Missing iPhone sparks New York-to-China friendship

Lost phone leads to whirlwind adventure 02:15

BEIJING -- If you've ever misplaced your cell phone, you know how it often turns up in the last place you look. For a guy who lost his phone in New York, that last place turned out to be 7,900 miles away -- in China.

It has been quite a journey for Matt Stopera, whom CBS News met in Beijing.

Months after Stopera lost his iPhone in New York City, Li Hongjun -- all the way in southeastern China -- received the phone as a gift and began taking pictures on it in front of what looked like orange trees.

Stopera said he asked himself, "Who is this man, and why are his pictures showing up in my phone?"

Those pictures automatically uploaded to Stopera's new phone, and as an editor for the online outlet BuzzFeed, he wrote about it.

Users on Weibo -- China's version of Twitter -- started looking for an answer after Stopera's article was translated into Chinese and posted there.

"I got all of these tweets from people in China saying, 'Hey, we're going to help you find Orange Man,'" Stopera said.

The search led to Li, a 30-year-old restaurant owner.

"I was shocked," Li said. "My nephew called and told me my photos are all over the Internet!"

Li was actually standing in front of kumquat trees -- not oranges -- but the nickname "Brother Orange" stuck.

Their "lost-phone-found-friend" saga generated more than 75 million clicks and prompted Li's invitation to visit.

"To meet this man right here -- my brother, Brother Orange -- it's amazing!" Stopera said.

His China trip has been diligently chronicled with plenty of selfies. It all has the feel of anything for a page view.

"It's not over," Stopera said. "Brother Orange has to visit me now, so that has to happen."

So the story goes on -- and on. In the selfie-rich world of social media, who is to stop it?