Arts, Culture & Media

This new person-to-person messaging app depends on strangers for message delivery


Miranda July wants you to deliver someone else's message to a friend.


Courtesy of Somebody

You're down with Yo. You've got the emoji-only messaging app. Now there's Somebody, a new app designed by artist/writer/actor/director/superhero of twee Miranda July.

Somebody lets you send a message, but — the twist — your message will be delivered by a stranger.

"When you send your friend a message through Somebody, it goes — not to your friend — but to the Somebody user nearest your friend," July writes. "This person (probably a stranger) delivers the message verbally, acting as your stand-in." You can add special instructions, such as to cry or to hug the recipient. It’s like getting a singing telegram, just walking down the street.

Somebody fits perfectly with July’s preoccupation with making connections between strangers. Her last book, It Chooses You, documents her encounters with people selling stuff through a printed classifieds booklet. July used the PennySaver as a randomized stranger-meeting engine.

If July didn’t invent Somebody, somebody else would have. Too often, our phones isolate us by drawing our attention away from the real people in the room and into the non-space of glowing screens. So we’re finding ways to use our phones to connect us in to people and places in real life — whether it’s an audio walking tour, bird spotting, hook-ups, or just saying hi. Still, Somebody isn't about making a direct connection, not precisely: the stranger becomes your avatar, in human form.

We’re still waiting to set up our Somebody accounts. According to July’s Twitter feed, the app has been overloaded by new users signing up. Once we're in, we'll check out one of the Somebody hotspots, look around, and wait for our first stranger-borne message to appear.

This blog post comes from the producers of Sideshow, a new podcast from PRI about art and culture — and the stuff in between.