Do you ever wake up and feel lonely? Bored by your boring old alarm? Positively ennui’d by the utter nihilism of the snooze button? Do you ever wish you could awake to the voice of a total stranger, somewhere in the world, asking you questions or telling you a story—all before you’ve had so much as a drop of coffee? If you answered “Yes” to even one of those questions, there’s an app for that! Wakie, the weirdest app since Miranda July’s Somebody, connects “sleepies” (sleeping people) to “wakies” (strangers who like waking people up) for humanity fun community love Internet. Right? Morning strangers!
No. Not right. Call me a misanthrope, but it’s all I can do to tolerate my own boyfriend before 8 a.m., much less a stranger who’s been awake for six hours and feels like chatting. One of Wakie’s supposed selling points is that it lets you “wake up with a different person every day,” or, a one-night stand without the sex or mutual interest, and without the chance of anyone making you breakfast.
The actual alarm function of Wakie is a telephone call that lasts 60 seconds, after which the call is disconnected. “No awkward goodbyes,” Wakie assures—only awkward hellos, how are yous, and huh?s. Sleepies rate their wakies, and can even become wakies themselves, once they rub the sleep gunk from the corners of their eyes and try to get a grip on who, exactly, they just talked to. There’s a confusing pillow-talk undercurrent to the “wake up with someone new” line, since wakies are limited to 60 seconds. One screenshot on the app’s website features “Jennifer O’Donnell,” a pouty 29-year-old with a come-hither wakie face. (Like many new apps, Wakie solves a problem you never had in a way in which sex never seems completely off the table.)
Strangers are having a moment, it seems, particularly in tech, and the innovations of the past year comprise a veritable stranger economy. From rideshares like Über, Lyft, and Cab With Me to the bizarre extroversions of Wakie and Somebody, people are actively including strangers in otherwise strangerless places, like cell phones, taxi backseats, and bedrooms. Forget online dating, is this how we meet people now?
But then maybe actually meeting people isn’t the point; maybe it’s the feeling of meeting people—the illusion of making a connection through the morning fog of a melatonin hangover, or after last call, or between the fake sobs of a nearby stranger. When so much of our lives is mediated through the Internet’s weird personal/impersonal connection/disconnection paradox, what even is a stranger? The person on the other end of the phone is someone, somewhere, talking to you.
It’s almost nice, if you barely think about it. If you think about it for a moment longer, it’s deeply sad that complete strangers are so able to replace real people in our lives. When instead of calling someone, you text a stranger to give them a message. When instead of calling friends or family members in the morning—after coffee, please—we take a call from London, or Houston, or Mumbai, for 60 seconds with someone we’ll never see or meet. How did we get here? Are we all so starved for connection that a wake-up call from a stranger seems like an exciting new way to socialize? Do any of us even call our friends anymore? Or are we just that bored with the people we already know? If this is the case, there are certainly other, better ways to meet new strangers—like, pretty literally anywhere that is not the surface of your phone.
Follow John Sherman on Twitter @_john_sherman.