YoIf there’s one thing that defines the Internet right now, it’s people talking to strangers on the street and posting it online. Take a look at TikTok or Instagram and you’ll soon find several clips in which a cheerful person approaches a less cheerful person on a busy street and asks them an intrusive question. The less cheerful person tells you to “fuck off,” invites you on a tour of their house, or, more likely, responds with some kind of transcendent anecdote that alters the way you think and feel about yourself and yourself. same. possibly also the world.
For the most part, these videos are nauseating. A symptom of our invasive and obsessive oversharing culture, they offer little more than a way to pass the time sitting on the toilet. There is, however, one exception. Launched in February, Meet Cutes (@meetcutesnyc) is a hugely popular Instagram account that brings real-life romance to our screens through short videos sharing strangers’ love stories.
“We were talking on the phone about how we could do something fun and interesting on social media,” explains Aaron Feinberg, a 28-year-old hospitality specialist who founded Meet Cutes with his childhood friend Victor Lee, also 28, who works in clothing manufacturing (yes, they still work their full-time jobs). “Victor always loved the style of street interview content: the randomness and wisdom that complete strangers impart in a minute or two. He came up with the idea of asking random couples how they met and sharing their love story.”
The only thing missing? Someone who takes on the difficult task of approaching people on the street. “We had the perfect person for it.” In fact, they did: Jeremy Bernstein, a 29-year-old renewable energy salesman who, thanks to his day job, was already an expert at speaking to strangers in public. “He is a professional talking to people on the street. [while] selling renewable energy,” says Feinberg, who films the videos while Lee edits. “Now he is the voice of Meet Cutes.”
Each video starts the same way. “Excuse me, are you two a couple?” Bernstein asks, before pointing a camera at two people’s faces and asking them to share the story of how they met. Given the context, he would be forgiven for thinking that most people would simply walk away or pretend not to have heard the question. But that couldn’t be further from the case. Couples who share their stories with Meet Cutes are more than happy to talk; There’s some initial awkward laughter, of course, but they tend to get over it quickly and launch into the narrative of their relationship, although they occasionally disagree with each other about the details. . Then there are the stories themselves, which come from couples of all ages, genders and sexualities, and seem straight out of a Richard Curtis film.
There’s the young couple who met while working together at an ice cream parlor: “The moment I saw him, it was a yin and a yang.” The preschool teacher who fell in love with her sign language teacher: “she invited me to tea.” The railroad supervisor who saw a beautiful woman getting off a train and proceeded to direct that train onto the same track day after day so he could find her again. They have been married for 20 years now. “The next time someone changes the door on their plane, they’ll just try to get an appointment,” the former supervisor laughs.
“At first, it was very awkward approaching couples,” Lee recalls. “Aaron and Jeremy went out on a Sunday and filmed for eight hours on the streets of New York. After the third attempt, one couple completely opened up to us and were excited at the opportunity to share their story.” Víctor edited the first videos and the group began publishing them immediately. “In the fourth video we published, a couple had met through an online video game, Overwatch. It ended up going viral and getting over 3 million views on TikTok. After that, we realized we had something and went out there 15 to 20 hours a week so we could publish a story every day.”
How do you find partners? “We chose a busy corner of town, usually after work or on weekends when couples are out and about,” Feinberg explains. “We wait for a couple to pass by, approach them with an iPhone camera and hope for the best. Sometimes we see an interesting couple a block away and literally run after them. We will do whatever it takes to get the story.”
Of course, there are inevitable setbacks, with misidentification of partners being one of the most common. “Sometimes we approach a couple and one of us says ‘abort’ because as we get closer we realize they are not together. Sometimes it’s two friends, other times (and a little more awkwardly) it’s a father and his son or daughter. Fortunately, if we make a mistake, most of the time people laugh.”
However, in general there are clear signs that reveal it. “Hand-holding, wedding rings, and general body language are common cues,” adds Feinberg. “We have a rule that if one of us thinks he might be a couple, we have to get closer.”
Today, Meet Cutes NYC has over 2 million followers and their videos regularly rack up millions of views and hundreds of thousands of likes and shares. The brand has also expanded beyond New York, finding partners in Miami and London. What makes the content unique is the scarcity of hearing stories like these: genuine moments of spark and spontaneity that happen in the real world and not through a dating app. They resonate because they are stories that many of us long to be ours.
“New York has a reputation as a city that is difficult to date and full of unpleasant and distant pedestrians,” says Feinberg. “So I think seeing New Yorkers being kind on the street and sharing their stories about love has really struck a chord with me. We hope our videos offer something everyone can enjoy, whether it’s authentic storytelling, relationship advice, or just feel-good content to brighten your day.”
It also offers people something we could all use a lot more of, especially in the modern dating scene: hope. “People seem to romanticize meet-cute encounters because of the spontaneity and the possibility that it could happen to them at any moment,” adds Feinberg. “But we really believe that love is love. No matter how or where you meet your partner, everyone has wisdom and advice to share, whether you meet your partner by searching for them on a dating app, greeting them on an empty subway, or if they’re simply your sign language teacher. .”
If there’s one thing we can learn from what Feinberg and company are doing, it’s that we could all do with being a little more open to love, in whatever form it comes. Because in a dating scene where skepticism and negativity abound, sometimes the only thing holding us back is ourselves.