Josh Reynolds, who works in technology sales and lives in American Fork, Utah, was vaccinated without telling his extended family. Two weeks after his second shot in mid-April, 29-year-old Reynolds brought his wife and younger brother, both also vaccinated, and his 6-month-old daughter to New Jersey. They rented a car at the airport and stopped in front of his uncle’s house, whom they had not seen since the pandemic.

“We lost my father two years ago and have always been close to this uncle,” he said. “We talk every day and he’s like an older brother.”

“He hadn’t even met my daughter,” he added.

They waited 45 minutes for him to come home, hid in the street, and then rang the doorbell.

“The surprise was so much better than I could have thought,” said Mr. Reynolds, who had imagined the moment many times before it happened. “My aunt is crying. My cousin ran and took my daughter out of my hands. The puppy ran out the front door. “

In 2021, he captured the entire moment on his phone and shared it on Twitter.

“With the absolutely terrible year everyone had with the pandemic, it almost feels like there’s no end in sight,” he said. “To show people: ‘Look, we are vaccinated, we can see our family again.’ I felt the world needs to see this. “

Videos of fully vaccinated people surprising their loved ones are making the rounds on social media. The clips lie somewhere between “Candid Camera” and military returnees and show family members spontaneously laughing, crying, hugging, and wrapping their heads around the fact that someone they haven’t seen in over a year is in the flesh.

People’s motives for posting them are pure. Some want to share their bliss; others want to show the power of vaccines. These surprises take a lot of work and a friendship competition has even emerged.

“I don’t want to put one video over the other as they are all so happy, but selfishly I think our video is the best,” said Reynolds. “My uncle played basketball in college. It was amazing to see him rise so high off the floor and hear his voice scream so high. “

He saw someone on social media the morning that Grant Tosterud, a 26-year-old meteorologist in Albuquerque, began his surprise expedition. “I don’t remember the specifics, but this guy went into his house and his parents were doing something inside and freaking out,” he said. “It made me more nervous that my setup wasn’t going to work.”

He had thought a lot about his plan. On the day his second vaccine was scheduled, he booked a plane ticket to Fargo, ND, where his mother lives. He had a family friend pick him up at the airport so he could knock on the door and make them completely unprepared. “I know how much my mother misses me,” said Mr Tosterud. “A surprise would mean a lot more and be a lot more fun than she expected me to come.”

Nothing went as planned. She wasn’t home so he waited on the terrace for 15 minutes. “Fortunately the sun was shining,” he said. Then she went to the house with bags in hand after running some errands. Still, the moment was perfect.

“I’m disappointed in myself because I stopped the video so I could hug her, but I should have kept rolling,” he said. His viewers – there are around 5,000 between Facebook and Twitter – missed a hug that actually lasted five minutes.

It has become Meryn Hayes’ favorite pastime to watch these types of videos. “I see them scrolling through my feed on Twitter. I see her on TikTok, ”she said. “I’d say they’ve gotten more and more common over the past two to three weeks.”

“I see two or three every day,” she added. “If you stop coming, I’ll find you because you make me so happy.”

She cried every single one. “Part of that is introducing myself as a parent who hasn’t seen my child in a year,” said Ms. Hayes, 33, a producer at an animation studio in Raleigh, NC Swell. “

Even some people who generally consider themselves private share the social media moment, an indication of how immersive that moment is.

50-year-old Debbie Lowenthal was separated from her 77-year-old mother by more than 2,500 miles during the pandemic. She works for a hospital and nursing association in Juneau, Alaska, and her mother lives alone in Pleasanton, California. “In spring 2020 she would tell us that she thought she could die alone, that she would never see us again,” said Dr. Said Lowenthal.

After she and her college-age daughter were vaccinated, they planned a surprise visit. “I didn’t want her to worry about us coming or cleaning her house,” said Ms. Lowenthal. “Or what if something happened and we can’t come? You would be so disappointed. “

Ms. Lowenthal wanted to post the video on social media to promote vaccines. “I wanted people to know that you can visit a family member without a mask if you get vaccinated,” she said. “It’s an issue that is political now, which makes me really sad.”

But as a private person who hardly posts anything, she was nervous. “I sent it to a friend and said, ‘Do you think I should post it?'” Said Ms. Lowenthal. “She said, ‘I’m yelling, yes, show other people.’ I did it. I haven’t even seen the whole thing. It’s too emotional for me and I don’t like to see myself on video. “

People who post videos of surprise visits say these reunions are milestones that are just as important as the first day of school or an engagement.

Ashley Stafford, 32, a dance instructor and personal trainer in Manhattan, is engaged to Sergio King, a 28-year-old actor. Last week when Mr. King was fully vaccinated, she arranged for her fiancé’s two sisters, Chantal and JoLyn King, to surprise him at an Airbnb near New Haven, Conn.

“The video I have starts when he unlocks the door to Airbnb. He puts down his bag, looks around and hears the closet door opening, ”she said. “You can see his body language getting harder, but then one of the girls comes out of the closet and the other comes out of the bathroom. There is so much joy. “

“It’s important to document that moment,” said Ms. Stafford. “We’ll all look back on the pandemic, and at least we’re enjoying it a little now. We now have videos that we can watch over and over again. “