Would you just walk up to a stranger and hold his or her hand? Probably not, but Andrew Hales has.
Hales creates prank videos and posts them each Monday on his YouTube channel, which he calls "Losing All Hope Was Freedom" (a phrase taken from the movie "Fight Club"). The 12 videos he has posted, which feature people reacting in the awkward situations he creates, have had more than 1.8 million views.
The pranks show Hales almost picking up older women, staring intensely at people and opening the door for people who are really far away. There are also "no, not you" videos, one of which features Hales heading toward someone with his hand held high for a high-five. He then high-fives the person right behind that person. As of Monday, that video had been viewed more than 634,000 times.
Hales, 22, is a student who has taken a semester off from Utah Valley University, where he's about half-way through getting his bachelor's degree in communications with a concentration in public relations.
His latest video, posted Monday, shows him going up to UVU students and holding their hands. Some students give him strange looks, others move away, and some actually go along with it. One young woman holds his hand and actually tells him hello.
"There's always a few people that are uncomfortable with it and we always ask them afterwards if they want to be in the video … ," he said. "We just come up with them like what would be funny to do and interesting to film and just what would be awkward in public, you know."
He says he has never been afraid that someone will react with hostility, but acknowledges the situations are awkward. The videos are filmed at or around UVU in Orem, Utah.
"A lot of people have commented, like, 'You should do this in the Bronx. You would get killed,' and stuff like that," he said.
Hales' roommate, Joel Ridder, helps him with the "no, not you" scenarios. Hales hired a professional to shoot and edit the video, and the reaction has been positive, he said.
"It's been great," he said. "I've supplemented my income with the ads … I'm making a little bit of money from that and that's helped to pay the bills. It's cool."
Hales, who will pay his own way through school when he goes back in the fall, says he also operates an Italian ice cart that he takes out a few times a month, and donates plasma for money.
"Next Monday we might just do a sequel, like 'Staring at People 2,' because that was pretty successful," he said.