If Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and Tumblr don’t allow you to air quite enough of your private life, Miranda July’s got the app for you. The filmmaker, artist, and author launched Somebody today, a messaging service that enlists strangers to verbally deliver your messages.
July’s previous project was We Think Alone . If you signed up for a mailing list, you could get weekly snippets of emails sent by famous people, artists and at least one scientist. The famous people included Kirsten Dunst, Lena Dunham and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Everyone involved dug around in their inboxes to find emails fitting that week’s theme; Week 14, for example, was “An Email About Being Sad.”
Somebody is a little more interactive, in ways that could be either delightful or deeply unsettling. Theoretically, here’s what happens: Somebody users write messages, then choose a fellow Somebody user, a total stranger, to deliver it. Here’s July’s video conception of how one could conceivably use the service to break up with one’s boyfriend, settle a fight between girlfriends, or deliver happy birthday wishes that shade rather abruptly into marriage proposals:
You can also direct your stand-in to perform certain actions: cry, for example, or hug the message recipient, an action we’d recommend performing with extreme caution in New York. Or anywhere, really. Just be really, really careful about hugging people you don’t know.
We tried signing up for the service, which is only available through Apple’s app store. You have to include a clear photo of yourself, so other Somebody users can find you to deliver messages, as well as a list of “five things you love.” The app still seems pretty buggy; in the final step, you’re supposed to receive a verification link via text message so you can start Somebodying with everybody. Our link arrived and we clicked on it, yet we were unable to start being Somebody. Maybe you’ll have better luck.
If all this sounds like twee, adorable fun, the New Museum on the Bowery is one of eight official “Somebody hotspots” around the country. As the museum explains, that means you should go there to have a better chance of Somebodying with other Somebodies: “Museum-goers are invited to send and deliver messages in these spaces where there are likely to be other users.”
July will be at the New Museum on October 9 to talk about the project, which she’s releasing in collaboration with the clothing line Miu Miu. The fashion connection is pretty slight; the New York Times notes that all the people in the Somebody videos July released are wearing Miu Miu.
Have fun out there, potential Somebodys. Just remember what we said about the hugging thing.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on August 28, 2014