A new social networking app called IRL — which stands for “In Real Life” — specializes in group communication for Penn State students and college students nationwide.
“Our goal is to bring people together through groups, events and general community engagement,” Alexandra Kostpoulou, a content strategist for IRL, said.
A cross between groups on Facebook and GroupMe, IRL provides a space where users can join groups to socialize with their peers and offers a Social Calendar, Kostpoulou said.
“[In the Social Calendar], you can create groups and invite your friends, and then, you can create events and add them into that group chat,” Kostopoulou said.
Once more of an event-based platform, Kostopoulou said IRL is transitioning in the direction of becoming a group chat-based platform.
“During these difficult times because of COVID, it’s very important for people to have some sort of online community,” Kostopoulou said.
Penn State students can use their specific university-issued email address to sign up, which allows students to enter a specialized Penn State platform within the app.
Once users join the Penn State page, students can see every other student who also is a part of the Penn State page, according to Kostopoulou.
“You will be able to see events going on at Penn State that are populated by the current [IRL] ambassadors,” Kostopoulou said.
Users can create their own group chats, events or follow other members they know in the app. By adding themselves to the Penn State community page, users can see what events other members are going to attend, according to Kostopoulou.
“Our target is for each college to have its community all in one place,” Kostopoulou said.
Similar to Instagram, there is an explore page where users can see events and communities they are interested in. Because IRL is partnered with Ticketmaster, Eventbrite, Meetup, YouTube, Twitch and Spotify, users can see events from those platforms.
“In general, you can discover communities you are interested in,” Kostopoulou said.
Maeve D’Andrea, student ambassador for IRL at Penn State, said she’s been using outreach and social media posts to gain exposure in the Penn State community.
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“Hopefully, as the semester goes on, more people will be downloading it,” D’Andrea (senior-advertising) said.
D’Andrea said she believes IRL’s characteristics right now are best-suited for college students.
“Classes can use it, different clubs can use it,” D’Andrea said. “I feel like it’s more of a student-based and college-based environment.”
D’Andrea also said it’s a good tool for college freshmen to use because she “didn’t always know what was going on” when she was new to college. This app is a good opportunity to remedy that problem, she said.
Jessica Cohen, an assistant account executive at ASTRSK PR — the public relations agency representing IRL — said there are many schools across the country on IRL.
Founded by CEO Abraham Shafi and launched during the pandemic after seeing a gap in the market, Shafi brought the concept of IRL to life with the goal of bringing people with similar interests together, Cohen said.
Cohen said if she had this app back when she was in college, she said she believes it would’ve been “so beneficial” to connect with other students.
“There are so many different events that go on that I think it could be a really cool way for kids to get in touch with each other.”