UCLA student thinks outside the box with mimes advertising community building app
Mimes stand on Bruinwalk. Chip Herndon hired the mimes to promote his new community building app, Chatterbox. (Courtesy of Chip Herndon)
Oct. 28, 2022 12:28 a.m.
Sometimes, silence speaks louder than words.
That’s why Chip Herndon decided to surprise Bruinwalk with mimes, who handed out pink balloons and drew attention and amusement from students walking to class.
Herndon, a third-year neuroscience student, said he hired the mimes as part of a promotional campaign for Chatterbox, a new social media app he co-founded, which launched Oct. 19. Chatterbox allows students to find or create group chats based on their location, such as dorms or libraries, according to the company’s website.
Herndon created the app alongside third-year computer science and economics student Maxwell Tsao, he said. The duo wanted to create a platform for students to quickly discuss on-campus events or emergencies online, Herndon said. He added that Chatterbox can help create connections on campus, especially if students feel too nervous to start conversations in person.
“We’re not willing to break that physical social barrier and talk to each other,” he said. “This is a real problem. Not only is this something I feel reflected in my classes, in my labs, but this is something that’s being reflected in just general society.”
To generate buzz for the app’s launch, Herndon said he hoped to plan an event that would be a conversation-starter. The mimes reflect the lack of communication within the UCLA student body and speak to Chatterbox’s purpose of providing a space for students to easily converse with each other, he added.
“We had them there for three days, and they’re just miming. And people are like, ‘What is happening? What is going on?’” Herndon said. “Here’s the place that you can actually use this and solve that problem for yourself.”
Jacqueline Reyes, a local actor who performed as one of the many mimes who took to Bruinwalk between Oct. 17 and 19, said the mimes represent the idea that it can be easier for people to communicate without having to speak aloud, which is another motivation behind the creation of Chatterbox.
“You don’t really need to be able to speak to communicate, and I feel like it’s easier for people who have anxiety,” Reyes said. “Some students are going through a lot, and they can’t verbally say something.”
By Oct. 19, the number of mimes on Bruinwalk rose to 13. They carried signs with QR codes to download the Chatterbox app and continued to hand out balloons to passersby.
Alex Matthews, another actor hired as a mime by Herndon, said he tried to engage with students by playing rock, paper, scissors and miming a fishing line to reel people in. He added that students had an array of reactions to the mimes.
“There were a few people that were creeped out and scared, but for the most part, everyone was mostly just confused,” Matthews said. “There were a few people that were laughing and smiling. … It was a fun human connection.”
Reyes said the mime event provided a sense of connection for the students amid a busy Bruinwalk and midterm season.
“A mime’s job is, essentially, just make people smile, interact with them, have a fun time,” Herndon said. “I think the goal was successful from the response we’ve gotten so far.”