Laura Whitney Sniderman decided enough was enough one day while sitting in her apartment alone on the couch in March 2020, near the start of the pandemic. She decided to do something about the extreme loneliness she was experiencing.
Sniderman, a Columbia University graduate, founded an online friendship platform called Kinnd. The name plays on the words “kin” and “kind.” The Facebook group, which is currently the main focus, now had more than 8,500 members.
“The pandemic has made people really lonely, we are not able to see people the way we used to and slowly we start to feel disconnected,” Sniderman said in a Zoom call.
“Social interaction is a necessity and for that reason, I decided to take action by creating a Facebook group online and over 7,000 people joined in.”
Sniderman is a powerhouse. Holding a master’s degree in clinical applied psychology she has started multiple businesses, including The Get Together Inc., a company that founds gatherings to celebrate women. She has also planned and executed large-scale events and is an active speaker in forums such as The World Happiness Summit. The success of the Kinnd group has now made Sniderman want to extend it further, with a mission to combat the epidemic of loneliness worldwide by re-imagining the digital friend-making experience.
“We are living through not only a global pandemic but a loneliness epidemic. More than ever before we need to find solutions to this growing challenge,” said Sniderman.
How the Kinnd movement came to be:
Canadians struggling with loneliness
An IPSOS poll conducted in April 2020 found that 68 per cent of younger Canadians aged 18-34 are experiencing feelings of loneliness and isolation. The Canadian Mental Health Association also conducted a survey at the end of 2020 and found 40 per cent of Canadians say their mental health has deteriorated since the pandemic began.
“A lot of young Canadians really miss out on not being able to hang out with their friends, they are a lot more lonely and actively looking for opportunities to interact with others and make friends virtually,” said Alison Pryce, mental health educator and program lead at the Canadian Mental Health Association Peel-Dufferin, said in a Zoom interview.
“What has surprised me is their resilience and ability to make positive situations into negative once given the chance and with opportunities like the Kiind Facebook group. Groups like these help complement the services at the Canadian Mental Health Association that we point a lot of youth to.”
What makes Kinnd different?
What separates Kinnd from other Facebook groups is its methodology. Sniderman specifically set up the Facebook group with the four core elements of the creation and maintenance of meaningful friendships in mind — mutual vulnerability, generosity, reciprocity and energy.
When a new member joins the group, they must introduce themselves in a specific format of stating what they have to offer and what they’re looking to receive, which kicks off the vulnerability phase.
The group is highly engaged and the energy is constantly swirling with the high degrees of interaction with almost every post. It’s spawned an active walking group, movie nights, “speed friending” nights and sailing lessons.
When Vinod Anbalagan posted a message looking for housing, fellow Kinnd members offered good thoughts and wishes for Anbalagan during this time.
“It might be helpful for some. A lot of good thoughts and wishes from people which I appreciated during that time,” he said.
Furthermore, a trend that was coming up from many introductions in the group was the idea of people enjoying watching movie nights. Shortly after this trend in the introductions, the group decided held a virtual movie night to watch Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.
The success of the Facebook group has led Sniderman to work on a Kinnd app that is currently in development and will utilize a process the team has developed called “The Friend Finder.” It’s a personalized friend pairing tool with an assessment that helps connect someone to a list of people that they would get along with. From the match, a user would be able to connect digitally through chat and would even get suggest custom ice-breaker games within the app.
To learn more about Kinnd head to: https://www.kinnd.io/ and join their thriving Facebook Community to start making new friends right now: https://www.facebook.com/groups/Kinnd/