Faisal Chaudry, Head of Product & Design at friendrequest explains how the new iOS app brings like-minded Londoners together.
Q: Faisal, you have been with friendrequest from the get-go, tell us a little bit about the company’s mission. How was the idea of friendrequest born?
A: It all started with the notion that social had got to the point where it’s all just taking place on your phone. People appear to be more connected, but in reality they are more disconnected than ever.
“Our initial vision was: How can we get people to socialise in person again!?”
How can we get people off their phones, having actual human interactions and building quality relationships. Likes and comments might give you that endorphin hit, but they are hollow because it isn’t true interaction. We asked ourselves, how do we switch this thing around?
Just look at the mental health stats, especially with the generation now. Depression rates are up, people are super lonely. Everyone is seeking approval online and they are just not getting what they want, because likes don’t fulfil the soul, they just fulfil the ego – for a minute or two.
“We see friendrequest as the host of a big, wonderful party. We know the likes and dislikes of everyone we invited and want our friends with similar interests to connect.”
Q: Why do you think we need an app for that?
A: The best place to get to people these days is via what they already know. It’s not so much that the technology is bad, or our phones are bad, it’s more about how we use these tools we are given. Apps until now have been designed for the particular purpose to keeping you in them – maximising screen time, maximising data, maximising ads. They are made to glue you to the phone. But that’s not the phone’s fault, the phones can be used for good. Our mission was to design something from the ground up that gets you in and out with minimal screen time so you can go and interact with someone in real life.
Q: What happened to meeting people in bars and pubs?
Faisal: I think our generation doesn’t hang out in pubs like older generations used to. People spend more of their time online.
“Studies show that our social media and digital self takes up almost more time than our physical self.”
I think this also makes people more introverted in real life, particularly in London. That’s the reason we started here. You have all these social constructs in London, like it’s not cool to just talk to people in the street and on the train you keep your head down just to avoid eye contact with anyone.
Q: Who do you see using friendrequest?
A: I see a broad audience using the app though specifically the young professionals because they are the ones who don’t have the infrastructure for meeting new people and making friends. Yes, of course, they can hang out with their colleagues after work and some of them do but often people want to keep private time private.
Q: What are the plans for the future?
A: We definitely want to roll out the app in more locations and also work on new features that help the user to take social offline and find friends, not followers.