhile, people are actively consulting ChatGPT as an agony aunt for friendship and relationship issues. Whether it’s through using digital calendars to schedule meetups or asking an AI chatbot where to take your friend for a birthday dinner, AI is a transformative way to enhance friendship connections, rather than replace them.
Making modern friendships
People have been meeting on messaging platforms, chat rooms and various social media sites for decades. Even friendships formed offline are largely maintained through online messaging and posting tools that employ some element of AI.
As the concept of the friendship app becomes increasingly popular, especially amongst younger users, existing taboos around digital friend-dating are dissipating.
In an increasingly complicated and busy world, women are finding their brunch buddies, bridesmaids and best friends through rapidly developing AI-managed platforms.
A little help in being a better friend, navigating tricky friendship scenarios and finding new ones is no bad thing. And we like to think it's something the girls of Sex and the City would fully endorse.
Lead image: Photo by Omar Lopez