BY TAMARA ROSIN
"My twenties were some of the most fun years of my life," my mom often tells me. When she was a young woman living in a studio apartment in Chicago, my mom used to fill her evenings exploring new bars with work friends, discovering unknown concert venues and making friends all across the city.
This makes me consider my own social life, which is categorically less exciting and can be neatly defined by the same three bars in River North. I frequently wonder how my mom had a more exciting nightlife in the 1980s than I do now with the myriad social apps and tools designed to essentially create my social life for me at my disposal.
In today's era of connectivity, social media is customary. Dating apps have proliferated through society — beginning with Tinder and getting progressively less creepy. And of course, Facebook has become a fixture of many of our daily lives. Yet despite all of these outlets designed to connect us digitally, there are few such tools that address the key component of bringing people together face-to-face.
This is precisely the idea behind Cliq, a new social app meant to connect people offline by breaking down the barriers that prevent different groups of friends from socializing, because let's face it, when you go out with the same group of people every weekend, it's bound to get monotonous.
"Most people envision cities like they're depicted on TV — a place where you're constantly meeting new people and exploring new places," says Nick Wieczorek, Cliq's founder and CEO. "My group of friends had a similar vision, and we went into our first summer [going out] in Chicago expecting it. But at the end of the summer, we looked back and realized we had been with the same 20 people going to the same four spots over and over. We knew there were other groups of friends feeling the same way. All we needed was a platform to connect."
Nick realized he and his friends probably weren't alone. Young twenty-somethings all over the city experience the same social rut, where feeling compelled to go out without really knowing where to go or what to do lands them at the same local spots every weekend.
It's a familiar scenario with my group of friends. Every Friday, eight of us girls will meet up at someone's apartment to have a few drinks. Time will go by.
"Has anyone heard about anything going on tonight?" Someone will undoubtedly ask at 11 p.m. The answer is usually a resounding and rather disheartening "No," followed by everyone silently checking their phones for text messages. (Cue Drake's "Hotline Bling.")
After a couple more drinks and some milling around, one friend will nod off on the couch, another will go meet up with her boyfriend and those of us determined to make it out of there will end up in a 30-minute line at the same bar as last weekend. It's a terrible and foreboding story I wouldn't wish upon anyone.
Luckily, Nick and his team created Cliq. The app went live in September.
Cliq isn't just another dating app or platform to connect people superficially. While you can view photos of other Cliq users, its new group chat function enables users to talk to one another, decide if they seem compatible, and make plans to go out in a fun group setting. The point of Cliq is to simply provide people with the desire to branch out the means to do so.
Groups of up to five friends — which can include guys and girls — have found the app incredibly helpful for meeting new people and recommending exciting activities. While Cliq will suggest bars or events and offer perks, such as free concert tickets, free cover or drinks, it is ultimately up to Cliq users to make their own plans.
Recent events people on Cliq have attended include 1980's cover band Sixteen Candles at Joe's on Weed, Zac Brown Band at Wrigley Field, Disclosure at Navy Pier, a bar tab at Henry's Swing Club on Hubbard, a Matt and Kim concert at a street festival, and a trivia night at State in Lincoln Park.
"You can use the product however you want," says Nick. "We aren't trying to cast it in any specific way." Cliq has appealed to groups of friends as well as couples new to Chicago.
"I think it's a really fun thing," says Nikole Kaplan, a Cliq user. She likes the app because of how easy it is to find new friends you might not otherwise meet, as well as its convenience. "It's not something you need to plan on doing in advance. When you're just hanging with your girlfriends, it's a great thing to pull up on your phone and see what other people are doing."
Cliq is currently in its beta phase, and Nick and his team have been making improvements according to feedback from users, called Cliq Insiders. Overall, feedback has been incredibly positive, Nick says.
For example, users can now select different profile pictures, which was a high priority based on feedback. The group chat function is also a recent update the Cliq team unveiled in October.
"Most importantly, people are having fun," says Nick. "We’re excited by the user engagement so far, and the opportunities in this space are huge. We want to be a one-stop shop for young professionals trying to figure out what to do that night. Our mission is to connect groups of friends and we view unique experiences as a great way to accomplish that goal."
The plan is to keep growing Cliq by expanding its functionality. While currently the app connects different groups of friends to chat and meet up with each other, eventually it will serve as a platform for people to learn about new venues, bar specials, and other interesting events happening around Chicago.
The app will officially launch in the coming months.