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Hey! VINA – The Tinder for female friends

If you’re in your 20s or 30s, the idea of swiping right to find your next date may sound pretty normal this day and age.

Thanks to a new app dubbed “Tinder for girlfriends”, thousands of girls have spent their Friday afternoons sipping coffee and taking selfies with a stranger.

Ladies are now swiping to find their next best friend. They can look at a photo of another woman with written details of who they are and what they like, and in an instant decide whether they have friend potential.

Welcome to the future of friendship-finding, or so say hopeful app-makers.

Hey! VINA, launched last month, by developers in San Francisco is a phone app specifically for women looking for friends, and no, not friends-with-benefits, but other females who share the same interests, and who have compatible personalities.

The company itself was founded last summer by friends Olivia June Poole and Jen Aprahamian, who previously worked together at the tech company, General Assembly.

Here’s the pitch: “When it comes to dating for romantic purposes, you can look in a room and know instantaneously who you have a connection with.… When it comes to friendship, it’s hard to look around and see who you have something in common with,” said Hey! VINA co-founder Poole. “You can’t know who is also going through a divorce or who is new to town.”

Poole said the origins of the app started in the same place as many great others: “as a fun conversation over a glass of wine.”

The founders began building Hey! VINA due to a personal sore point. They often moved and travelled for work and wanted a better way to meet new girlfriends in the area, and as their current girlfriends moved away, got married or started having children, they also found their social circles shrinking.

“We built this app to solve for our own needs as women who have moved, travelled, changed careers, and shifted lifestyles and life stages,” said Poole. “Through our adult lives we go a lot of places that our existing friendships don’t always support and it becomes time to expand our circles.”

Poole thought of the idea after she moved to San Francisco and signed up to the dating app OkCupid, where she tried to make female friends rather than a romantic relationship. She also found other women there trying to do the same thing.

Professor Jean Burgess, director of the Queensland University of Technology’s Digital Media Research Centre, said the idea of using technology to make friends is nothing new.

“Before digital culture, you could think about technologies like magazines where you could find a pen pal,” she said.

“In a sense, [using an app] is a highly accelerated version of that, just like mobile dating and hook-up apps are a new, accelerated version of classifieds and dating agencies.”

Professor Burgess said many apps, whether they were for dating, finding a job or ride-sharing, are using “matching” technology.

Many people also use dating apps for other purposes.

“Dating apps are often used, not to find dates, but to find friends or flatmates,” she said.

Social media and networking sites have become a “model for how you find other people”.

“Social media and social apps are just a really ordinary part of our social lives — there’s not anything weird or antisocial about it,” she said.

In the same vein as Tinder, the app uses your existing network of Facebook friends to set up your account. But, rather than relying solely on your location and whatever you’ve ‘Liked’ on Facebook to find matches for you, Hey! VINA also requires that you complete a brief personality questionnaire.

You are asked to provide a bio – info on what a potential friend might want to know: Are you introverted or extroverted? Do you prefer meeting up for coffee or wine?

One girl’s Hey Vina bio shamelessly reads: “Just an aspiring opera singer looking for her Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha.”Another says: “Let’s get pizza, watch Gossip Girl and take cute IG [instagram] pics.”

Another explains: “Let’s get pizza, watch Gossip Girl and take cute IG [instagram] pics.”

“TV & movies & Netflix & relationship talk for days,” says another.

If you swipe ‘yes’ on someone who’s also swiped ‘yes’ to you, a message pops up: “Ditto! You and X both want to meet.” Then Olivia from Vina “introduces” the two of you in a private message, suggesting that you arrange to meet for coffee.

“We want our users’ new connections to meet offline as soon as possible,” Poole said.

“We’re building our introduction artificial intelligence (AI) to consider both parties’ lifestyle preferences and making suggestions for activities to do.”

Users will be provided with a hiking trail nearby if they are both outdoorsy, or a conveniently located wine bar if they both like a good happy hour, thus avoiding the typical hemming and hawing of wondering where to meet up that plagues so many dating or hook-up apps.

Poole and Aprahamian have a clear vision of what they want their app to accomplish.

“Female friendships are absolutely essential,” Poole said. “We hope women find their new best friends, traveling partners, brunch dates, wing girls, mommy friends, workout partners, etc. on the platform.”

The overall aim of the app is “to drive a philosophy of community over competition among women,” Poole said. “We hope women everywhere will use the app to find the freedom and confidence that comes from having a strong community of friends supporting you.”

The app is currently only available in San Francisco and New York and Los Angeles, but more cities will be added in the near future.

Emily Patrick
Emily is originally from Essex in the UK but has been in New Zealand for the past seven years. Lucky for some, she has definitely shaken off any resemblance of a good old Essex girl – her white stilettos were ditched years ago! She is currently studying at The New Zealand Radio Training School in Auckland.
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