I Miss the Old HoNY

by sarahgrand

Is it just me, or is Humans of New York getting kind of annoying?

I used to love Humans of New York. I was even ON Humans of New York once, and the photographer (Brandon Stanton) was extremely nice. I actually ran into him over a year after he took my photo, and he even remembered my name and our conversation. Clearly, he’s a standup guy. And I give him serious kudos for having the bravery to start this whole thing. My article today is NOT a personal attack on Brandon or his character. Rather, it’s a critique of the blog and a discussion of its evolution.

484756_421513211256118_1892070522_n{That time I was on HoNY – February 2013}

According to the About Section on the HoNY website, Humans of New York began as a photography project with the goal to “photograph 10,000 New Yorkers on the street, and create an exhaustive catalogue of the city’s inhabitants.” And that’s just what it was in the beginning—a catalogue of New Yorkers. It seemed like anyone in the city had a chance of being featured. I mean, I did have to coerce Brandon into taking my photo when I first ran into him (I’ll discuss this in a future post), but nevertheless I made it onto the site in early 2013. I may not be the most interesting person in the world, but I am a New Yorker, and probably pretty relatable to a lot of other New Yorkers out there.

If I ran into Brandon today, instead of three-and-a-half years ago, I’m not sure I’d be able to convince him to feature me. These days, it seems like HoNY has an agenda. It’s no longer just a catalogue. Every photo and associated “story” seems like it’s trying to make a statement. When I first ran into Brandon, totally caught off guard and on my way to school, I had no statement ready. What came out of my mouth was probably nonsense, but at least it wasn’t scripted.

I understand that to stay afloat, businesses need to evolve. I understand that, had HoNY stayed the same and not crossed over to the story realm, it might have dissolved. I understand that HoNY has raised tons of money for charities and good causes and spread a lot of awareness on important issues. I think these are all great things. But, is it so bad to say that I miss the old HoNY? I miss the catalogue. I miss the short snippets. I miss not feeling guilty or pressured to help all the time.

These feelings aren’t exclusive to HoNY. In general, I miss entertainment for entertainment’s sake. I feel like almost everything these days has some sort of message attached. And, in the rare case that something doesn’t have a direct message attached, my god, it’s overanalyzed to the point that there becomes one. It’s exhausting.

As a result of the current climate of social justice, I feel like everyone is in some sort of competition to show how accepting they are, how righteous they are, and how progressive they are. Obviously I think it’s good to be accepting, righteous, and progressive. But I can’t help but wonder how genuine certain sentiments are. For example, many top HoNY comments seemed contrived and “holier than thou” to me. I don’t buy it. Maybe I’m a downer or a teensny bit evil inside. But I can’t be the only one who feels this way.

Let me know your thoughts. I’ve been itching to have this conversation about HoNY for a while now. Stayed tuned or follow my blog for tomorrow’s article, “I’m Not Creepy, I Just Have a Really Good Memory.”

{Final note: I doubt this will ever reach Brandon, but in the rare event that it does, I want to apologize. I have had haters in my day, and they suck. But I’m not hating, just reflecting on the current climate of social justice, and some of the phoniness I feel is associated with it. I am truly grateful that you let me chew your ear off for a half hour and eventually gave in to my persistence and took my photo. I wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors. -Sarah}