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Friendship with a little help from Alyke, the new app on the block

ALYKE, a new app to find and make friends, hopes to put platonic relationships front and centre

Jyotiraditya Vajpayee, a 21-year-old, founded of ALYKE, a just-launched app that helps you find and make friends.
Jyotiraditya Vajpayee, a 21-year-old, founded of ALYKE, a just-launched app that helps you find and make friends. (Pexels)

It is a rainy Sunday evening in Mumbai. I am sitting in a bar with a friend I am meeting after many years. We catch up on many things: jobs, health, relationships, and of course, friends -- the friends we have made and, more importantly, the friends we have lost.

"I'm finding it difficult to meet new people and make friends," I whine. "But what bothers me even more is that somehow I'm not able to keep the friends I do have."

This is not a problem unique to me. Articles and social media posts tells us we’re in a ‘friendship recession’, and that urban loneliness has ballooned in the last few years, with the pandemic and social distancing exacerbating it. According to several surveys, there’s an increase in the number of people (especially men) who believe they have close to zero close friends.

Also Read: Is social media killing your IRL friendships?

More and more people are spending time alone rather than with others. Especially post-pandemic, those who work remotely and don’t meet the same people every day and find it difficult to build meaningful connections. Sometimes, they might go days without meeting anyone at all.

To address this phenomenon, Jyotiraditya Vajpayee, a 21-year-old, founded ALYKE, a just-launched app that helps you find and make friends. Vajpayee identified this problem two years ago, when he was in the UK during a gap year from college. Away from home and friends, he was desperate to meet people his age and with similar interests. The process was long and difficult; social media platforms and dating apps could only do so much. After all, people weren’t primarily looking for friends there.

Since launching in June, ALYKE, which is now available on Play Store and will soon be on the Apple Store, too, hopes to address the deeply complex nature of friendship in a rapidly evolving and hyperconnected world. “I’m initially looking at (users between) ages 18 to 30,” he says. “This age-group is already used to being on dating apps. They know how it works, and so, it will be easier for them to navigate this space,” Vajpayee says.

Some screenshots from the Alyke app.
Some screenshots from the Alyke app. (Courtesy Alyke)

This format tends to also help people in new cities with no access to a social circle, making it easier to meet many people ina short period of time. Further, Vajpayee adds, “We are so used to being on the phone and talking on the phone that if someone approaches you at a grocery store (to become friends), you’d be weirded out. If somebody came to you in a metro station, you’d probably think of it as a threat.” An app works better as it puts people on a level field, making those involved aware of intent and interests.

Having dropped out of college, Vajpayee, based now in NOIDA, worked on Alyke for over two years. He currently has a team of nine people who continue to develop the app. While ALYKE takes inspiration from dating apps (the location filter, for instance), it focuses more on highlighting personality traits and interests. The space for the photo is small compared to a traditional dating app, with the interface designed to take attention away from profile photos. The app emphasises topics that could start and keep up a meaningful interaction—sharing interests, activities, and personality traits. Safety features to eliminate multiple fake accounts and a female-only mode are also available on the app to make users comfortable with the platform.

Over the last few years, numerous friendships have been made through social media platforms like Twitter, Discord, and Clubhouse. People have also used dating apps to make friends – some end up doing so with those they don’t have romantic chemistry. Others, with the help of features like BFF on Bumble, or Social on Tinder, purposefully only look for friends, being comfortable in meeting online and translating those meetings into offline relationships.

Also Read: Dating apps need to do more for gender and sexuality awareness

What sets Alyke apart from all of these platforms though is that the only intent here is friendship – and this is not a by-the-way phenomenon, or additional feature. Especially because of this, it remains to be seen how exactly people adapt to this app, and if they move away from the comforts of the more prominent players, which offer other perks as well.

While he is looking at people in their 20s now, Vajpayee hopes to expand the app to more users, different countries, and also enable older people to join. It's not just about meeting people, though. “Take calls from your friends,” Vajpayee urges. “Or call them back if you can’t. Be there for them.” Platonic friendships often slide down the list of priorities, after career, health, wealth, or romantic relations and family. It’s a void that is often, but must not be for the sake of one’s overall wellbeing, overlooked.

Mumbai-based Shreemayee Das writes on entertainment, education and relationships

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