Students earn more than 15M views after filming 'Making Strangers Smile' at Rutgers
A viral video created by two Rutgers undergraduate students entitled “Making Strangers Smile” is now attracting worldwide attention after accumulating over 15 million views online.
Mustafa Hussain and Ahmad Atieh, both School of Engineering juniors, created the video which features various Rutgers students' reactions after receiving a chocolate bar with a simple note attached saying, “Smile. You deserve to be happy.”
Hussain and Atieh posted the video on Feb. 24 to their YouTube channel, hoping to spread a positive and uplifting message to their viewers.
“You never know when one small act of kindness will go such a long way," Atieh said. "During shooting, we gave a chocolate bar to one person and he actually ran after us and thanked us, it made his day. You never know, one kind thing could actually make a person’s day, one small act of kindness always helps in the end."
The video’s views skyrocketed after being shared on the UNILAD Facebook page, where it accumulated close to 11 million views. It was also featured on the front page of Reddit, Imgur, Gfycat and more, Hussain said.
“When we first realized (the video) was a success was when it was posted on Reddit by a really famous user and it was on the front page of Reddit in probably less than five hours. And that’s when we knew this was going somewhere,” Atieh said.
Hussain has also been contacted by German, Japanese, Chinese and Taiwanese TV stations with requests to air the video.
The duo had been working on the project for over a month, buying over 100 chocolate bars and filming every single day between classes to get the reactions they desired, Hussain said.
The overwhelming response and praise for the video can be attributed to the overall message of positivity that people want to share, as well as the excitement of students who recognize themselves in the video and continue to share it on social media, he said.
Now more than ever, in such polarizing a time for the country, it’s important for individuals to reflect on these values of hope and positivity, Atieh said.
“This is a time where we need positivity. So us putting out this video on the UNILAD page, 11 million people have watched it, that’s probably 11 million people who have smiled, and if you read the comments it says stuff like 'This is exactly what you need in society.' We need positive videos like this. We need a smile. We need to be happy,” he said.
This viral hit also emphasizes the importance of human interaction and how one small act of kindness can completely transform one’s day, said Cara Hopkins, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student.
“I think it is a nice way to spread positivity in a community that is otherwise so focused on their phone or something. For example, instead of smiling at people in the street students heads are down looking at their phones, so this is a nice idea to make people think about how important it is and how a smile can go so far,” Hopkins said.
Hussain and Atieh had kept the filming, overall production and editing process very secretive, preferring to surprise their classmates and friends with the grand reveal of the finished product, Hussain said.
“We kept a secret and everything was at that point (during filming) because you don’t want to tell everyone what’s going on. You want them to see. After they saw it they came to us and were like 'So, this is what you’ve been doing,'” Atieh said.
As for the future of their YouTube channel, this is only the beginning for Hussain and Atieh. “Making Strangers Smile” was their eighth video to their YouTube channel, but Hussain said there is plenty more where that came from.
“There’s definitely going to be follow-up videos. We’re honestly trying to film a lot more often. We probably have a huge list of ideas for videos that we want to put out and this is just the start for us," Hussain said. "We have so many more ideas to put out, trying to spread positivity on Youtube and on the internet. I would just say subscribe to our channel."
Marissa Scognamiglio is a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student. She is a contributing writer for The Daily Targum.