In recent decades, there has been a steady decline in “third places: those spaces outside of home or work where people can cultivate community and authentic connection. The COVID 19 pandemic accelerated this phenomenon, and this has been especially true in LGBTQ+ communities, where the rise of dating apps and the gentrification of gayborhoods has made it even harder for queer folks to form non-romantic relationships.
Anna Harissis and Jen Farmer know this all too well. They yearned for platonic friendship and community with other queer people, but struggled to find spaces to build those relationships online or IRL. So like many LGBTQ folks looking to meet people, they turned to one of the only options available: a dating app.
“[We] met on a dating app looking for friends,” Harissis explained. “We ended up becoming best friends and starting this app because we were like, ‘Why is there not a place for just platonic friendship?’”
Their question reflected the results of a 2020 Pew survey which found that LGBTQ+ adults use dating apps twice as much as their straight counterparts due to a lack of queer spaces. Harissis and Farmer theorized that there were likely other LGBTQ+ people on these dating apps who were seeking friendship and community, just like they were.
So they set out to create a solution to this problem and co-founded Out: The LGBTQ+ Social App, an online space to form friendships, join local or virtual events, or find inclusive businesses. The foundation of the app is community, and the impacts of the pandemic on the queer community have created the environment for the platform to do well within the current market.
”I think in the global pandemic, people were just desperate to find connection,” Harissis said. “With a lot of us who kind of lost those connections that we had before, we were really looking for a new community because everything changed so drastically.”
The app currently has a plethora of users, including nearly 400 businesses that use the platform to promote their events. Upon further development and the introduction of additional features for brands, Harissis and Farmer hope to start hosting events and collaborating with local and national businesses to spread the word about the app.
When asked if she had any advice for aspiring entrepreneurs or queer creatives, Harissis said, “Be kind and be collaborative. A lot of people feel like, especially in the LGBTQ+ community, that there isn't enough space for everyone. But there totally is. And when we collaborate as business owners, it can be so powerful and impactful.”