At more than 6,700 posts and 7,000 followers, the @bu_gigs Instagram page has reached the end of its run, but its mission as a student marketplace and gig economy is far from over — the recently published app, “The SocialCall,” will take its place.
The app, released Friday, is meant to provide the same services in a more streamlined and autonomous fashion. Though the Instagram account came first, the app’s owner and designer, Kaluwe Muntanga, said his purpose was always to garner an audience for an app.
“The app has always been the main thing,” Muntanga said. “It’s something that’s been in the cards since the very beginning.”
Muntanga, a senior at Northeastern University studying computer science and finance, created and operates the “gigs” pages for BU and a number of different schools across Boston and the country.
He has been developing the app since October as a way to make the platform more direct and streamlined to meet consumers’ needs.
The app is designed to feel familiar in format and design to the Instagram pages that preceded it.
“The way I look at it is, I’m trying not to do something completely new,” Muntanga said. “Pretty much taking … the setup of Instagram, set up an Instagram as an app, my page, and trying to put it together into a formula that’s very simple and easy to understand.”
The app allows users to make requests or offers and respond to other users’ posts. He said it essentially functions as an autonomous version of the Instagram page, tailored specifically to be a digital marketplace for students.
Muntanga, who developed the app by himself, said the past month has been “one of the hardest months of [his] entire life,” on account of developing the app while still posting on the Instagram pages.
“Even just in terms of the app itself, it’s very hard to pull yourself away from it, because you’re always just finding new things that can be done better,” he said.
When asked how he manages the app’s development on top of his classes and the existing platforms, Muntaga said it has consumed his time and energy.
“Oh, I don’t have a life,” Muntanga said. “I pretty much just work on this.”
Despite the added burden of maintaining the Instagram account and the app, Muntanga says he “can’t complain.”
“No one’s forcing me to do any of this,” Muntanga said. “It feels almost silly to be like ‘I’m too busy, I’ve been working 24/7 on this.’ It’s been awesome, even though it’s hard.”
Muntanga intends to continue his work on the app as a solo effort, he said, having managed the pages and developed the app solely by himself.
“I full on think I can do anything if I really, really just dedicated and put in the amount of time that I need to put into it,” he said, “even if that sounds corny as hell.”
Mikey DeDona, a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences at BU, is an active participant on the BU Gigs Instagram page who intends to download the app, he said, despite the uncertainty on what exactly that experience will be like.
DeDona said he worries students may prefer the convenience of seeing a post on Instagram over a similar system on a separate application, though he hopes that students will adapt to the new platform.
“I suppose my feed will feel a bit emptier without it,” DeDona said.
CAS sophomore Ryn Wrench said she also expects the app to be a different experience from the Instagram pages, but highly recommends it to all students.
“It’s a good way to know what a lot of people are doing,” Wrench said.
She said she has used the platform to purchase and distribute items — giving away a pair of pants, finding a rug and most recently posting about a hula hoop.
“It’s fantastic to connect people who go to BU,” she said. “For people who came this semester, I highly recommended it to everybody I’ve met.”
Muntanga said he intends to turn “SocialCall” into a company following its release on the app store this year.
“I hope it blows up really, really quickly,” Muntanga said. “Blows up in a good way.”
With the app’s release, Muntanga intends to use the Instagram pages as marketing tools for the app’s promotion. He said even with the app’s creation, he doesn’t think the work associated with it will slow down.
“It’s a strange feeling now that I’ve finally got it in front of me after so many years of just thinking about the same thing,” he said. “It’s just been a crazy, crazy time, so it doesn’t even feel real.”
DeDona said the legacy of the Instagram page is strong in uniting the community, and he hopes the app helps expand its reach.
“I think it probably will only be a net positive,” he said. “We’ve all had some good times.”