Since technology users heavily communicate by way of text, the abbreviation IRL is used to note when people plan to do something outside of the virtual world of instant messages, social media, gaming and TV. The use of IRL avoids confusion with terms like hang outs, which had been adopted for video chat.
The distinction between IRL and digital relationships has become more common with the rise of new technologies as main forms of communication. Because more and more people spend their time online or on their smartphones, discerning between digital relationships and meeting face-to-face has become common.
IRL was the name of a popular category on Twitch, a large online streaming platform, that hosted non-gaming channels. In September 2018, the platform decided to reform its IRL and Creative channels, separating them into 10 new channels geared towards more specific non-gaming content.
The use of IRL was initially seen in the 1990s and the term was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2000.