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Sunday, September 26, 2021

New social networking site makes a splash

There’s nothing more relaxing to do during a hot summer day than lounging around the pool. And now you can do it online via atthepool.com, a recently launched social platform.

On Aug. 27, UC Davis students are invited to attend the exclusive launch of At The Pool (ATP for short) by signing up at ATP’s website. Then, students can request an invite using “UC Davis” as their invite code.

ATP was founded by Alex Capecelatro, a UCLA alumnus who graduated with a degree in materials engineering. He said that the site’s name references the pool because it uses the concept of “pools,” which is one of the site’s many functions meant to help people meet others who share similar likes. The site’s goal is to make daily introductions for its users with fellow classmates they’ve never met before on campus.

Though the initial meet-greet would be online, Capecelatro said that the hope is that it will ultimately cultivate into a group of compatible individuals who will meet up for outside excursions, such as catching that movie you really want to see but your friends aren’t as eager to.

Capecelatro got the idea for ATP when he was working at a tech startup in New York after graduation. During that time, he said he felt disconnected from everything around him and struggled to bond with new people.

“It was difficult meeting new people and it wasn’t until I was about to move that I serendipitously met someone at a diner who works in tech and shared a number of my interests,” Capecelatro said.

Once he moved back to California, he found himself in the same isolated position again, looking to connect with people who shared his own interests. He wondered why it was so hard to meet people who liked the same things as he did and stay in contact as well.

“I realized the Internet does a great job at connecting us with our friends and family, but a terrible job at introducing us to new people and getting us offline,” Capecelatro said. “Oddly, this is what Facebook used to be good at when it first started at colleges. It doesn’t do this anymore and it’s still incredibly tough to find like-minded classmates and we realized [ATP] would be a great tool for students.”

Jason Hsin, lead designer on ATP, studies entertainment design at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif. and has worked with ATP since its start. Hsin had a problem not unlike those of Capecelatro in that it was difficult to meet anybody outside his social circle who shared similar interests. Coincidentally, the two connected over the “same obscure passion for Flatland BMX.”

“This led us to the idea of remedying the problem that social networks were built to remedy in the first place: to actually connect you with other people you want to meet in real life,” Hsin said.

Hsin’s design for ATP is radically different from the familiar layouts of major social networking sites such as Facebook or Twitter which often consist of a never-ending news feed, endless photos which are updated constantly and of course, a chat application similar to instant messaging.

“You don’t get to know someone by scrolling through an endless feed of inconsequential updates and check-ins to Starbucks. We center our design around making it clear to you why you’re being matched with someone through such factors as mutual friends and giving you a feel for their personality through fun and quirky Q&As. If you want to converse with your match, you have to be viewing their profile,” Hsin said. “We break the monotony and oversaturation of current social networks by focusing on singular but meaningful interactions.”

ATP introduces a new person to each user every 24 hours so matches don’t linger for too long.

Julia Rockwell, event coordinator at the University of Connecticut branch of ATP, got involved with ATP when she saw a flyer for the beta site which went by its testing name, Hyphos.

“I created a profile out of curiosity. Alex messaged me almost instantly as he’s very friendly and wanted to know my opinions on the site. We started talking and hit it off right away as we had many overlapping ideas on how to improve people’s lives with technology and more communication channels,” Rockwell said. “I believe in striving to make the world better, and as a communications major, I love studying how people interact with each other, so the ability to improve people’s interactions and social lives was a perfect fit.”

Rockwell said that she too had the desire to befriend new people and that the ingenuity of ATP was that it used the Internet to encourage people to turn off their computers and plan outings together in the real world.

“It’s different since it’s a step forward, working to get people over the stigma of meeting new people from ‘the Internet.’ I believe this stigma comes partially from skepticism and fear but the majority of people using the Internet are sane,” Rockwell said. “I hope [the stigma] starts to fade, as we deserve a means to meet one another offline and use the Internet as a tool to enrich our lives offline.”

MICHELLE RUAN can be reached at features@theaggie.org. 

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