Recently, infamous trollbait website Gawker posted an interesting article on ‘authenticity aggregator’ Humans of New York. For those who primarily use the internet to pirate and jerk off to porn, Humans of New York or HONY (not to be confused with KONY) is former Chicago bond trader Brandon Stanton‘s ‘photo-journalistic’ project. Stanton ‘thought it would be cool to create an exhaustive catalogue’ of NY’s inhabitants and over time the blog has snowballed into a social media powerhouse boasting 8+ million likes on Facebook, a United Nations backed ‘World Tour’ and photographic assignment in Iran, as well as a New York Times No.1 Seller.
HONY generally reads like this: A photo of some ‘regular’ person/people + some relatable/inspiring/tragic/empowering anecdote. But as Gawker points out – the ‘exhaustive’ catalogue becomes just that – exhaustive in mass rather than substance.
I do not deny reading the blog from time to time, and genuinely enjoying and/or entertained by the content. I admire Stanton’s photographic eye and marvel at his talent to be able to coerce some very personal stories/thoughts. And while the comments accusing Gawker of hypocritically trying to generate click bait ring true, I can’t help but side with the snark.
Maybe it’s cause I’m jaded but deep down I think that anything put on the internet is fair game, regardless of how ‘authentic’ ‘inspiring’ or ’empowering’ it is. Undoubtedly there are many examples seen throughout HONY that are honest, insightful causing guttural reactions and deep compassion and empathy, as well as offer humorous relief and the illustrate the boringness and simplicity of the common and everyday. But that’s it. It seems to me that people on the internet love these sorts of things because they either prefer to preach to the converted or like to troll and hide behind conceit and snark. It’s the land of the polarising and polarised. It’s either #OMGTRU or #OMGWTF. Even a ‘LOLWUT’ is an impassioned dismissiveness borne out of boosting supposed clout and/or intentional laziness (read: Im 2 cool 2 give a fuk). And while I don’t mean to discourage others from creating, engaging or enjoying thoughtful and challenging content like Stanton’s, let’s not be squares and pretend that it’s so amazingly life changing and inspiring or even at all unique.
What would be great to see is popularity of smart, constructive commentary and content. Content that may not entirely align with your personal values/personal brand but stirs you enough to question your views/interests/habits. Especially angles other than the predominately patriarchal, white, upper-middle class ones.
All images courtesy of: Humans of New York