By Ashley Edwards Walker
Growing up, Tyler says, his progressive personal and political beliefs made it difficult for him to make friends in his conservative Mississippi hometown. From a young age, he was outspoken about what he saw as a lack of local inclusivity and had a habit of calling it out when people used derogatory and offensive language, even when the people around him appeared to think it harmless. Being a voice of dissent made Tyler, now a kindergarten teacher, an “outcast” among his peers from “middle school all the way to senior year,” he says. And while the social isolation bothered him at first, he eventually grew used to it.
During a trip to Denver with his high school debate team, Tyler fell in love with the city and decided to move there in 2019 after he graduated. He says starting over in a new place, where businesses proudly post signs in their windows advertising their progressive beliefs, made him feel optimistic he’d find more people to befriend in his new hometown. “I realized I should at least try to make friends to make up for lost time and see what it’s like,” Tyler explains. With that in mind, he searched for information on how to meet people in Denver. That’s when he came across an article that mentioned Bumble BFF, Bumble’s friend-finding mode.
It was May 2020 when Tyler opened the Bumble app to see Jesse’s profile at the top of his BFF queue. Tyler liked that Jesse included a photo with his dog, and when Tyler took a closer look at Jesse’s profile, he realized they had a lot in common. For example, Jesse’s answer to the Bumble Prompt, If I could solve one problem, it’d be… was “pollution by corporations.” This told Tyler they both cared about the environment. They also liked a lot of the same indie musicians and are astrologically compatible. “I read somewhere that Libras and Geminis make the best friends,” explains Tyler.
Once they matched, Tyler reached out and they quickly started discussing their favorite songs, video games, and what brought them to Denver, bonding over the fact that both of them were new to the city. Within a week, they met at a Mexican restaurant down the street from Tyler’s place. Jesse was already there waiting when Tyler arrived, and Tyler was immediately put at ease by Jesse’s smile and “excited, happy” energy. They discussed Jesse’s tattoos and their favorite movies, deciding to go for a walk after lunch to check out some of the stores in the area. Later that day, they started discussing their next hangout.
During that first meeting, Jesse had mentioned another Bumble BFF match he’d made with a guy named Caesar. And Jesse brought him up again three weeks later when he and Tyler were together, suggesting the three of them do something together since they were all just getting to know one another. They made plans to attend a local beer festival where Caesar and Tyler met for the first time and quickly clicked.
After so many years of going without friends, Tyler was excited to suddenly find himself with a growing friend group. While they all had different backgrounds and personal experiences, Tyler says the “empathy” and care Jesse and Caesar showed in getting to know him made him realize “it’s okay to give people a try.”
Meanwhile, Tyler was continuing to use Bumble BFF and, in August 2020, he matched with Michael. Tyler was originally drawn to his new friend’s profile when he saw that Michael was from New York. Even though they ended up messaging sporadically, after a month of inconsistent contact, Tyler messaged Michael “on a whim.” He invited Michael to a party for Jesse’s birthday, which Caesar was also attending. “I just figured, why not?” says Tyler.
Even though Michael was nervous to attend (Tyler says Michael later told him “he was kind of afraid that it would be weird or something”), he showed up. Tyler and Jesse went downstairs to escort him up to the party, and from the moment they exchanged hellos, Tyler could tell Michael was going to fit right in. Back upstairs, they introduced Michael to Caesar. And the four guys headed out to the balcony, where they continued to get to know each other. “We’re all really sensitive,” Tyler explains of why everyone seemed to hit it off well. Even though they can be opinionated, everyone in their friend group makes it a point to keep their debates respectful. “It’s a very safe space and open, kind friendship group,” says Tyler. “We all genuinely want to be the best versions of ourselves, and we all want to help each other with that.”
In the two years since meeting, Tyler’s friendships with Jesse, Caesar, and Michael have continued to deepen. On Tuesdays they play trivia and love checking out different restaurants around Denver. “I was never a nightlife person because I didn’t have friends and I don’t drink,” explains Tyler. But now that he has a solid group to hang out with, they’ll occasionally spend time in bars and clubs. “I feel like that’s the point of your 20s, to just do as much as you can and have fun,” he says.
Beyond the social benefits of finding a group of friends through Bumble BFF, Tyler says the relationships he’s built with Jesse, Caesar, and Michael have also had a significant impact on his emotional and personal happiness. A few months ago, Tyler was sick. And even though he didn’t mention it to any of the guys, they noticed that he was being less responsive in their group chat and made it a point to check in with him. “It’s very new to me to have people who care who aren’t family,” Tyler admits. The experience just solidified for him how empathetic and genuinely kind their friend group is, and how they want the best for each other.
The main thing that makes their friendships strong is that they all listen to one another, says Tyler. “If one of us succeeds, we all succeed. If one of us gets a promotion, we’re all happy and celebrate. If one of us is down, we’re all down and we listen. Thereʼs no sneakiness, no trash talking, no competition. We respect and value each other. It’s something Iʼm grateful for.”
Before Bumble, “I had such a negative view on people,” says Tyler. “I thought it was easier to be alone. But meeting Jesse, Caesar, and Michael has opened me up and shown me it’s okay to be vulnerable with some people.”