This New App Will Help You Find Friends in Vancouver

Feeling sad and alone? There’s an app for that.

Dustin Vioen was an addict, first of drugs and then social media. “Addiction has its roots in trauma and isolation and I can absolutely relate to that,” he says. “There’s obviously a difference between drug addiction and behaviour addiction, but I can draw a lot of parallels.” Vioen, now fully recovered, is the founder of a new app called Joiiin (launched in August of last year) that’s designed to combat social isolation and anti-social social media. “The whole essence of Joiiin was designed for what behaviours are healthiest for recovery,” he says.After moving to Vancouver from his hometown on Vancouver Island, Vioen noticed a lot of segregation in our beloved city and had a hard time connecting with people online. “I’m kind of trying to solve my own problem as an introvert,” he says. “I’m not really the person that goes out and says hi to people.” So, Vioen began (with some help) to develop a social app unlike all the rest. Rather than using the attention economy like Facebook and Instagram, apps supported by ads and designed to keep you on your phone for as long as possible, “success for means you spend less time on your phone or device and more time out in the world.”People log onto the app and joiiin (get it?) “micro-events” arranged by other Vancouver locals or start their own event for friends old and new—the aim is to get people outside and exploring. The micro events are usually joined by three to five people (although there is a snowshoeing exhibition planned that currently has 25 Joiiiners) and revolve around hiking, sporting events and performances in the Lower Mainland. One Joiiiner is even trying to arrange a trip to Ireland!”The centre point of the connection is always some sort of similar interest and currently it’s focused on outdoor recreation,” says Vioen. “So if you’re like ‘Oh, I want to do something this weekend,’ you can post ‘Who wants to go for a hike this weekend?’ and people can respond.” From there, people are free to add as much or as little detail as they want to their event post or profile. Joiiin’s fluid system is similar to what people have been using Facebook for (aside from tagging friends in random gifs) and is all about transforming your itch to get outside into actually standing on a mountaintop. to apps like BumbleBFF and MeetUp, Joiiin is a new-age millennial way to make friends or to plan events with the friends you already have. The app can even help you work out the finer details, from arranging car pools to mapping out your selected hiking trail: “We don’t have that singular source of information: what’s happening? Who’s interested? Where can I meet people that are like me?” Vioen explains.The only catch (if you can call it that)? You can’t hide behind a perfectly-posed profile pic. “We’re not about who you pretend to be online—we’re about who you really are,” says Vioen. “You can pretend to be whoever you want to be on other social media apps, but with Joiiin, the engagement level is showing up—being there and following through on the things you says—which isn’t the case on other platforms.”Currently, the app (in beta for Android) is only available in Vancouver, but there are more than 1,000 on the waitlist and signed up for the app. Once other cities throughout Canada have generated enough interest, Vioen and his crew will roll out the app to the rest of the country: “Making Joiiin the go-to place for fun—that’s what I think about every single day,” he says.

Read more of what Vioen and other Vancouver entrepreneurs have to say about running successful start-up businesses in Vancouver ▸▸▸