Over the past month, Hokies have had a surge in online participation. The catch, however, is that apps like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have nothing to do with it.
Virginia Tech recently gained national recognition on a new platform: Erodr.
Erodr — an exclusive online community for local college students — has seen a total of 4,600 posts (150 daily) and over 40,000 likes in the month of November alone.
The week of Nov. 10 saw more sign-ups than any other campus nationwide. With over 200 sign-ups on the night of Nov. 16 alone, Tech students set records for the application and brought the school up to the third largest user base in the country.
Not only is the app gaining ground with user sign-ups, but more than 50 percent of the students who have downloaded Erodr since it arrived at Tech last spring have become regular users. With an industry average of less than 10 percent, the app has proven wildly popular among Hokies.
Stephanie Valdez, a junior in biology and the head campus representative for Erodr at Virginia Tech, attributed the exclusivity of a university-specific community as a major source of success.
“You can find anybody going through the exact same things that you’re doing, as specifically tailored to your school,” Valdez said.
All of this comes at a time when large-scale social media platforms such as Facebook are suffering in participation among young people.
Students at universities like Tech are not only searching for new platforms, but those that offer a unique experience. For college students, checking Facebook has become like checking their refrigerator; they know there is nothing there, but out of habit, they look anyway.
Applications like Erodr have begun to fill this niche with its closed community and resounding theme of anonymity. Comments and dislikes are only visible to the user who initially posted.
“The people who comment or dislike something, that’s for you to know, and the people that you chose to connect with after that are for you to know,” Valdez said. “It’s tailored so that you choose how much you want people to know about you.”
In addition, users are granted an anonymous post once every 24 hours, an idea that is cause for alarm to many. Anonymous posting can provide opportunity for countless unwanted behaviors, with cyberbullying being a primary concern.
However, Tech’s streamer has remained incident free thus far — even with the most risque and controversial posts. In the event of a post that does come across as offensive or scathing, users have repeatedly taken it upon themselves to dislike and “erode away” the post in a matter of minutes.
“We barely have to do our job these days because people are doing it for us,” Valdez said, as campus representatives are in charge of flagging inappropriate posts. “People have been very tasteful about everything they see. No one has been harassed, no one has been banned and we haven’t gotten complaints about any stalkers. The anonymous post is more of a gift. If you do have something that you need to say, that’s your chance.”
Erodr users identify themselves as “rodies,” a term that has created a certain sense of mutual respect and camaraderie — this has produced the “rodie” effect, wherein users have demanded an occasion to finally meet one another in person. The result was what became known as the “Rodie Rager.”
A massive party was conceived, coordinated and supplied on the app itself. The DJ, bartender and host all volunteered their services via the app, bringing in over 300 guests.
“It all came together in less than 48 hours,” Valdez said. ”There were no cops, nobody was hurt, and anybody who did get very drunk had their cabs paid for by the Erodr community. People even volunteered to be designated drivers.”
Erodr is available free for iPhone and Android powered phones.
Follow this writer on Twitter: @MikeDemskoCT