“Sorry, running late!”
“Check this out. It’s soooo funny. LOL”
“Bae is bae <3”
A lot of the time there is no gravity to the hastily written messages we exchange via text of social networks. They are merely notifications, chatter, thoughts externalised as inconsequential rambling. Glued to our smartphones it is almost possible to forget that there is another human at the other end of the communication. At the same time we use our smartphones to withdraw from the outside world, we avoid contact with strangers at all costs. But that’s about to change, at least for some of us. Because Somebody is putting the social back into social media.
“When you can’t be there….Somebody can.”
Performance Artist Miranda July is known for quirky yet thoughtful ideas taken to the extreme in various types of media. Back in 2014, together with high fashion brand Miu Miu, July created an app called Somebody in order make social messaging more human again. Sadly, the app was considerably buggy back then, but has now been rebuilt and re-released in April 2015, both for Android and iOS.
Instead of delivering messages directly to the recipient’s smartphone, Somebody enters a go-between into the equation. The message is instead received by a stranger who is using Somebody as well and is currently physically near the intended recipient. This stranger then has to find the recipient and deliver the message, including stage directions like [crying], [whispers], etc.
July’s short film introducing the app shows some of the possibilities: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iz13HMsvb6o
Do this don’t: Talking to strangers
Obviously, Somebody only works well when it reaches a certain critical mass – and readiness to embrace the drama, a willingness to get up close and personal. At parties, concerts, schools and other places where a lot of strangers meet, this foray into art finds an ideal breeding ground if enough people install the app and are willing to leave their comfort zone. For once, you may forget about hashtags, click-through-rates, and reach, because all you need to reach is one person – the one who is willing to talk to a stranger to deliver a message.
As it says on the Somebody website:
“Half-app / half-human, Somebody is a far-reaching public art project that incites performance and twists our love of avatars and outsourcing – every relationship becomes a three-way. The antithesis of the utilitarian efficiency that tech promises, here, finally, is an app that makes us nervous, giddy, and alert to the people around us.”
Social Media x Art x Social Experiment
Somebody lets two-dimensional messages leap off the screen into 3D life, showing that art can happen anywhere and everywhere. It turns a message into one-on-one performance art. That is, if you can manage to find the person you are supposed to deliver the message to.
Some of the stories Somebody users have shared seem to involve a lot more yelling at strangers than Miranda July’s introductory short film would make you think, other are a long list of missed connections, but they all seem to border on the adventurous and fun. People sound glad that they went out there and tried something new.
So let us know if you’re using Somebody, and whereabouts in the world you are using it! I’ve already installed it (only one of my friends is using it at the moment) and hope to soon be able to deliver a message in Vienna, Austria.