Here's why the internet is obsessed with 'number neighbors,' a viral trend where people text phone numbers one digit away from their own

NumberNeighbor 3 x 4
  • Twitter has been taken over with screenshots of users trying to engage their "number neighbors" in conversation.
  • The viral trend has users texting phone numbers that are one digit away from their own, and seeing what kinds of responses they get and what hilarity ensues.
  • Some exchanges have wielded unexpected results, with "neighbors" participating in prank wars, meme exchanges, and even forming virtual friendships.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

If you spent any time on Twitter in the past week, you may have noticed users posting text conversations with strangers, declaring that the unknown phone number belongs to their "number neighbor."

It's not quite clear exactly how the trend re-emerged (it's not a novel concept by any means), but it's spread like wildfire this month across social media. All it involves is shooting off a text to the phone number that's only one digit off from your own - your virtual, almost-the-same, number neighbor - and wait and see what happens.

The game has resulted in responses and ensuing conversations ranging from the hilarious to the bizarre. Some users found themselves exchanging memes and pictures, and other participants found themselves chatting with unsuspecting adults who were wholly confused - and sometimes upset - by the concept of number neighbors.

In one of the more viral interactions, a Twitter user ended up with a new dog after finding out his number neighbor was moving and couldn't take his dog with him.

Although a trend like number neighbors may reach such a level of virality that it seems impossible there are people who don't know about it, bringing unaware participants into the fold can have some unintended consequences.

For 20-year-old Lauren Villares, her passing decision to see if she could make friends with her number neighbor instead yielded accusations she was a "wannabe home-wrecker" from a jealous wife who didn't understand how Villares got ahold of her husband's phone number.

"I honestly wasn't even expecting a reply from my number neighbor," Villares told Business Insider. "After they sent the first message I thought it was just a joke and the person was messing with me but ... I realized that this person's wife was seriously mad and I found it comical."

Some participants went a step further and orchestrated group chats for their entire number "neighborhoods:" all 10 of the people who have the same phone number, minus the last digit. That way, the odds that at least one person responds - and as a result, that there's at least one conversation worthy of sharing to social media - are significantly higher.

"I honestly was expecting none of them to answer ... As the conversation picked up and the texts kept coming through, it was pure and constant laughter," 16-year-old Madison Collier said about her number neighborhood chat. "I've sent updates of the tweet that went viral in there, just to show the group chat how much Twitter loves us."

But of course, on the flip side, there's bound to be some recipients of number neighbor texts who are already aware of the trend, and are even one step ahead. Delanie Cairrao, 16, thought she had inadvertently texted a bot when she got a series of responses from what seemed like an automated texting service for booking hotel rooms, and asked her to respond with text commands like "STOP" and "AGENT" to avoid getting charged for a hotel reservation.

It turns out that Cairrao's number neighbor was a hotel employee who was bored working on a Sunday and decided to play a prank with his coworker. Cairrao thought the joke was hilarious, and ended up chatting a while with the two guys (whose names are Ben and Shawn).

Cairrao's post on Twitter has garnered nearly half a million retweets and likes from users who have shared their own screenshotted number neighbor conversations, or lamented that their own attempts at hilarity didn't have nearly as successful results.

But if anything, the number neighbor game introduces a new person into your life, however temporary, with whom you can trial new memes and gifs. When you've exhausted your friends and audiences on Twitter or Instagram, your number neighbor is there to provide you with new content that has the potential to go viral.

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