By Clare Kolenda
We’ve all heard the argument about how social media is making us unsocial. In fact, this constant barrage of warnings has become almost a cliché.
While there is a truth to these words, there is always an exception to every rule, and Brandon Stanton is breaking this stereotype. Stanton is the founder of the website Humans of New York. Since its launch in 2010, Stanton’s site has grown exponentially, gaining an international following. Stanton’s pictures and stories about the citizens of New York are shared with the public through several online sites including Facebook and Instagram.
Every picture has a caption included with it. Some clips are humorous, others sobering, giving a much needed perspective in the midst of the week. Each post generates thousands of comments and “likes” because of this.
Recently, Stanton launched a two week long fundraising campaign based on a meeting with a young man in a low-income neighborhood in Brownsville, Brooklyn. This fateful meeting led him to meet with the young man’s Principal, Ms. Lopez, at Motts Hall Bridges Academy, where he realized the school was lacking, both financially and in moral support. Over the course of his fundraiser, Stanton was able to raise over a million dollars to benefit the underprivileged school. This will help guarantee class trips to Harvard for 10 years, as well as 10 years’ worth of summer school programs for the students.
After reading about this story, I noticed that this was very different than the kind of Facebook posts I was used to seeing. Ask anyone walking through the quad, and they’ll tell you that their news feed is filled with negative thoughts and complaints from their “friends.” When writing a status, the “tell us what’s on your mind…” cue is taken literally, and often clutters up our social media accounts.
You know the ones. The posts that drone on about what’s wrong with our government. How the world is a messed up place. Posts that use acronyms like “fml” and complaints about little things like misplacing keys or that there aren’t enough hours in the day to watch all the seasons of “Friends” on Netflix. When every picture you see makes you feel insecure about your own looks, your friends’ statuses make you feel lonelier, and your phone is buzzing with notifications yet there are no conversations going on, a cloud of negativity can easily cloak your day after a quick few minutes on a news feed.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
As a communications major, I love studying social media. I love the idea that it can connect people all over the world to the plight of a struggling school in a suburb of New York. How different would our world be if we all followed Stanton’s example? I don’t mean that we all need to start million dollar fundraisers, but we all can create social change in our own ways.
A small change can start with being more positive on your own social media accounts. Each time Stanton posts, he is praised not for his excellent photography—which it is—not for his on-point journalism skills—which they are—but for taking the time to inspire others with the stories. It’s ironic that the thing that many people are so drawn to is the exact opposite of what they create on their own social media accounts.
Take the chance and be the exception to the rule. Make use of your social media stratosphere, and encourage others in your network and group of friends, to become more sociable.
Photo by Tess Haadsma.