Don’t Diss My Doodle Poll, We'd Never Meet Up Otherwise

Why do I need a scheduling app to meet up with some of my closest friends?

Group Chat is a weekly series where HuffPost UK writers discuss friendship, diary dilemmas and how to reclaim our social lives in a busy world.

Trying to get my friends together in the same place at the same time is almost enough to make we want to give up entirely. Right now, my Whatsapp is blowing up as we struggle to find a date everyone can do – and it looks like I might already have my first social plan for 2020. Yes, really.

I’m in my thirties and people seem busier than they’ve ever been. Their jobs and partners and babies are busy, too. They have countless weddings and engagement parties to attend, and, now people can actually afford weekends away (shock horror), they take them. This means free time is scarcer and the days when this friendship group would operate as a pack are long gone.

I’m busy, too, but with no one willing to take the role as chief organiser, it can quickly feel like you’re bottom of people’s priorities.

A typical attempt to get my friends all together looks something like this:

Friend 1: We haven’t hung out for ages, I’m free all next week. Shall we do something?
Friend 2: Yay! I can do Wednesday?
Friend 3: I’d love to meet, but I’m busy Weds. How about Thursday?
Friend 4: No can do Thursday. Saturday? We could do brunch.
Friend 5: I’m on holiday all next week. How about the week after?
Me: 😐

This delicate dance threatens to continue until we’re so old we no longer remember each other’s first names or how we became friends in the first place.

So, I Doodle. Not the kind that involves drawing absent-mindedly on a notepad (although that might help with the frustration I feel over never being able to find a date). I’m talking about the site that helps groups of busy people find a time they can meet. It’s typically billed as a way to schedule work meetings, but it works wonders for my social life – once I’ve convinced everyone to take part.

Guzaliia Filimonova via Getty Images

Without sounding like a #spon post, Doodle is just great. Describing itself as “the easy scheduling service”, it allows you to create a list of possible dates and circulate it round a group. Everyone fills in their availability and – ta da! – the best date is found. Great if you’re a massive extrovert and a bit of a control freak, like me.

The trouble with scheduling your social life on Whatsapp is people often blindly state their own availability with no intention of working out when other people are free. They bat a perfectly good date out of the way because they can’t make it, when the rest of the group might be able to.

What I like about Doodling is that it’s fair: the date most people can make wins. There’s no favouritism or louder members of the group swaying things their way. Sometimes it even throws up multiple dates to catch up, rather than once in a blue moon – and these more regular meets is when the good stuff happens, when you can get beyond the round robin life updates to actually connect and be, y’know, friends.

This, I’m finding, is one of the biggest challenges of life in my 30s. The aforementioned busy-ness means people aren’t just short on time, but short on intimacy. Friendship can feel surface level – after you’ve done with small talk it’s time to go home, until your next meet-up... in three months time. I’d almost rather everyone complete a short survey before meeting, so we’ve got the basic covered and can move on swiftly.

It doesn’t help that I also only seem to see some of my oldest, dearest friends at weddings and birthdays, which, I’m sorry, doesn’t count as Quality Time. Is the solution shorter catch-ups, with fewer people, but more often?

Of course, while I’m evangelising for Doodle, others roll their eyes when I even suggest it. One day, when I was praising it at work, I was met with groans from my more free-spirited colleagues who say they’d rather life be spontaneous.

I get that and I do like an impromptu meet-up, but I don’t think it’s practical – if I don’t Doodle our social life, my friends would never meet up.

It’s not that Doodle simplifies things (though it obviously does). It’s that it democratises the process. Because when was friendship ever about the loudest and busiest winning?