humans of boston

Learning from Humans of New York

Since re-discovering Humans of New York, I have been religiously reading each post, as well as some of the top comments. I am not ashamed to say that I cry almost every week now because of some of the things I read there.

It has allowed me to see parts of the world that need to be seen and read about stories that help me put my life into perspective.

It inspires me and reminds me why I wanted to become a journalist in the first place: to tell stories that matter, make an impact and move people to do things that they don’t normally do.

Every day is a new experience, a new insight.

I share stories that I find moving, funny, or relatable. But the most powerful ones for me are the stories that I cannot personally relate to–stories of tragedy, of unsurmountable challenges, of deep and unforgettable heartbreaks. These are the stories that inspire, give hope and convince people to change the world–if only to make it better for people who have already suffered a lot.

Screengrab from Humans of New York Facebook Page

Humans of New York (which its owner Brandon Stanton has graciously opened to the rest of the world) has become a regular past-time for me because it has restored my faith in humanity (to borrow a phrase used by hundreds of thousands of fans of the Facebook page).

It also teaches me valuable lessons that I apply to my work as a journalist. I have watched videos of Brandon explaining his process, how he is able to make strangers open up to him.

Here are some of the things I learned from following his page and watching some of his videos

  1. Don’t be afraid to approach people and talk to them
  2. Make people feel comfortable by giving off a sincere, positive energy
  3. Ask questions that probe like, “What is your biggest struggle right now?”
  4. If something makes you laugh, use that quote
  5. Go from broad to specific (ex. Give an advice then jump off from that and ask for a specific experience where that person was not able to follow his own advice)
  6. Learn to edit. Use the most powerful quotes and don’t regret not using the others
  7. People like reading positive stories
  8. A sad story is just as good, as long as it is framed and presented properly
  9. If a story makes you feel strong emotions, go with it
  10. Learn to care about the people in front of you

I think what makes Humans of New York more special is that it tries to stay relevant. It goes beyond its comfort zone–New York–and explores other places. It goes to where the action is and shows a different side to societies and cultures that have long been stereotyped by people and the mainstream media.

***

“It’s okay to feel pain, happiness and anger,” I try to remind myself every day. “It doesn’t make me less of a journalist. In fact, it might make me a better one.”

Hopefully, more journalists will be reminded that there is hope in humanity; there are other sides to a story; and that it’s okay to “feel.”

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