What Is the IRL App? Why Is It Texting Me?

teens textin
Teens check their smartphones outside the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., on April 8, 2015. Nicholas Kamm/Getty Images

Some people have been getting text messages to their phones from an app they don't recognize. The app is called IRL, and many of the people getting the messages are confused as to what exactly it is.

The app's name is an acronym for "in real life," and it's popular among teenagers who use it to foster relationships with one another in person. The app's website says it's meant to make it easy for friends to send each other invitations to hang out in real life. The goal is to "solve the technology addiction" and bring people together in the real world instead of over technology—by using more technology.

It also says that the app allows users to "anonymously nominate their friends for things that they're good at." This is the part that nonusers are getting texts about. A user signs up for the app, gives it access to his or her contacts and anonymously nominates friends; then the app sends a text to that friend.

One Reddit user who got a message from the app replied to it for more information and got a message back that said, "IRL is an app all about sending compliments to friends and hanging out. You can find out who invited you by asking them to reveal in the app. The app has been featured by Apple as new apps they love and by CNBC." Anyone getting texts from the app can text "STOP" as a reply to make the messages stop.

But the people getting these messages are mostly confused by the app, unsure of whether it's legitimate or a scam of some sort.

The app's site says that people can receive a text from the app for one of three reasons: they were nominated by a friend, invited to the app by a friend, or someone who had their phone number added them as a friend in the app. It will only contact users' friends in one of the three instances above, and at no other time.

"Our goal is to simply help our users spend more time with their friends in the real world, in order to boost their overall happiness," the app said on its website. The idea is that when invitations are sent in a group text, one person's 'no' response can cause a cascade of 'no' responses. The idea is that IRL can help curb that by sending the invitations outside of a group chat.

The app allows users to choose an activity, time and place, and then invite their friends in the app to that event—sort of like a Google Calendar invite for teens.

teens textin
Teens check their smartphones outside the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., on April 8, 2015. Nicholas Kamm/Getty Images
What Is the IRL App? Why Is It Texting Me? | Tech & Science