Humans of New York – The Power of Digital Storytelling

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Humans of New York – The Power of Digital Storytelling

Throughout my life, I have developed a passion for humans. As I have grown older and have been introduced to new people and abstract ideas, I have learned that each person is special. Sure, we come in all different shapes, sizes, and colors. However, at our core, we all have one unifying theme- we are all people. People with unique story, hardships, backgrounds, journeys, and passions. I am involved in an organization called UGA Dawg Camp, and we often remind ourselves of the following quote:

“You can’t help but love somebody once you know their story.” 

In our day and age, especially with the rise of social media, it is easy to take one glance at an Instagram account or Facebook post, and make up a notion about someone without even knowing them- either a positive or negative assumption. Sure, it is easy to assume one thing or another, but at the end of the day, taking the time to learn a person’s story is invaluable- what they have overcome, who they are, what they care about, and so much more. And in my short 21 years of life, I have realized that it is worth it to make this effort. Now, of course, it is impossible to have a good conversation with every single person you interact with on a daily basis. What is not impossible however, is to be aware. Be aware that not every person has had the same exact experiences as you have had.

I love the University of Georgia for many reasons, and one of those reasons is because of the amazing alumni that have graduated from it. Brandon Stanton is a 2008 graduate with a passion for photography, and he has gone on to leave a lasting impact. Stanton is the founder of Humans of New York- an online platform that features humans of the Big Apple and beyond. On the Humans of New York website, Brandon states the following:

“Humans of New York began as a photography project in 2010. The initial goal was to photograph 10,000 New Yorkers on the street, and create an exhaustive catalogue of the city’s inhabitants.” 

Taking photographs of random people transformed into Stanton interviewing those he photographed and providing a caption for the pictures. Brandon went on to publish a blog, Facebook page, Instagram account, and even two books. Today, Humans of New York (HONY) has over 20 million followers on social media. The photos posted range from a sophisticated business man to a poor child. Each post includes a picture and caption, and it allows followers to become aware of different types of people.

In class, we have discussed how the traditional approach to marketing differs from the social media approach. While the traditional approach focuses on one-way communication, the social media approach involves two-way communication and emphasizes audience contribution. HONY is a great example of effective digital storytelling. On many occasions, after an impactful picture and caption are posted, a GoFundMe is set up and money is raised to support the person in the photo. Recently, $1 million was raised for a struggling middle school in New York. HONY has made a lasting impact on many people- both the people who share the stories and those who read the stories.

As a marketing student, I am amazed how HONY has been able to gain so many followers simply by telling stories. HONY is a great example of how digital media can be used effectively. Although HONY is not specifically trying to sell an item or service, it is effectively sharing an experience. Other businesses can use this approach of digital storytelling to better include consumers in the overall experience of the company, and in return, gain a following.

Below are a few examples of posts on HONY. Enjoy!

“I was late to the delivery room when she was born. But as soon as I walked in, her eyes started tracking me. Like she knew I was her Dad. Even the nurses were laughing about it. She’s always been my road dog. She never went through a ‘teenage phase.’ She never stopped wanting to spend time with me. We could always talk about the problems she was having at school. Even as she got older, we’d still go to the park on Saturdays or find some exotic place to eat in Brooklyn. It’s a little tough now that she’s away at college. I miss spending time with her. But I trust her completely and I want her to enjoy these years. I just hope that when she falls in love with some dude, I’ll still get to see her.”

Today in microfashion…

“This is a picture of me before I lost my job. It was only a year ago but I barely recognize that person now. I was thirty pounds heavier. I was much more confident. It felt like a guardian angel was guiding my steps. Things always seemed to work out for me. Now it seems like my guardian angel is drunk. Now I look at this picture and see a man who’s wearing a mask. The man in the picture wants to be seen as a person who does important things. He wants to be seen as confident, and harsh, and a leader. He wants to be seen as an attorney. Now I just want to be seen as a person. Someone who’s calm. Who’s balanced. Who loves his friends and family. And who’s kind.” (Moscow, Russia)


Jordan Arnold

Jordan Arnold

January 18, 2018at 1:45 pm

Allie! Humans of New York inspired me to 1) Stand up against human trafficking around the world and 2) Avoid the rat race of chasing money and seek to love others with my short time on earth! I’ll have to show you those two articles sometime. Love this blog post!

Masroor Talukder

Masroor Talukder

January 18, 2018at 2:10 pm

I love HONY for the main reason that it promotes the idea of individuality. Every single person has their own story, and as human beings we all have our walks of life that make us who we are, and to see others with similar and different situations surround their lives, HONY does a remarkable job in encapsulating the overall human experience.

Haley Iacuele

Haley Iacuele

February 13, 2018at 12:55 pm

Humans of New York has me crying in the club on a regular basis. Not really, but definitely the bus and in the middle of class and anywhere else I’m on my phone and come across a post. But I had no clue Brandon was a UGA grad, that’s so cool! He has such a gift for making an interview powerful. Not everyone is an eloquent speaker, but he still makes frames it in a way that is so impactful.

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