Make local friends through an app


For me, the phrase ‘social media’ is deeply ironic. In most cases, these platforms are actually deeply unsocial and are instead just places where people can show off their material possessions or present scenarios that are largely unrealistic. It’s an issue that has been slowly digging a way at me for years.

When I first moved to the Middle East from London, I was also frustrated by how difficult it was to meet people and find things to do that I enjoyed. Living in Saudi Arabia I found that social media was no help, and so I started discussing with my collegaue Matt, who is now my co-founder of Askwho, about the idea of launching a group social media app that encouraged users to connect with others from their local area, share tips, exchange ideas and even meet up in person.

Then, when we moved to Dubai a few years later, we thought making friends would be a lot easier. But to be honest, we actually found it even harder. So, we started thinking seriously about bringing our idea to life.

Given that the pandemic generally had a negative effect on people’s mental health, and caused them to feel more isolated and lonely, I believe the time is right for an app like Askwho. We focus on nurturing real, genuine friendships and helping people feel settled, connected and welcomed in their local community.

On top of this, most other social media brands are treated more like entertainment platforms. They actually provide very little value to our lives and I don’t know of another app that brings people together in quite the same way as Askwho does. To put it simply, we want to encourage users to forget gathering followers and likes, and instead focus on finding real friends.

The new trend for home and hybrid-working also makes it more difficult for adults to make friends. Previously, when people moved to a new city, they would often be able to make friends through work. But now many people don’t have that option.

Despite being glamorous, exciting, and filled with amazing things to do, Dubai and the rest of the UAE can be quite an overwhelming and lonely place when you feel like you don’t know anyone. We want to help people make the most of all the wonderful opportunities that this country provides and connect with the countless interesting people that exist within its vibrant international community.

The need for our app has been further demonstrated by the data we’ve gathered. Since Askwho launched in the UAE in October 2021, we have recorded better retention rates than any other mainstream social media application on the market, including LinkedIn, Facebook, Reddit, Discord and Twitter. It’s amazing to see people enjoying it.

To make it easier for users to meet like-minded individuals and find posts they’re interested in, Askwho is split into groups that focus on particular interests like fitness, outdoors, art, lifestyle, travel and wellness. We have a dedicated meet up group and now real-life meet ups are now happening every week, it’s an incredible feeling to know that we are improving the quality of life of so many people across the UAE.

Askwho is free to download across the world. I would encourage anyone who wants to make new friends, find out where to do certain sports or activities, or simply expand their social circle and generally get more out of life, to sign up and give it a try.

Askwho is the result of years of hard work, research, and countless hours of speaking to people through interviews, surveys and focus groups. With restrictions, home working trends and the after-affects of the Covid-19 pandemic still causing people to feel isolated and cut off from loved ones, I believe that the service Askwho provides is arguably more vital than ever.

Michael Askew is a co-founder of Askwho. Views expressed are his own and do not reflect the newspaper’s policy