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Reddit Is Actively Surveilling a Stranger Standing on the Street in Philadelphia

Reddit's groupthink has become creepy, again.

When I lived in Washington DC, there was a person who spent most of his time courting pigeons and yelling at passersby near my office. Anytime someone brought up the pigeon man, my coworkers would just say, "Oh, you mean Mr. Miyagi?" We called him this because he always wore a robe, looked exactly like Mr. Miyagi from The Karate Kid, and because courting pigeons seemed like a very Mr. Miyagi-type thing to do.


What I'm saying is that every city has its share of distinctive folks who do peculiar, if harmless things, and it stands to reason that if someone does the same weird thing every single day, the people of that city are going to take pictures of said eccentric person. And so an incredibly popular thread that's making Reddit lose its mind right now isn't so much surprising or funny as it is creepy.

It started innocently enough, I guess: On Reddit's r/pics subreddit, someone uploaded a picture of this man catching some air in loose fitting clothes above a subway grate in Philadelphia. Thing is, catching a breeze above this particular subway grate is kind of this guy's jam, and so a half dozen other people started posting their photos of this person (taken over the course of years), causing Reddit to lose its collective shit—what is this guy's deal, the community wondered. The thread immediately shot to the "best of" subreddit, too.

Screengrab: Nest live feed

And so another Redditor set up a Nest cam to surveil the subway grate, and there's now a live feed of this block of Philadelphia: "Eagle has landed. Watch him live here," a moderator of r/pics posted in the thread, which has now been dubbed the "Thread of the Year." As I'm typing this blog post, he's not currently standing above the grate, but was when the feed originally went live.

We have no idea what he's doing or why he's doing it or if he has any idea that, literally, millions of people are laughing at him on the internet right now (the original photo has been viewed more than 2 million times).

Legally, subway grate man has no expectation of privacy standing on a public corner. Taking photos of people doing weird things isn't anything new or particularly problematic, and I'm even willing to buy the argument that in 2016, it's fine to post these pictures on social media. But simply put, making him the subject of a surreptitious live video stream is fucking creepy.