How Venmo Is Turning Into a Hilarious Social Network

Payment app keeps users entertained.

September 1, 2014, 2:03 PM
PHOTO: Venmo's app is displayed in Washington, D.C. on Aug. 22, 2014.
Venmo's app is displayed in Washington, D.C. on Aug. 22, 2014. After downloading the Venmo mobile-payment app onto a smartphone, users can connect them to bank and credit-card accounts, and then link up with friends to send and receive money on-the-go.
Andrew Harrer/Getty Images

— -- If you use Venmo, you already know how convenient it is to pay your friends instantly, splitting the bill at dinner without hitting up an ATM or getting exact change. With a couple of taps on the app, your portion of the bill is settled, and you didn't even have to irritate the server by handing over seven credit cards.

But lately, it seems the handy app is something more, morphing into a full-fledged social network as more users join and many get creative with their eye-raising payment explanations, which are public to other people on the app. Venmo, whether you realize it or not, has become a place to brag about your wild night out and clue in friends on who you've been sharing cabs with.

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"Once I'm on the app, I definitely find myself scrolling through," Jarell Cardoza of San Francisco told ABC News.

He uses the app to split rent and bills with his roommate, and also when he goes out with friends or his girlfriend.

Today, payments for "forgetting my wallet like a scrub," "Costco goodies" and "kale" were among the thousands of transactions visible on the global newsfeed of the app. Venmo conceals actual dollar amounts paid or charged, but everyone can see who is paying whom, and for what -- from bills to late-night jaunts to the strip club.

And the descriptions are increasingly hilarious.

"It's almost like the same thought that goes into sending a tweet goes into what you write for Venmo," Keisha Follins, 36, told ABC News. "Because you know other people are going to see it and you want it to be amusing."

When Venmo users log in to make a transaction, many find themselves staying a while -- browsing their friends' activity like one would on Facebook or Twitter.

"I did that yesterday and I felt kind of creepy because I was like: Why do I care about what other people are doing?" Follins said. "But it kind of encourages you to be funny when you write something. It's entertaining."

Cardoza also uses the app to see what his friends are up to, sometimes stumbling upon cryptic emoji-filled payments.

"When you see a 4 a.m. New York City charge with devil horns on it, I find myself wondering and sometimes shooting a text, like, 'What was that about?'" he said.

Allyson White of New York City also gets a laugh out of some of the outrageous Venmo posts.

"I've seen a lot of funny ones around bachelorette parties," said White, 25. "A lot of people seem to communicate only in emoticons, which makes it funnier. If I can think of something clever on the spot, I'll try to make it funny."

Adding to the social aspect is Venmo's version of friend requests. Users connect with people they know through email and Facebook, so while their transactions will show up in your main newsfeed, they're not necessarily people you exchange cash with. Just like Facebook, it's a passive way of knowing what someone you don't even talk to anymore is up to nowadays.

Users can even like or comment on transactions.

Venmo is a free app available on iPhone and Android platforms.

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