(Photos: Mycah Hazel)

It’s no secret that New Yorkers love to Instagram their social lives – just ask anyone who went to Rosé Wine Mansion, or the happy hour goers risking their lives for a sunset pic at your local rooftop.  However, a new monthly hangout is offering booze, board games and (potential) besties – as long as you give up your phone.

The pop-up, TTYL, is held monthly in different locations across Lower Manhattan, turning spots like NoHo’s The Phluid Project into the birthday party of your childhood dreams, or the Lower East Side’s Tijuana Picnic into the house party of your adult fantasies. The pop-up is an intended breeding ground for friendships, relationships, networking or just hanging out. Phones are confiscated at the door.

TTYL is the brainchild of 23-year-old Ithaca College grad and New York native Liana Pavane.   

“When you go out to a bar or an event and you want to meet someone, it’s so hard to make that connection because someone could easily just take their phone out and avoid everything,” says Pavane. “Avoid the whole conversation entirely.”

Throughout the night, phones are secured safely at the check-in table (guarded by Pavane’s mother) and attendees are given a card to hand in when it’s time to reclaim their devices. After surrendering their phones, attendees can mingle over board games like Monopoly or Connect Four, get their hands dirty with Play-Doh or test their flexibility at Twister — all over drinks and food.

“You have something to do so you can easily get into that conversation, over commonalities that you find in the other person through this shared experience,” says Pavane. “It makes it a lot easier to make connections. Oftentimes, people just go out afterwards or continue the night.”

Inspiration for TTYL goes back to Pavane’s childhood. Growing up on the Upper East Side, her parents imposed limits on her technology usage, such as a weeknight television ban — put in place at age four.

“My mom came home and she goes, ‘This is the last night you’re allowed to watch a movie in the week so make it count!’” Pavane recalls. “Or something of that nature. I don’t know how intense — it’s probably not that bad — but I was really upset.”

However, Pavane quickly realized that while her elementary school friends were not subject to the same restrictions, they were becoming addicted to their Nintendo Wiis, Nintendo DSs and eventually, their cell phones.

“I just remember when my friends were over, they would play their Game Boy for hours and hours,” says Pavane. “Or, like, even we would talk and they would be playing and I would kind of just be sitting there. I think it’s the same thing with phones nowadays.”

The final push to create TTYL came after Pavane graduated from Ithaca College. Enjoying a celebratory trip to Copenhagen with family, Pavane couldn’t fight the FOMO from her friends’ social media posts back in New York City.

“I thought to myself how ridiculous that was,” says Pavane. “Because I’m in these beautiful countries in Europe with my family and why was I jealous of my friends?”

Throughout fall 2017 upon her return to New York, Pavane set off finding jobs that could allow her to pay her bills while planning her new venture. She secured a job as a recruiter. TTYL held its first pop-up in January 2019 at The Phluid Project, a cozy gender-free clothing store in NoHo. Since then, the project has gathered a consistent following filling its 30 RSVP spots.

Pavane thinks the space fills a void in New York’s growing post-grad community.

“You’re in this kind of bubble in your college setting,” she says. “Whoever you do meet at a house party or going out, you kind of know them or they’re a friend of a friend. But now when you go out, it’s millions of people in this one city. How are you going to find those like-minded people? The people who do come to my events are the people who want to make those genuine connections.”   

It’s also been helpful for her as a native New Yorker wanting to meet new people. She met one of her now-best friends through the first TTYL event in January. Her other friends, fellow native New Yorkers, have also been thrilled. “I often find that my friends are just super excited to come because they can’t wait to meet new people too,” says Pavane. “We often stick to our friends, people we grew up with. But now that we have this place to come that’s expanding our network, it’s just really exciting.” Pavane hopes TTYL can eventually operate as a full-time space with even more activity options, from tarot card readings and trivia night to open mics and karaoke. The next TTYL pop-up will be held July 12 at The Phluid Project. Registration is free depending on the event’s location and is announced on TTYL’s Instagram, @ttylnyc.