Twenty, which officially launched last week nationwide, is a free social media application that seeks to help today’s digitally focused college generation disconnect from screens and spend more time connecting in person. Twenty came to the University of Michigan campus in January for an exclusive trial period before its release.
Twenty founder and CEO Diesel Peltz came up with the idea for the app after considering how difficult it was for him to seamlessly meet up with friends. The project became more tangible when he noticed there was no concrete solution to the problem.
“It started first with a functional problem that I had, which was that it was seemingly difficult to see where my friends were and what they were doing and actually meet up with them,” Peltz said. “The more I researched the marketplace and the opportunity of what products can be used to solve the problem and really identifying that and doing that research, there was a lot of whitespace.”
In an effort to overcome Peltz’s issue of social disconnect, Twenty was designed to make it easier for users to make plans with friends, creating opportunities for human connection. The app allows users to see where their friends are currently located on a map, what they are doing at their respective location, create a “hangout” for current or upcoming plans with friends or friends of friends, and discover local public events happening nearby, such as concerts, happy hours, sporting events and club meetings.
Peltz said the primary focus of the app is the “hangouts” feature, which allows users to have flexibility when making plans. These plans can be public or private, so users are able invite as many or as few friends as they want, and anyone who joins is able to edit and update the plan with ease.
“There is a features setting and a combination of location sharing — to see who is physically available and who is around you to actually meet up — as well as our main feature which is hangouts, which is flexibility when making plans and deciding what to actually do with their friends,” Peltz said.
The purpose of the hangouts feature is not only to help the flexibility of plans, but also to eliminate the constant back and forth texting about locations and times.
Art & Design sophomore Carly Lucas, who is a frequent user of the Twenty, explained she appreciates the adaptability the app affords users and how it helps limit phone use.
“(Twenty is) a good way to keep in touch with your friends without having to constantly text them to see where they are, but you can also make an event and drop a pin, which is really cool,” Lucas said. “You can make plans without as much effort as texting people.”
While many elements of the Twenty app may feel similar to other social media apps, its focus and emphasis on encouraging face-to-face contact sets it apart, Peltz explained.
“I would say … our focus and our mission (is different), which is about connecting people to the people and experiences that matter to them most,” Peltz said.
Peltz also added that many features of the app are different from other social media applications, like Snapchat and Instagram.
“A lot of functional things about how the actual product works are different,” Peltz said. “One is we explicitly tell people not to add every single person that they know … and we tell them very explicitly to only add the people you want to spend time with in real life, so the network size is different.”
Additionally, the focus of Twenty emphasizes activities and events currently occurring or upcoming, rather than moments of the past.
“You can’t share anything you have done in the past on Twenty,” Peltz said. “You can only share hangouts that are happening now or in the future and the main reason for that is that there is no functional use for a cool filtered photo of what happened last night if you are actually trying to meet up with friends.”
Peltz explained the app’s focus on the present is rooted in the concern of the negative effects of social media on one’s overall mental health.
“Using some more recent data, (we realized) … the negative implications of being too overly digitally connected and how that leads to social isolation, depression, anxiety, in some cases higher suicide rates,” Peltz said. “We are fundamentally passionate about … how we can have a positive impact on having people connect with people in real life to help eliminate these negative consequences of social media … We think that (the app’s focus on the present) has positive effects in terms of reducing social comparison anxiety that comes along with traditional social products that exist.”
Peltz said using Twenty does not mean you should disengage completely with other social media platforms.
“We are (not) trying to say don’t use traditional social media (applications), cause there are a lot of benefits that come out of it,” Peltz said. “Rather, we are trying to say, ‘Hey it’s really important and it's a functional problem to actually meet up with your friends,’ and we are trying to come up with a solution that helps encourage people to help build and foster relationships in real life versus just digitally.”
Peltz is optimistic about the success of Twenty, particularly on college campuses, because of the sociability of college students as a demographic group.
“College students … have a pretty large amount of free time to actually socially engage with friends and there are a lot of interesting opportunities on campus, whether that’s meeting up for coffee, going to the gym, or engaging in a club or organization … (as well as) meeting for study groups … or going out at night,” Peltz said. “Twenty can be helpful in: one, reducing the friction to actually go meet up with friends, and two, to make sure that you are actually exposed to the appropriate opportunities to hang out with your friends in real life.”
Peltz explained the company is starting to see concrete success on college campuses.
“We're hopeful that Twenty encourages … all new results and new real-life experiences,” Peltz said. “I think we are starting to see that in some of our early results. We’ve seen a lot of early success on colleges and expect and are hopeful that that continues to grow.”
Twenty has proved to be successful on a variety of college campuses across the country already, according to a press release from the company.
“Twenty has experienced success on numerous college campuses, including the University of Florida, the University of Wisconsin, and Tulane University,” the press release reads. “In the last month alone, Twenty has enabled over 25,000 real life experiences. During that same timeframe, over 50% of students who have downloaded Twenty continue to use it each week to meet up with their friends.”
Peltz believes Twenty has the potential to achieve similar success at the University of Michigan because of the University’s large size.
“I think fundamentally on a big campus like Michigan … it’s really helpful to make sure that you are exposed to all the social opportunities that are available to you,” Peltz said.
Business sophomore Pat Jennings, who is a campus representative and user of the Twenty application, echoed Peltz’s statement about the useful social nature of the app across college campuses, specifically at the University.
“For somebody that isn’t a part of an organization that doesn’t have organized social events, (Twenty) makes it a lot easier to bring friends together,” Jennings said. “To see all the events that are going on within your individual circle of friends, but also the events that are called public pins, which are greater events that are open to everyone within the area … (is) very useful to someone that doesn’t have access to planned social things.”
In hopes to expand beyond college campuses, Twenty has also launched partnerships with a variety of large live event companies including Live Nation, Rock Nation, Endeavor, Madison Square Garden and Tao Group as well as celebrities including DJ Khaled and Rande and Kaia Gerber.
“We’re really excited now that we have officially launched to start roll out the product with them,” Peltz said. “We are going to be working with our partners to really roll the product out to our collective audiences that we think can really help serve the need that people have to help meet up with their friends.”