Humans of New York: Captivating an Audience

A few years ago, my mom recommended a Facebook page to me, the first time she had ever done so. I knew it had to be important or she would have never mentioned it. What I came across was a series of some of the most emotional posts I have ever come across on social media. In Humans of New York, founder Brandon Stanton is able to capture not only incredible photos but astonishing, breathtaking moments of people just like you and I. Somehow, Brandon finds a way to get people to open up with a complete stranger, not aware of the power their message could send.

Brandon has built an astounding following to his page. On Facebook, there are over 18 million users who have liked the page. As for Instagram, there are 6.6 million followers. While the page started out in New York, it has led to Brandon to collect portraits in Boston and Austin as well as countries including Israel, Kenya, India, and Mexico.

The page has become so appealing to me because I can see myself in the faces of the portraits. In the past, I have seen college students struggling to find a balance the same way I struggle each day. When my grandmother passed away during my freshman year of college, I found the page to be a place to look to in a time of sadness. Seeing how others prevail in times of struggle allowed me to find peace within myself.

As an avid follower of Humans of New York, I could consider dozens of different posts my “favorite.” I chose to highlight some of the ones that resonated with me the most and maybe you will find them as mesmerizing as I have.

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I remember seeing this post before going home to my family for Thanksgiving break. One line that really stuck with me is in the third picture and he states, “But I don’t see this as a curse. It’s an honor. This is what the Lord has given me to do. She has served this family her entire life. And now it’s my turn to serve her.” I would like to think that given the circumstances that this brave man faces, I would do the same. I would hope that my father, brother, or anyone I love would as well. I thought this post was inspirational and I have it saved on my computer to turn to in times of need.

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Do you know this guy? This was posted the day after Donald Trump was elected president. A line that really hit home with me was, “There’s always something to be done.” I believe Brandon put this post up during this time of instability throughout the United States on purpose. He was working to prove a point. No matter how small a cause may feel or how inferior you may feel in the position you are currently in, there is always something to be done.

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This post tells the story of a soldier who, at 22 years old, took his own life. His sister, in agony, passes his legacy on to Brandon who portrays his story to millions of listeners across Facebook. The young man, Stephen Colley, was the same age as I am when he committed suicide. This struck a chord with me specifically because I will never understand the struggles Stephen went through. I have never had to cope with the painfully difficult situation of someone I know committing suicide but I could only imagine how tough it must be. Although I never had the good fortune of being able to meet Stephen, I think about him from time to time. I am reminded to have open ears and pay attention when those around me are struggling. You never know when your last conversation with someone will be and I try to let those I love know how important they are to me. You never know when your final goodbye will be. I hope that Stephen was at ease when he passed and I hope that he has found peace in a better place.

What Humans of New York has done is provide a community for those on social media to turn to. Many of the posts on the page have hundreds and often thousands of comments from people all over the world. Top comments on posts have tens of thousands of likes. Building a community like Humans of New York is exactly what Mark Zuckerberg set out to do when he created Facebook. He wanted to make the world more connected and with Brandon Stanton posting pictures of everyday people and the troubles they face throughout their lives, users are becoming connected emotionally with people they have never met and likely will never meet. Who knew that a page my mother recommended to me years ago would become a staple of not only my online experience but my life as a whole?

9 comments

  1. Really enjoyed reading this post. I am also a huge fan of this page. I believe humans of New York reminds all of us that each individual we encounter throughout the course of a typical day has their own story; their own struggles, fears, desires, and wishes. This makes me feel connected to strangers as opposed to them being just a face in a crowd. If everyone were able to feel a certain level of personal connection with those around them there would a lot less hate in the world today.

  2. Some great choices to demonstrate how through-provoking HONY can be. It is great that there are pages on Facebook and other social media platforms that force us to take a step back and reflect – it is content that flows at a completely different pace to most of posts I see on my feed.

  3. Thanks Dan, very enjoyable! I like HONY a lot, and it is one page that I often find myself going back to from time to time. It is an awesome business model as there are always going to be interesting people to talk to. I really liked when he expanded out of New York and would go and talk to people from all over the world. It gave a voice and connection to people like refugees, which is incredibly important I believe. So often we just look at things in terms of number or black and white terms, but Brandon is able to introduce us to real people. It is one of the more positive places on the internet. In a world where violence, prison sentences, and negativity gets most of the spotlight, HONY is able to bring positivity back.

  4. I actually got to hear Brandon speak at a conference a few years ago. I was very impressed at the sophistication of his social media knowledge. He’s very much the “real deal” and an exemplar in the space.

  5. This is an awesome post Dan! I follow humans of new york on facebook and instagram and with all of the dumb stuff that floods our feed most of the time its really cool to see the heartwarming and heart wrenching stories that you see on this page. It really is one of the better things that social media has given us over the last several years

  6. Great post! I remember the first time I came across Humans of New York, it really struck me how willing the subjects were to open up to him. I think what is really cool is that often times you can see how the story being told may relate to the image itself, explaining the wrinkles or the smiles.

  7. Love HONY – one thing I think is really interesting is how this was something so built on social media and the social media community has done really successful in it’s turn to traditional media in a book. It’s a bestseller and a great read to see it all in one space. I wonder if some things that are so social media focused will start to turn into traditional media – this question also comes up in the photography realm of digital posting to hard copy printing photos.

  8. I love HONY and the great perspective it gives to us on an everyday basis. I completely agree that its great that social media can be used as a great platform to push a further message and not get caught up in the mess of social media. I did a project on the creator of HONY and honestly he is so humble and he just focuses on the people are people and embraces their stories!

  9. It always shocks me just a little bit how profound an impact these posts can make. Just reading these posts now I got chills several times. We often look at social media as a way to create a facade or an impersonal way to connect. HONY takes that idea and smashes it. Brandon has found a way to share vulnerable stories in such a way that the reader can feel connected to a complete stranger. This profound accomplishment shows how social media can not only virtually connect people unlike you, but also connect to these people in a genuine way.

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