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.
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.
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.
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?