The Twenty app has arrived on the Forty Acres, and it's not another social media app. It's an app that makes users more social.
"Our mission as a company is to help people improve their real social life by helping them spend time together with their friends," said Jared Allgood, chief strategy officer of Twenty.
Twenty allows users to see which of their friends are close by, what they're doing later, discover nearby events and coordinate plans to meet up in person. The idea stemmed from what Allgood calls a need for today's "plugged-in" generation to spend more time connecting with people and less time scrolling on their phones.
Since its launch in March 2019, the app has grown via its college internship program. The program extends to 13 college campuses, including the University of Florida, the University of Tulsa and most recently UT, where marketing sophomore Amber Meyerson is one of four Twenty ambassadors at UT. She said her favorite way to use the app is the "Hangout" feature.
"It's based on emojis," Meyerson said. "For example, I use a textbook to let my sorority sisters know I'm studying, or I'll use some food emoji to let people know I want to go eat."
As a student ambassador, Meyerson encourages friends, such as journalism sophomore Ariana Kravetz, to use the app, so they can connect amid hectic college schedules. Kravetz originally downloaded the app to win a sorority competition. Now, it's part of her daily routine.
"(Twenty) is like Find My Friends, which scared me at the beginning," Kravetz said. "But it only uses my location when I open the app. I can get on, create a hangout and my selected friends will receive a notification to come over."
Kravetz said the app was confusing at first. Once it was explained to her, she came to love seeing her whereabouts and those of her close friends in one place.
“I think it’s a good concept that people really need to hear about,” Kravetz said. “It makes my social life easier.”
Allgood said one of the biggest inspirations behind the app's development was a 2017 study "Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?." It showed the correlation between the proliferation of smartphones and the increasing rates of loneliness, anxiety, depression and suicide among teenagers.
Over the past 20 years, time spent with friends outside of school has decreased around a third. According to the study, the number of people –– specifically teenagers –– who report feeling lonely, anxious or depressed increased more than 40% over that same period.
"These are real physical health effects," Allgood said. "They’re pointing to the fact that, as a society, we've made major shifts in the way we behave and interact with one another. We believe the antidote is pretty simple: It's spending more time face to face with your friends."
This sentiment is the motivation behind what Twenty has built, co-founder and chief product officer Jayson Ahlstrom said. It is also why he named the app "Twenty."
"(Twenty) is the CB radio call for 'What's your location?'" Ahlstrom said. "In the 1970s, you would say, 'What's your 20?' The name is a hint back to a time of meeting up in person. That's what the app is about."
Editor's Note: A previous version of this article incorrectly reported Allgood and Ahlstrom's titles. The Texan regrets this error.