Two videos of walking in sync with strangers

I’ve used a YouTube video of some students walking in sync with strangers several times in my Introduction to Sociology class. While the video has just over 7,500 views (of which I’ve probably contributed at least 10), it is pretty good compared to a lot of other YouTube breaching experiment or breaking social norms videos.

Here is another take on the same scenario: a more professional short film on walking in unison with strangers.

It happens often enough: you’re going down a busy street and all of a sudden you find yourself walking at the exact same pace as a stranger and … uh oh, time to speed up or slow down.

This phenomenon is masterfully captured in Walking Contest, a new short film from artists Daniel Koren and Vania Heymann. In the video, shot entirely on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue, Koren avoids walking next to strangers by treating it as a race. But he ultimately questions why we react so strongly to this phenomenon in the first place. Is it because it seems rude, unsafe, or just too awkward?

Both videos do something interesting: they adopt some sort of ruse or mask that helps make walking in unison with a stranger, not a normal behavior, easier. The more professional video suggests walking together is a contest. The student video shows those intentionally breaking the norms wearing sunglasses or headphones so they presumably can plead ignorance at walking in unison with others. These techniques echo some of the early findings from breaching experiments with Garfinkel and his students where it was hard, sometimes even physically so, for people to intentionally break social rules.