Whether you’re looking for a date, a new friend, or a professional contact, you no longer need to go to networking events or bars to meet new people. You can meet them on your phone, in your pajamas, at home. In fact, meeting people digitally is far more efficient than in-person encounters—you can filter out incompatible matches before you ever meet them. Let’s look at some of the best apps to make new contacts. We’ll start with dating apps and move into apps that can help you find friends and expand your professional network.
From 2013 to 2016, the number of people using dating apps tripled. Gone are the days of sitting in a room, speed dating – your next true love is just a swipe away.
Tinder: The most popular dating app
Tinder is probably the world’s most famous dating app (and not always for good reasons). Its swipe-based system is now the industry standard. If you’ve been in a relationship (or under a rock) for the last five years, here’s how it works: you’re presented with a photo and a brief description, and if you want to talk to the person, you swipe right. If you don’t want to be connected, you swipe left. If both users swipe right, you’ll be connected.
Although Tinder gained a reputation as a hookup app, the wide variety of people on Tinder mean that you can find nearly anything—from a serious relationship to a brief fling. But Tinder isn’t just for romance: the app also has a groups feature, allowing you to join groups of friends to hang out and meet up.
Bumble: The friendlier dating app
Although it was started by one of the brains behind Tinder, Bumble operates differently. You still swipe left or right, but for heterosexual dating, women have to make the first move. This is designed to make it a friendlier experience for women, who are all too often bombarded with raunchy messages on other apps.
Like Tinder, Bumble has a friends feature. Known as Bumble BFF, it allows you to find people of either gender to meet as friends. If you pay for their premium version, you can also see everyone who has already liked you—which is great for shy people scared of making the first move.
Coffee Meets Bagel: A dating app for serious relationships
Coffee Meets Bagel is a dating app built around finding serious relationships. Every day at noon you are presented with a limited number set of tailored matches. This is different than apps like Tinder, where a seemingly limitless number of matches makes it hard to find a good match.
If you don’t see anyone you like, you can use their "discover" feature to find people based on height, age, or other factors. The people on Coffee Meets Bagel are generally more driven to find a serious relationship than those on Tinder.
Hater: A fun way to meet new people
Ever met someone that you thought was great, until you realized they love something that you hate? Tired of dating apps that match you based on what you like? What about matching based on things you hate? After all, when you hate the same things, it’s easier to love each other.
Hater brings up hot-button topics like Justin Bieber, vegans, and Donald Trump. You choose the things you love or hate, then the app matches you with like-minded individuals. For a dating app that almost sounds like a joke, it’s actually surprisingly effective, and I’ve met some really cool people on here.
Meeting new friends
Once we’re out of school, it’s notoriously hard to make friends as adults. Luckily, technology has streamlined the process, and finding people with similar interests – without romantic entanglement – has never been easier.
WeChat: The app to find people near you
WeChat is China’s largest social network, but it has expanded to the rest of the world. One difference that sets it apart from Facebook is its "people nearby" feature, which allows you to find other WeChat users nearby. WeChat won’t show you their exact location, but it will give a general distance. And since you can filter by gender, it is a useful way find new friends or a romantic partner.
A new entrant into the platonic friend-finding space, Peanut launched in early 2017 as a way for moms to meet fellow cool moms nearby. Founded by tech veterans with experience in the space (CEO Michelle Kennedy was deputy CEO at Badoo and serves on Bumble’s board), it uses the same swipe interface style as Tinder—but instead of swiping based on looks, moms swipe based on interests. It also includes info about kids and their ages so moms can use the app to assess playdate compatibility and make plans.
Instagram: Find cool people nearby
Everyone knows Instagram—but they might not know that many Instagram photos are geotagged to a specific location. So if you’re looking to find new friends in a city, simply choose a landmark you’re interested in—say, a hiking trail or local café—and then you’ll have a list of potential friends who have also been there. Plus, you can filter out all the people who can’t take photos well.
Networking events might be necessary to further your career, but that doesn’t make them fun or exciting. With these apps, you can broaden your network from the comfort of your office.
LinkedIn: The best way to keep professional contacts
At this point LinkedIn has basically morphed from professional social network to recruiting juggernaut. Theoretically, you’re only supposed to add people you know, but, let’s be honest, many people don’t use it that way. To find new contacts, simply search for companies or industries you’re interested in, and you can find highly-placed potential contacts who already work there. Since LinkedIn shows you mutual connections, you’ll know if you have actual friends who can make an introduction.
Shapr: Tinder for professional contacts
Shapr is basically Tinder meets LinkedIn. Instead of swiping for romance, you swipe to find new professional contacts. Shapr takes your interests, location, and experience, and suggests tailored matches that will help advance your career. It’s a great concept and can result in unexpected matches that really propel your professional life forward.
Weave: A new way to expand your network
Like Shapr, Weave helps you grow your network through swiping, but it also has chat rooms organized by topic that allow you to talk to other like-minded professionals. From fundraising to finding a new job, Weave has rooms on every topic you’ll need to advance your career. Meeting the right person could be the key to making your next professional move.