What Happens When You "Friend" Strangers IRL

We don't usually think twice when we friend someone on social media — but have you ever wondered what our social-networking behavior would look like in real life? Answer: Really friggin' weird, according to this video from comedian Jena Kingsley. Raise your hand if you are not at all surprised by this fact.

Kingsley teamed up with Relationship Science and the news app MINE on the video, which basically involves her running around New York for a day literally following people, poking them, endorsing their skills, and so on. As you might have guessed, it's hilarious — but it also really drives home how strange social media is. True, I'm probably falling to confirmation bias here — I expect that social media behavior enacted in real life is going to be odd, so it is odd — but at the same time, it also makes you think: If we wouldn't do things like this when standing face-to-face with someone, what makes it okay to do them when we're online?

We always feel like there's a level of remove when there's a screen and a few hundred or thousand miles between us and everyone else — but maybe we shouldn't feel like that. I realize this is something I've said before, and which I'll probably say again, but behind every screen name (and password), there's an actual person. We could all probably stand to remind ourselves about that fact every now and again.

Here are a few of my favorites; scroll down to watch the whole video and see the rest:

1. Following Someone

Guess what happens when you go up to someone you've never met and say, "Hi, ma'am? I just wanted to let you know that I'm following you. Just, like, do whatever, and I'll just watch"? They look mildly terrified and walk quickly away from you.

2. Poking Someone

This guy seemed to be relatively game for the whole thing — when Kingsley asked, "Want to poke me back?," he did, and when she asked him whether it was fun, he said "Yeah." He did, however, note (in an amused fashion), "This is weird, though — I don't even know you!"

3. Newsfeed Work Announcements

When Facebook fills your newsfeed with things like, "Tom O'Donnell started working at Maguire Law Firm," it's more or less the online equivalent of someone standing outside Tom O'Donnell's office with a megaphone and proclaiming that he is now gainfully employed there.

4. Endorsing Someone for Their Skills

Kingsley endorsed this guy for his coffee-making skills. It turns out doing so in real life is just as pointless as it is on LinkedIn.

5. Friending Someone You Don't Actually Know

Here's how the exchange went:

"Do you want to be connected?"

"...How would we do that?"


6. Checking In Somewhere

I'll admit that, out of all of the types of social networks out there, ones like Foursquare are the only ones I actively avoid; this is probably because the ultra paranoid part of my brain does not like the idea of everyone in the world knowing exactly where I am at any given time. This? This is why. The only person who can realistically get away with announcing when they enter or leave a building is Elvis.

7. Getting Views

The result of Kingsley's antics, of course, was a lot of strangers stopping and staring at her. Which is precisely the point of social media, right?

Watch the whole video here, and check out more of Kingsley's work at her YouTube channel:

Images: Jena Kingsley/YouTube (7)