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Finally, a social media trend that inspires real connections, self-acceptance, and vulnerability. This card game (not to mention all of their super cool merch) has been popping up in my social media feed since the pandemic started. I kept seeing posts by the brand We’re Not Really Strangers and it immediately caught my attention. Just that simple phrase, “we’re not really strangers” is so exposing. It opens up my mind to the notion that it is possible to connect with anybody. In a society enduring social distancing and isolation, connection seems so rare nowadays. And yet, here is a simple card game that does nothing more or less than confront you with the questions you were too afraid to ask, and too guarded to answer. 

To be quite honest, upon discovering this game I was scared sh*tless. You want me to admit my innermost thoughts and feelings? Out loud? To other people? This red box of cards was starting to look more like Pandora’s box than a fun game. But I kept hearing people talk about it, with this animated look in their eyes and endless exclamation points. I read stories of family members playing the game, couples, exes, friends, strangers! Some people saw their parents cry for the first time in years. Some broke down at the sight of a particularly poignant card. Some folks gained the courage to freely express their sexuality to friends. Some said “I love you” to their partner for the first time. It turns out there really is something beautiful on the other side of fear – freedom. As New York Times journalist Tim Kreider once said, “If we want the rewards of being loved we have to submit to the mortifying ordeal of being known”, and being known only happens when you let your guard down

The idea for We’re Not Really Strangers started with a young Israeli girl who wasn’t afraid to talk to strangers. Koreen Odiney has always had a talent for asking startling questions. Growing up, you could find her exploring the streets of Los Angeles, taking pictures and talking to people she’d never met before. She spent her teenage years this way, modelling to pay her way through college. Until one day in 2016, at the age of 21, Koreen sparked a flame with a stranger that would ignite the fire of her career as an entrepreneur. Just after a modelling photoshoot, on her way back to her parked car, Koreen encountered a man reading poetry. She asked if she could photograph him, and they spoke for a while. After their conversation, he left her saying “one day you’ll write a book called We’re Not Really Strangers”, and that’s how it all began. 

Fast forward 5 years and Koreen Odiney is CEO and founder of We’re Not Really Strangers, with 3 million followers on Instagram, and over a quarter-million copies of the game sold worldwide. Her brand has become so much more than a game – it’s a lifestyle. Every bit of content the brand produces encourages introspection. Whether it's their text notifications, the startlingly direct questions in their Instagram polls, or photographs of poignant reminders pasted on the back of 18-wheelers in the dense traffic of city streets, the brand always has a way of catching us off guard in the midst of our daily routines. 

So, the moral of the story is, when you’re ready, find yourself a stranger, classmate, coworker, friend, partner, or family member (or just you! they have a game for that too!), and ask each other daring, soul-baring questions. Scary, I know. But trust me when I say that you will not regret it. And, like all things, vulnerability comes more naturally with practice. So, the next time someone says, “Ask Me Anything”, you’ll know just what to do.

Julianna Marr

McMaster '23

Julianna is a 3rd year Mechanical Engineering Student at McMaster. She loves her two cats, the Harry Potter books, & Glossier. During this pandemic, catch her splurging on skin-care, writing snail mail to family & friends, and singing Carole King or Joni Mitchell at the top of her lungs in her spare time.
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