Each new social network is chance to send out a signal and see what it collides with. Each time acknowledgment comes back—Yes, I'm here too!—there's a small thrill. But the bigger and weirder thrill that Somebody offers is the part where you pick up the signal and convey it, in person, to someone you don't know.
So, not ready to stop playing just yet, we started looking for a user within a mile radius of my friend's house that we could deliver a message to. After a few false starts—messages that disappeared, or people who never answered us—we landed on one. The message was to be sent to someone in a bar about a 10-minute walk down the street, a fancy bar with fancy cocktails, and, usually, a long line. We'd probably have to sneak in, we figured. Sneak into a bar on a Saturday night to tell a stranger named Chris, “You look nice in that Chambray shirt.”
Something about the idea made us giddy, a feeling similar to the high you'd get from, say, sneaking into a bar when you're underage. But the difference here, aside from the fact that we weren't breaking any laws, was that there was someone else playing the game with us, someone at the other end of that digital signal, someone also looking for entertainment on a Saturday night. It felt like playing Truth or Dare and picking dare.
We were lucky—when we got to the bar the hostess had briefly abandoned her post and we were able to walk right in. In the dark, we looked around for a Chris who, from the message, we assumed was wearing a Chambray shirt. We had been searching fruitlessly—it had probably only been five minutes, but the bar was small and dark and it felt like far longer—and were starting to panic when we were intercepted by a waitress.
"We're looking for a friend," we said, and tried not to seem like people who were actually trying to liaise with a stranger from the Internet. In fairness, any happening bar in this day and age has by now been the site of numerous web-based assignations. In fact, there was little difference between what we were doing—trying to spice up a dull night by meeting a stranger from an app—and going on a Tinder date, except Tinder's technology actually works.
Just as we were on the verge of giving up, I spotted Chris out of the corner of my eye. She was looking at a phone and enjoying a cocktail when we approached.
"Hi, Chris?" my friend said.
"You look great in that Chambray shirt," I finished.
"Do you know these people?" asked the waitress who had followed us to the table.
Chris and her tablemate said nothing at first. They seemed genuinely surprised to see us standing before them, even though, as it turned out, the tablemate was the one who sent the message. In fact, they knew we were on our way, because they had sent messages to help us find them. But when we materialized, standing in front of their table, giggling, they somehow seemed shocked. Eventually they said that they'd read about the launch of Somebody and thought it would be fun to try. We told the waitress we'd be leaving, took a photo for Instagram like the app asked us to, and left to meet friends at a bar next door.
Somebody had worked, technically. But had it actually worked? On the one hand, we delivered our message, and we got out of the house and into the world. On the other hand, the message didn't mean anything—it was just a proof of concept. We didn’t connect with our message receiver, or sender. We had left the house, said a few words in a dark bar, and annoyed a waitress. Our "unpredictable, undocumented, fleeting interaction with a stranger," which Somebody promised, was a funny diversion, but it hardly brought "great joy and inspiration" to our evening, which it also promised.