Friendship App for the Socially Challenged

If you’re anything like me, you’ll notice your friendship group is slowly dwindling. People are settling down, having children, and try as you might, you just can’t quite get on board the “parents group” vibe. You may even be in the parents group camp and have found that you can’t stand the other parents and want friends outside that life. But how do you make friends as an adult? It’s surprisingly hard, and as we move our interactions to a more internet based platform, we begin to get isolated within the echo chamber that is our social media feeds. Our once close best friends become binary ones and zeros and real interactions fade in to distant memory as clicking a thumbs up is easier than personally dealing with the people you love.

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Enter the friendship app/website called Patook. They’ve marketed themselves as the “Strictly Platonic Friend Making App”. It’s an interesting site that blocks all swearing and filters out any flirtatious language. You literally can’t be coy or creepy on it. It’s a safe haven for people who genuinely want to make friends, but are bombarded by creepers on dating sites or just don’t know where to start when it comes to making friends in the real world/outside their current circles.

My favourite thing about this app is it’s insanely accurate flirtation filter. Patook uses a  machine learning AI to detect any creepy, flirtatious messages and pick up lines and sends a warning dialogue box to the user explaining what they’re trying to send is not allowed. The app can even ban users immediately if the message is overtly creepy/flirtatious. The app is designed and monitored for the sole purpose of strictly platonic friendship making.

In Australia the user base is smaller than the US, but it’s steadily growing. With over 50,000 downloads from the Google play store alone, the user-base is getting stronger. I joined Patook in its Alpha stage, so I’ve been around for a little while. It’s been an interesting experience to see it go from a small-ish user-base to the much larger user base it has now, and to witness how it changed with the tide that swept in. It’s not all good, but it’s definitely not all bad either.

The pro of the smaller user-base was the topics feeds weren’t full of people complaining about how lonely they are and how no one “actually wants to be friends”. This is apparently an issue a lot of users were having all over the world. For a short period of time the prolific and loud voices in the topic section of the app were people making the entire app unappetising. The bombardment of complaints and generalisation of other users being “petty and unfriendly” is unfortunate. It gives a great idea, and a great app a bad wrap to any users who want to try it out. It looked like a giant user-base of sad people who are high maintenance, complaining about being unappealing. The irony was not lost on those of us who were paying attention and using the app properly.

I’ve noticed recently that that is not necessarily the case now. As the user-base has continued to grow there are interesting conversation topics popping up and a greater diversity of users all over the world are getting involved and starting conversations. This turn of the tides has been quite a topic for discussion with those I’ve met from Patook. It’s heartening to see people get more comfortable with trying to connect with the people around them. 

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The awkward reality of trying to make new friends

The profile creation was a little glitchy at first, and it didn’t feel overly intuitive when trying to see what your profile looks like to other users. Info would appear to go missing when saving, but would subsequently appear on your profile a few minutes later. The text boxes are indeed that – unappealing text boxes. It tells you how long your profile is and gives you points for if it is over a 1000 characters long. There are multiple sections you can fill out and I’ve noticed people get more in to sharing details on Patook than any other friend/date finding app I’ve used. This is a great way of prompting people who’re bad at talking about themselves. Patook’s algorithm also uses key words from different sections to highlight the same topics and key words in other peoples’ profiles. For example: Disney, Politics, Blogging – all things mentioned in my profile – show up highlighted in other profiles like a prompt for conversation starters!

There’s a point system you can set up. I’m not going to lie, the point system confuses me, but it seems to act a lot like dating websites percentage algorithms. The higher the points, the higher match you are for people who have activated the point system. eg: I’m looking for female friends – any female will have 50 points in their favour. I want a single friend, no children – that’s another 100 points in their favour. So on and so forth. For me, this defeats the purpose of friend finding. I understand the desire to filter certain people out, but at the same time, everyone is on this app/site to make FRIENDS. And different people, with different circumstances, can make for some really interesting and different friendships. Discounting someone because they don’t match a (very limited) point system seems counter-intuitive.

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Another middle of the fence pro/con is you can see every time someone checks out your profile. Which means stalking is almost impossible. This also means you’re constantly notified if anyone is looking at you. So, unless you like your phone going off every 4 seconds – turn those particular notifications off. Personally, I like being told someone is checking out my profile. They may be too shy to start a conversation, and by being alerted to their presence it means I can decide whether to take initiative or not. It also reminds me of conversations I may have forgotten to reply to – because I have my notifications turned off, it does happen!

If you’re struggling with your limited friendship circle, are open to conversing with strangers in a safe, flirt free zone, I personally recommend Patook. Like any app it has it’s flaws, but with a larger user base and more voices to make suggestions, I can only see the app getting better. The interactions and meet ups I’ve had from Patook have all been positive, and I’d love to hear what other people’s experiences with it are. I’m also keen to hear if you have had success on anything else! Feel free to leave a comment on this post, email me, or fill out the comment page. 

 

Stay Silly, guys and gals. xx


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