Have you ever felt like someone is watching you on the street? Like you can feel their eyes burning into the back of your head?
Well, if that’s the kind of thing you’re into, there’s a new social network in town called Follower that’s offering just that.
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It works by assigning you a stranger who will follow you around for a day and surreptitiously observe your every move from afar. You’ll never see or hear who this person is, but you’ll know they are there through a series of updates on the accompanying iOS app.
The tagline for the service is ‘don’t go unnoticed’ and the idea is that by having an unseen companion, you might be more inclined to add a little adventure or fun to your day, or just be satisfied with the fact that someone is appreciating what you do so you’re not entirely alone.
To get followed, you need to apply online and explain why you want to be chosen. If you get accepted, you’ll need to download the Follower iPhone app and upload a headshot for your new companion to see. You’ll then get connected with your Follower who uses the GPS on your phone to track you down. When the time is up, you’ll receive a photo of yourself from the Follower and a note to say they’ve left.
At no point throughout the day will your Follower ever come into contact with you so you will never really know who it is.
The project is the brainchild of artist and faculty member at NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program, Lauren McCarthy, who is also the only Follower at the moment. Speaking to Creative Applications about Follower, McCarthy said:
There’s something both exciting and intense I feel each morning not knowing where they may take me. I follow them all day watching, starting to imagine what they are like, what they are thinking and saying, trying to guess where they might go next.
There is something strangely intimate about the whole thing for me. By the end of the day, I feel as though I know them, and we have had a prolonged experience together.
Is there any real value to the service though? Could one real-life Follower be more meaningful than the hundreds or thousands someone might have online?
I can see how taking the idea offline is inventive and quirky but I do wonder about the type of individuals this service will attract. I get uncomfortable when people stand behind me for too long so it’s certainly not a social network I am in any rush to join but more than 30 New Yorkers have already signed up, according to McCarthy, so there is definitely an initial interest at the very least.
While it sounds like a social experiment, McCarthy explains that it is part of an ongoing performance art project so it will be interesting to see who wins the performance – the Follower or the followed.