If you haven’t started following the “Humans of New York” blog, dubbed HONY and not to be confused with KONY, you need to start right now. You need to start because it’s really important. I mean it. I’m using this post solely as an endorsement, because what HONY does it huge. I would argue it is one of the most significant uses of social media to have happened to date. The blog (or Facebook page or Instagram or whatever platform you view it in) is the single best damn thing on the internet. I’m both overwhelmingly happy that such a site exists and secretly envious that I don’t have creator Brandon Stanton’s job. Rats.
If you aren’t familiar (in which case, what’s up/shame on you, just kidding it’s fine, but really though) it’s basically a series of pictures posted daily of New Yorkers. Just everyday, real people — construction workers, emotional teenagers, druggies, struggling artists, survivors, the ice cream man, the proud mom. Anyone and everyone in between. He interviews them, asks them things like “what’s been your greatest accomplishment?” or “what do you love most about your partner?”, then explores them through the lens of his camera. And it’s evident from the comments of people he interviews that he’s gifted in this regard. In essence, he’s Titanic‘s Jack Dawson. He sees people, sees their pain, their vulnerability, and perhaps most of all, what is genuinely unique about every single person on this universe. He chooses a segment of the interview and pairs it with a photograph he’s taken of them. Wham, bam. Know that quote, something along the lines of “don’t judge because everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” Yeah. That’s this blog summed up in one word. And it’s amazing.
Amazing because it has created a dialogue. People comment on the photos, relate, share their own stories. Because, after all, not everyone lives in New York (thought it may seem like it to people who live there, perhaps). I can reach out from Chicago and be like, I feel ya bro! I had a similar experience when *whatever happened. Of course, the ability to comment from behind the veil of a computer screen comes with its obvious downside: the trolls. The cowards that sit behind their keyboard and prey on every opportunity to, as Alfred would say, want to watch the world burn. They exist everywhere, and HONY isn’t immune. When Stanton posts a photo containing the vaguest message of religion, or someone’s opinion on abortion, or a lost soul that has contemplated suicide, you better believe you are going to get one heated dialogue. And it’s rarely mature. But usually, thankfully, there are a select few comments that are so spot on they echo. And they sit atop the thread, above the vulgar spew of vapid leeches. It’s a community.
So I’m really into this blog. What a cool idea. Brandon Stanton is the man. He’s overseas right now, capturing remarkable and truly heartbreaking civilian stories. He’s been in like Pakistan, Iran, Jordan, now he’s in Africa, where will he go next! And he’s doing the same thing: documenting humanity. He is single-handedly raising awareness to HUGE issues: water contamination, families torn apart by war, starvation. And I know I’m not alone with I say the some of the images have been shocking. There’s one he posted recently of a man whose home was invaded by rebels, and when he returned after he managed to escape he found his father with all of his limbs cut off. Yeah. That’s going to stick in this noggin probably forever. It’s not that I don’t know suffering exists, I do. But it’s also not something I’m exposed to daily through someone’s camera lens. And that’s why this blog is important. I truly think it’s humanizing people. It’s showing how we, as human beings, are both similar and undeniably intricate. The ALS ice bucket challenger has been great, but how about raising money and awareness about something that affects 80 percent (yes EIGHTY PERCENT, PEOPLE) of the world: poverty.
So please, take a minute and check it out if you haven’t already. It might make you sad or angry sometimes; I know that sometimes the stories have affected me so deeply that I can’t get them out of my head for weeks. But maybe that isn’t a bad thing. Maybe it will also make you feel like we aren’t all strangers in this world. And that we all have a story to share.