Somebody: Messaging App That Allows Strangers To Deliver Your Message

Somebody is an iOS app by Miranda July (someone I haven’t heard of, until now). It’s a quirky, whimsical app that basically allows one person to send a message to another, but through a third party (stranger).

The concept sounds a bit weird (and even a bit creepy at first), but I actually really dig the impulse behind it. Note that both the sender and the recipient need to have the app installed, in order for this to work. And the recipient also gets to dictate whether now is a good or bad time to receive messages. So it’s not like random strangers will show up at your doorstep with messages at 3AM or anything.

I installed the app earlier in the morning, and there were a few bugs here and there. But after a few attempts, I was able to log in successfully. And while it pulls in your contacts, only those people who actually have the app installed will show up.

So again, you can’t just contact people out of the blue – you can only contact those people who have the Somebody app installed, and who will be accepting messages.

Here’s a rather tongue-in-cheek promo video for the app:

One fun thing with the app is that you can choose to send messages, but you can also choose to deliver messages as well. I tried to do this over lunch, and it was an interesting experience.

So if someone tries to send a message and it’s unsuccessful, it goes into this pool of “floating” messages. That is, if no one is available at the time the message is created/sent, it just hangs out in the ether waiting for someone to see it, select it, and then attempt to deliver the message.

During my lunch break (around 2PM), I looked through the “Floating” messages and found one with a destination about 0.2 miles from where I was. I selected it, and was given a pin on a map, along with the person’s name (Kay), and her photo.

My message was “I miss you! [Rather angrily:] Where have you been?!”

I arrived at the destination no problem, but there were a ton of shops on the intersection (keep in mind, this as downtown Chicago). I went into a few stores, and tried asking a few people if they were “Kay.” No luck on that front. After about 15 minutes of wandering around, I unfortunately had to give up and return to work.

It was rather exciting (and made me nervous) trying to track down Kay. I’ll admit it did feel a little creepy, in that I was looking for someone based on her photo, but it was actually quite fun. I’m bummed to have not found Kay, as I was really looking forward to delivering this message. I’m looking forward to giving this another go, next week.

// Update: I just now saw someone else pop up on my contacts. Turns out it’s Krispijn – who you might remember from the Month at the Museum Contest several years ago.

I just now tried to send him a message, but didn’t get a response back. So it’s now a “Floating” message. Very interesting.

I learned about this app through MetaFilter, and there’s a lot of comments there about this app being “performance art” or whatnot. I choose to approach it as a kind of message delivery service, where the fun part isn’t so much the acting or delivery of the message… but the idea of the stranger-as-proxy.

It’s two strangers, having a fairly intimate conversation right off the bat. I love the concept, and I’m looking forward to the conversation that follows the message delivery. Because I bet it’ll be all sorts of interesting.

If you’re game, consider installing the app and giving it a whirl. I’m especially encouraging people I know to do so, as that will enable me to send you a message (and enable me to receive one as well).

So come on. What are you waiting for? I’m looking forward to fist-bumping a complete stranger.

Month at the Museum: Science Experiment Reveals Winner
Touching Strangers
Remembering Someone Else’s Memories
We’re All Gonna Die – 100 Meters of Existence: Portrait of 178 People by Simon Hoegsberg

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