The Genius of Humans of New York: or, Why Everyone’s Story Matters

Anyone familiar with Facebook is also likely familiar with the popular photoblog, Humans of New York. It is a relatively simple idea- the creators take a picture of somebody on the streets of New York City, and ask them questions- which results in the excerpt that accompanies their photograph, which can be anything from a sentence to multiple paragraphs in length. The idea is immensely popular and has earned the page over 18 million followers, and a book deal, as well as multiple spin-off pages and parodies for different areas- but what is it that makes this simple concept so interesting to so many people?

I think the general idea that is often floated about not just New York, but any big city, is that people who are neither particularly famous or particularly wealthy, are invisible. Nobody knows your name and if they did, would they care anyway?- is the sentiment often reiterated by angsty teens in movies, but it is simultaneously not entirely untrue- New York’s population is over 8 and a half million (coincidentally, roughly the number of those who have liked the Humans of New York Facebook page) and so, the likelihood is that to most people, you aren’t anybody. There’s nothing wrong with this it’s just simple fact- and so you may feel you aren’t particularly interesting or particularly special, and nobody ever hears your story because you don’t have a platform to tell it on.

Humans of New York provides this platform- they photograph and interview people of all ages, races and religions, and allow them to tell their story. The reason other people are interested is because these are the stories they never hear- and some of them are extremely interesting, but would never be widely known or cared about because the person telling it is not famous. It also gives those interviewed the chance to pass on their stories, to feel important and interesting to others, and to know that others care about what they’re doing and how they are doing. It is for me one of the best things to come out of social media, because without it the stories couldn’t be shared or accessible to as many people, but can now be accessed and discussed by millions. With Humans of New York, everybody can be somebody.


Just as a sidenote, if anybody reading this from the book blogging community would have an interest in starting up our own Humans of New York- a sort of Bloggers of the Book Tag – please let me know! I think it could potentially be interesting to get people involved with 🙂 And as always, thanks for reading!

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