Recently, I discovered the page that I now consider to be the best on the internet: Humans of New York. For those who don’t know, HONY (I’m going to use this acronym throughout the post) was started by photographer Brandon Stanton a few years back, and basically what he does is travel throughout the streets of New York and take pictures of anyone he finds interesting (with their consent). He posts these photos online, accompanied by a short quote they give about their lives or their favorite memories or something along those lines. But what makes this blog so special is Brandon’s insane ability to get complete strangers to open up to him, and the beautiful and thought-provoking stories that they share as a result.
Some of my favorite photos include this, this, this, this, this, and this post, and honestly a million others that I promise I won’t bombard you with. But all of them, whether it’s the quote or the picture or just the look on the face of the person being photographed, are so real and relatable and amazing. And since Brandon finds such a broad range of people for his blog (yay diversity!), you really are seeing all kinds of experiences, many of which you may never have considered before.
What makes the page even better, perhaps, is the comments section, which seemingly counteracts all of the Forces of Evil on the internet by remaining mostly civil and interesting. Each photo and quote is accompanied by pages and pages of discussion and shared experiences and stories. And it’s those stories that remind me: at its heart, HONY is a page about people.
Books, too, are about people, and in that way each HONY post feels like a miniature novel. It has a story and a character attached, and it makes you think. Not only that, but like books, every post seems to enhance the way you look at the people around you, and it truly does give you a new appreciation for them and their internal battles. Even on another level, HONY does what novels should be doing more of: it gives a voice to those we rarely hear from in the media.
And for that reason, HONY is the kind of blog that reminds me why I read and write. I do it to tell stories, yes, but I also read–and write–to discover. Because I want to know and understand different kinds of people, because I want to feel close to them, and because I want to use stories to help me make sense of the world around me. And sometimes, for me, those reasons get lost in the stress of writing and wanting to craft a great book, and it’s why blogs like HONY have become so dear to me–because it makes everything clear again.
I think that maybe we all need our personal equivalent of a HONY. We all need that reminder of why it is we write. Because, let’s face it: writing is hard sometimes. And when you fall into the black hole that is revising, or when you hit a wall and just want to quit, it is so helpful to remember that you shouldn’t. To remember why you should keep going. To remember that, published or not, your words and your stories really do matter.
(Okay, I admit it. This post was 60% a way for me to gush about HONY. BUT SERIOUSLY. It is amazing, and I think writer/reader people will especially appreciate it since some of the stories really are worthy of being turned into books or movies or plays.)
(If you want to follow HONY, you can on Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, and probably elsewhere,* and you can buy the spin-off book here. Brandon also did a series on the people of Iran during his visit there, which I found totally fascinating. Also, if you’re interested, there are a bunch of off-shoots of HONY in a number of countries and cities, so if you want to find one more local to you and you live in a big city, search “Humans of [insert place here].” I bet there is one near you.)
*Most people seem to comment on the HONY Facebook, so I’d say that’s the best place to follow it if you’re interested in reading discussion after the fact. Also, you don’t need a Facebook account to read the posts. All of it is public. And if you do decide to check out the page, let me know! I’d be interested to hear what you guys think.