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Digital tools to preserve your friendships

Sometimes a friendship can take a turn for the gloomy. Enter technology to save the overcast day.
Sometimes a friendship can take a turn for the gloomy. Enter technology to save the overcast day.
  • Sign up for Venmo, an app that lets you make friend-to-friend payments via your phone
  • GroupMe is an app that allows you to create a chat room on your phone
  • GrubWithUs is a Meetup-esque service that allows you to eat with a new group of people
  • Apps
  • Relationships
  • Technology

Editor's note: Brenna Ehrlich and Andrea Bartz are the sarcastic brains behind humor blog and book Stuff Hipsters Hate. When they're not trolling Brooklyn for new material, Ehrlich works as an associate editor at and Bartz is news editor at Psychology Today.

(CNN) -- Aren't friends the greatest? They pick you up when you're down, bring sunshine into your life and execute a litany of other cliches that are central to one's general sense of well-being.

Sometimes, however, a friendship can take a turn for the gloomy, as a cloud fashioned of creeping annoyances (She gnashes her teeth! He always smells of tuna! She house-sat for a week, and when I returned, all my goldfish were dead!) obscures the sunshine in our hearts.

Enter technology to save the overcast day.

While the effect of social media on our interpersonal relationships is hotly contested among those ever-chattering pundits, a recent survey by The Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project and Elon University's Imagining the Internet Center gave the web a big old thumbs-up. Eighty-five percent of respondents said their social lives had been improved by it, so we're going to sally forth under that banner for now.

Yes, ultimately, many friendships do decay. But there are a ton of apps and services out there that can mitigate those aforementioned annoyances enough that you can at least save the night. Your goldfish, however, are still likely doomed.

If your friend is a cheapskate

You're having a lovely brunch with a cadre of friends one slightly hung over Sunday morning -- stuffing your maw with eggs and collard greens and trying to remember all the mistakes you made last night -- when the check arrives. Your friends begin the old pass-around, and when the check gets to you, you count the bounty.

One of your friends -- incidentally the one who ordered steak and eggs and at least five mimosas -- appears to have only tipped 50 cents. Rage boils in your stomach, marinated in hollandaise sauce, but you hold your tongue, slapping down enough dollars to cover your cheap "a" to the double "s" friend.

Everyone has a pal like the one we just described, which is why everyone should probably sign up for Venmo, an iPhone/Android/Blackberry app that lets you make friend-to-friend payments via your phone (the app links your credit card to your cell).

That way, when the bill comes, you can simply throw down your credit card, and then use the app to bill your friends for what they owe. Your pals will be happy that you're such a take-charge guy/gal (and relieved that they don't have to do math) and you can save your resentment for the next time said friend forces you to go see her in that off-off-off Broadway version of "Twelfth Night" re-imagined in LOLcat speech.

If your friend is a mass-texter

Text messages are awesome, a pleasing, digital epistle that tells you someone is thinking about you -- unless, of course, said text message is sent to 20 other friends, in which case, it's a blatant attempt to have plans with someone, anyone.

(We even have a friend who dated a guy who would send the same solicitous message to multiple girls at once -- an obnoxious numbers game by which he ensured that he got laid by someone, anyone.)

We're all guilty of sending texts to scads of friends at once in an effort to secure weekend plans (an exercise that leads to confusion and frustration), making GroupMe an essential addition to your app library.

GroupMe is an Android/iPhone app that allows you to create what is essentially a chat room on your phone. Even people without smartphones can get in on the action, which is awesome for your friend Larry the Luddite and his Samsung Juke.

So get a discussion going -- instead of crop-dusting everyone with a blanket invitation to something lame.

If you're in a rut

"Let's go to that bar."

"Which bar?"

"The one down on 11th."

"We go there all the time. I've dated all the bartenders."

"OK. How about that place on Grove?"

"We went there last weekend."

"That dive on Main?"

"I hate the music."

"We could just get drunk here and stare at the wall?"

"[Sigh] OK, let's go to 11th. I think they hired a new chick, anyway."

Ever had a conversation like the one above? Of course you have, because we're all creatures of habit. Sometimes, however, all it takes is an addition to a friend group to unlock a world of brand new activities, watering holes and borrowed clothing.

That's where GrubWithUs comes in. The startup is a Meetup-esque service that allows you to eat family-style meals with a new group of people.

Yes, there is the possibility that everyone you meet at the dinner will be horrifying and/or socially awkward, but at least then you'll have an amusing anecdote that you can share with your friend. Nothing brings us closer together than laughing at the misfortunes of others, am I right?


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