I’m struggling here to determine if this new app represents a great use of technology, a grim sign of the state of the world, or just a generational divide. Launched in 2021, the iPhone-only Realworld app claims to “Making Adulthood Simplify”, which makes me laugh because of course, adulthood is anything but simple!
The app’s backstory explains that its founder, despite having a law degree, was apparently unable to do simple normal survival activities, such as paying bills or dealing with car insurance. Before you poke fun at the privileged, stop for a second because I don’t think they’re alone – and that’s why I don’t know what to make of this app.
Realworld offers over 100 lessons on topics that we supposedly adults take for granted. Maintenance of the car. Emergency savings. Current account. Kitchen. Mindfulness. Tenant insurance. Etc. The app bundles each general category into a “playbook” that, when opened, merges an old-fashioned magazine quiz with a to-do list based on your quiz answers. Each playbook offers a combination of “Do”, “Get” and “Learn”.
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“To do” lists come with specific instructions (“Store your kitchen list/Step 2 Make a list of kitchen utensils you want”), built-in definitions (a chef’s knife is a “general purpose knife, usually approximately 8′ long, with a slight sloping blade, ideal for all types of slicing, chopping, etc.”).
Because each of the “to do” items includes, well, actions to do, the “get” module easily connects you to the sources. Need to get recipes? It connects you to four partner sites/apps – which, to be fair, are some pretty great recipe sources for someone just starting to cook.
“Learn” modules provide phone screen-sized “steps” – small bits of information, like “Buying groceries is almost always cheaper than eating out. .money saved on groceries means more to save (or candles, youcradles, etc – whatever floats on your boat)!”
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Which brings me to my original question: is this a good use of technology? Well, the playbooks are surprisingly organized, well-written (with a light and appropriate tone), and useful. Paper/ink/printed “how to” guides litter the tracks of history — but this digital format and its list/learn/resource structure works well… a reminder that editorial + curation + technology can indeed do the recipe for information success.
And, oh yes, they’re free, definitely a plus for those who’ve just dipped a toe into the country of adulthood. Ties/partnerships surely represent the app’s revenue model, but before yelling about it, remember this: the newly hatched adult target market has never known a world without an iPhone and intuitively understands the relationship link/sponsor in the same way as their parents. /grandparents/great-grandparents understood that the advertisement subscribed to the printed booklet “How to buy your first car” that they had once received
So is this a good use of technology? Yes indeed – check! But what does it tell us that we need an app to learn adult basics?
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At first, part of me points to missing pieces such as the lack of old-fashioned “home economics” that taught seventh graders how to make cinnamon sugar toast or fry an egg, the lack old-fashioned “shop” that taught ninth grade. -students how to drive a nail or saw a piece of wood…the lack of “personal finance” that taught high school students how to pay a bill. And of course, everyone wants to lament the lack of real adult role models who do the same teaching as part of daily interaction!
And yet…and yet…over time, some people had these learning points, but many others didn’t. And some hide these instructions because they come from the mouth of a parental figure. Either way leads to a lot of trial and error learning. Maybe we’ve always needed an app for adult skills, but we never realized it!
Seriously, Realworld offers a low-key, personalized route to getting information. Heck, I’m supposed to know how to grow up (ok, stop laughing now – one day I might really grow up!) he included one of the clearest explanations I’ve seen of how to read and understand the EOB. An EOB is aka Explanation of Benefits, that document you get from your insurance company that, according to Realworld’s practical guide, “lets you know what has been paid for by insurance and what you may still owe. “.
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So, again, back to my original question… is the need for this app a dire situation? In a fantasy world, one or more perfect adults would have the means to teach absolutely everything about adulthood – but let me know if you ever find that world because I didn’t! Rather than sounding a warning, I think this use of technology could be a rather encouraging sign that we’ve added a resource to the mix.
As for it being a generational gap, that’s easy. Of course it is! But this too represents a healthy and normal state. Coming of age always feels like a shock to the system – and each generation finds its own tools to learn on the job. The art of growing up takes hands-on practice, a bump in the road once in a while, and just getting out there and doing it. The only surprise about Realworld might be that it took so long to launch.
Eastham’s Teresa Martin lives, breathes and writes about the intersection of technology, business and humanity.
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