Offbeat | Come strangers, leave closer: Pittsburgh’s Hunter Prosper shares untold stories we all should hear

Offbeat is a bi-weekly blog offering new and meaningful takes on all things media.

By Jillian Rowan, Staff Writer

Doomscrolling tends to end the same way every time — lower self-confidence than when you logged on, fervent anxiety from content overload and overall emotional exhaustion.

So far removed from the content we consume, that trance-induced scrolling continues mercilessly, usually until we find something — or someone — that snaps back our attention. That something for me was Pitt’s campus, and that someone was Hunter Prosper.

Prosper, an intensive care unit nurse at UPMC Presbyterian in Oakland, is a mouthpiece for untold stories of pain, hope and strength. Amassing more than 5.1 million followers and 138 million likes, Prosper is known on TikTok for his segments, “Stories from a stranger.”

His poignant video interviews have been circulated worldwide, all with the same underlying message — we’re more alike than different.

His content is reminiscent of the iconic “We’re Not Really Strangers” card game and social movement. Prosper asks questions seemingly derivative of the game, such as, “Who was your first love, and why did you fall in love with them?” “What did you learn from your last heartbreak?” or “What is the most pain you’ve been in that wasn’t physical?

His videos invite us into strangers’ minds, hearts and souls.

Hailing from small-town Emporium, Pennsylvania, Prosper started at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania. While he originally wanted to pursue an English degree, his passion for writing soon became more of a hobby, and he set his sights on the medical field with his mother’s encouragement. He started as a resource nurse, then became an ICU nurse about one year into his career.

“Watching a patient return to their health, and knowing you had something to do with it is such an intrinsic reward,” Prosper said in an interview with Tubefilter.

In the interview, he said he began his career amid the COVID-19 pandemic — 13-hour shifts surrounded by illness and constant passing proved heavy on his heart. In order to provide comfort, Prosper began asking his patients questions. The answers proved indispensable.

He found joy in those sobering conversations and shared that delight with the Internet.

“The goal was to help others, as well as myself, find silver linings in a lot of the suffering or hardships I was seeing,” he noted.

Beyond chatting with his patients, Prosper leaped outside Presby to engage with strangers in the Pittsburgh community.

The more he listened, the more he learned.

TikTok video creation became an outlet for Prosper in a time of intense — but undetected —  burnout. He realized that creating videos was an emotional release, especially faced with severe illness and the constant reminder of mortality. Just as much as he is a nurse, Prosper is a storyteller — a bodily reminder of the goodness that still exists.

Telling such gripping narratives in mere seconds is a talent, and TikTok is the perfect venue to showcase it.

Prosper raves, “you’re allowed to be a hobbyist on [TikTok], but at any moment you can reach millions of people. That’s not something you see with really any other social media. It’s an app that fosters fun and playfulness.”

Prosper’s format remains basically the same in every video — he poses a thoughtful question, which a stranger answers in the backdrop of a beautiful location, including famous Pittsburgh spots. For example, in one video, he asks someone, “What did you learn from your last heartbreak?” while standing outside the Carnegie Natural History Museum.


Every stranger has a story, let’s start listening <3

♬ original sound – Hunter Prosper

Now a travel nurse, Prosper is offering stories from outside the Pittsburgh area. Hitting cities like San Francisco, he hopes to make his TikTok a global operation in the future.

Prosper is a semblance of goodness in humanity. To him, it is not about gaining traction online, the rising views or the influx of new followers — it’s about connecting with strangers, finding hope in beautiful stories and learning from those around you.

“I’ll just keep bringing us closer by making one less stranger at a time,” he said.

Jillian writes about a range of media topics. You can reach her at [email protected].