As a reporter, I’m usually the one asking if I can record an interview. This time, the people I was interviewing asked me the same question.
My entire interview with 2009 College graduate Alex Weber and his friends, Rob Mor and Ilya Polyakov, was being broadcast live to the world as part of a record-breaking, uninterrupted video chat. I could see Weber and Mor as they drove around Los Angeles and Chicago with their cameramen, and hear my own voice, which they had put on speakerphone, through the online video feed.
A day later, Weber and Mor, both comedians, held the record for the world’s longest uninterrupted video chat. For 14 days, from Oct. 22 to Nov. 5, their entire lives were on camera on a continuous live feed for the world to see.
“I think the most difficult thing is it’s really tough to balance the world around you, with the chat with your friend, while [also] balancing the world that your friend is in. So you really have three worlds going at once,” Weber said. “It is weird because, [with] most things you do in life there’s a beginning, middle and end. There will be times it feels so natural to just say, ‘Alright, I’ll see you later.’”
The third member of the team, Polyakov, was the technological genius behind this endeavor. Both Weber and Mor had three devices on them at all times: their “A” phones (which were used for the video chat), back-up phones and their personal phones. At any given moment during the project, they were each carrying batteries, battery packs, chargers and external cases in a “satchel,” as Weber called it. As they went about their lives for those two weeks, they were constantly worrying about two things: battery level and cell service.
“You know how Buddhists are like, ‘Be minimal’? This is the opposite,” Mor said.
Polyakov controlled the experiment. He constantly monitored the live feed to make sure nothing went wrong and the video chat did not disconnect.
“I think Ilya is going to start a cult where he can monitor different people’s lives. [He’s] coming off a high of being able to control these people’s lives for 14 days, unable to re-assimilate back into society,” Weber said.
The project all started two years ago when Polyakov’s friend moved to London and they started video chatting every day. When Polyakov told Mor and Weber about their calls, he discovered that it was unusual to video chat so frequently — that got them all thinking about the possibility of a never-ending video chat. What started out as a television script idea, then, turned into a full-on social experiment.
“We were like, ‘Why don’t we put our money where our mouths are and actually do it?'” Polyakov said. ”[Let’s] actually see if it is possible for two guys to video chat nonstop.”
The idea was put on hold until only a few weeks before they went live.
“It was very important for us to not set the date too far in the future. We needed to avoid any opportunities for cold feet,” Polyakov said.
In addition to breaking a record, the team wanted to use the project to engage viewers, since the entire feat would be broadcast live on their . They created a chat feature that allowed viewers to send in dares. The most entertaining and creative dares, one of which was Mor running around in a Buddy the Elf costume, were cut into their own clips for YouTube.
“Rob is currently sporting neon green toenails, and I have a lower back tattoo that says . It’s a henna, but it might become real,” Weber said. He added, “Someone followed up with having [Rob] wax his leg, so he went ahead and did that too.”
“Yeah, my younger sister waxed my leg,” Mor said.
“He liked it,” Weber added.
They vowed to show anything and everything that happened in their lives. Though their website promised not to show anything too scandalous, the footage does include some very personal moments.
“The morning of our launch we both pooped on camera,” Mor said.
The previous record holders — two girls who at the time were 10 years old — video chatted for 10 days.
“Every story needs the archenemy, and there really is no better villain than two 10-year-old girls,” Weber said.
The pair overshot the girls by 96 hours, just in case others decided to attempt the feat as well.
“We don’t wanna just break the record — we want to shatter the record,” Weber said.
The team thinks that the record is the start of something larger.
“I think a documentary based on this is inevitable,” Polyakov said.
While they said they never got sick of each other or worried about giving their location away to potential stalkers, they were physically and emotionally drained by the excessive technology use. All three planned to unplug after finishing the project, they said — Mor planned on visiting Laguna Beach, Polyakov wanted to go camping and Weber said he just wanted to “hang out with people, and be free to do that.”
In addition to internet fame, the team learned a life lesson from their experiment.
“If you are out there and you have a smart phone, you don’t have to be tethered to [it]. Enjoy your freedom, get outside, have a conversation with your friend, put your phone away,” Mor said.
Polyakov agreed, adding that technology — like many things in life — should be used in moderation.
“Un-plug. This thing is kind of a metaphor for how connected we are to technology,” he said. “Live your life, be in the present.”
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