Want to hear something beautiful? Every so often, instead of separating us from other people, social media actually serves to get us interested in each other again.
Case in point: my favourite Facebook page, called Humans of New York (HONY).
Started by a New York bloke called Brandon Stanton, he was aiming to create a photographic census of the city. What it evolved into however, is a vibrant collection of portraits of the people he met – each one accompanied by thoughts or stories from the person captured. I don’t know how he does it, but often the information that people share with him is very intimate, sometimes heart-wrenching, and often uplifting. It’s like an in-depth portrait of humanity and people love it, judging by the numbers that follow him – nearly one million over various social media networks.
Yes, you more often hear me bemoaning the issues of social media rather than its upside, but this story is overwhelmingly positive. Social media tends to disconnect us from others and encourage us to get caught up with ourselves. But the HONY page shows a person that has used social media to get us thinking about other people again.
But why am I suddenly bringing this all up? Let me tell you why. Earlier this week, Stanton uploaded this photo of a cameraman he had met, named Duane. After Duane and his wife realised that they couldn’t have kids, they adopted a daughter from Ethiopia, one who was older and blind in one eye (it becomes harder to adopt the younger and healthier the child is). They now wanted to adopt a brother for her, but didn’t have the money.
Stanton put this photo on the blog, with a link to donate and just over 30 hours to do it in. The family needed USD$26,000, and they had it within one hour. 30 or so hours later, there was a total of $83,935, the extra of which will go to the education of the two kids. I have one word to describe both the story, and the capacity of people to be generous with complete strangers – Wow. Yes, with a capital “w”.
When Duane went to work that day, he had no idea that his life would be changed so dramatically, and with the help of so many unknown people. Social media may have its grey areas, but I am certainly in awe of its capacity to do amazing things, make us concerned for each other again, and inspire beautiful humanitarian actions.