A new app may be creating a helpful way for teens to connect offline and IRL (In Real Life). 

According to their website, the IRL app is a social calendar that works with other social media outlets, such as Facebook and Instagram. It is currently available through the App Store for iPhone and Google Play for Android. The digital calendar and social app was built by developers to help bridge the gap between online communication and real world connections. The app allows users to find local events and meet-ups to attend for face to face interactions. Users can create a profile by answering questions about their media interests and hobbies. Connections and events are suggested based on those answers.

Social Isolation and Mental Health Issues Among Teens

Research at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) indicates that social isolation is a primary contributor to mental health issues among teenagers. A study conducted by UPMC determined that of the 1,787 participants, who used social media for more than two hours a day were at twice the risk for feelings of social isolation. Furthermore, 58 or more visits to various social media apps or sites a week tripled the likelihood of a perception of being socially isolated. Surveys published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine have illustrated an increased chance of morbidity and mortality from this perceived social isolation.

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America has identified an anxiety disorder that is distinctly related to social media. Social media obsession or social media anxiety disorder may include the following symptoms:

  • Checking social media while with friends or out in public
  • Withdrawal from social relationships
  • Dishonesty about the amount of time spent online
  • Disinterest in regular activities or hobbies
  • Six hours or more a day spent on social media
  • Access to a smartphone all day every day
  • Anxiety when access to notifications or social profiles is disabled
  • Social media use impacting career or home life

A publication called Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking explains that social media use has deeply altered the way humans connect and communicate. The escalated timeline for the development of these platforms has specifically impacted the juvenile population. Extended social media use has been shown to contribute to multiple mental health disorders among teens, including:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Self-esteem
  • Addiction

The IRL app seeks to provide a strategy for teens to make connections that take them offline.

The Development of the IRL App

IRL was founded by Abe Shafi and Scott Banister. The app was created to be a positive environment that promotes real-world social connections. Users can nominate friends and the system will then text compliments to those friends. 

The app also sends out invitations to groups of people. These invitations can be opted into our out of by the users. Shafi explained to Techcrunch that he was interested in helping people live healthier lifestyles by pursuing real life relationships and spending time with each other away from their screens and smartphones.

The app has proven to be popular and even featured by Apple on its “New Apps We Love” list.

How IRL is Helping Teens Connect Offline

Teens and social media will continue to be a compelling study for mental health experts. The novelty of these platforms requires additional study to better understand how they impact the developing mind. The social implications of living a digital avatar could include negative components, such as anxiety or addiction. Apps like IRL represent emerging approaches and attempts by the tech industry to leverage online platforms in order to promote real-world connections.

If your teen is struggling with mental health and substance use issues, our teen treatment center, Next Generation Village offers dual diagnosis programs that promote physical, mental and emotional healing. Call to speak to an admissions representative to learn more.

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