HONY- Why It Works

If you haven’t seen the intermittent posts littered throughout your Facebook newsfeed by now, I encourage you- drop everything you’re doing, NOW- and check out Humans of New York (HONY ). As I mentioned, HONY has become one of the most popular viral blogs to explode in recent years, and practically everyone has heard of it. But I think it is really important as writers, and bloggers to take a look at what it is about HONY that works as a blog. For those who may not have heard of the blog: HONY started as a project by photographer, Brandon Stanton, to map out all of the people of New York. As he photographed people, he began to ask them questions and collect their stories. It is these stories of everyday people that make HONY so remarkable. He posts a photo of a random person and a small comment or snippet of their interaction with him. Viewers of HONY connect and respond to these stories on a personal and human level- which is the ultimate key to the success of HONY. There are no gizmos or flashy gimmicks to this blog, it is simply people and their real stories; blogs have to connect with the audience, well I guess all writing has to connect with the audience to be successful. That’s where the exigence comes in, I suppose. People have always had stories to tell, Brandon just finally felt like it was important to tell these stories and the audience felt it was important to read them. There is a universality about HONY, a sense that when you flip through the posts, you can find at least one person who feels the same way you do about something, or has a story that will resonate with you completely. The “composer” of HONY at face-value is Mr. Stanton, and he certainly does a phenomenal job of capturing subjects on camera and coaxing them into sharing their lives, but on a deeper level, all of these subjects, all of these people make HONY what it is, everyone can be the composer of HONY. I think a lot of blogs fail because the exigence is there for the composer, but it fails to reach relevance or importance for the viewer. The best part of HONY is that it will always be relevant, touching, funny, and universal.

Profile of a girl sitting in the grass in a park, facing right. She has a sleeve tattoo and is wearing sunglasses
“So much of who I am is because of Dr. Seuss.” Photo By: Brandon Stanton, HONY

Sonalee Joshi

Sonalee is a fourth year student in the College of LSA with an Honors major in Biopsychology, Cognition, & Neuroscience with a Sweetland Minor in Writing.

2 thoughts to “HONY- Why It Works”

  1. First of all, I absolutely love that you chose HONY for this. As you mentioned, it’s one of the most well-known blogs because of it’s universal appeal that gets at the very core of human emotion and interaction. I also love how you mentioned that the relatable factor of it. When I think of my favorite HONY posts or the one’s that catch my attention, there is always a sense of me being able to relate. I think that is at the center of it’s rhetorical situation.

    Being from NY, HONY also has a sense of nostalgia yet promise of the future for me. I remember the feel of NY that I miss sometimes but I also remember all of the undiscovered potential it has. As you mentioned, much of that potential is in the eternally riveting stories of the people. HONY fulfilled the exigence to restore a sense of humanity to the internet in an age when many people hide behind computer screens. Thanks for sharing your insight and great choice of a blog.

  2. So either I’ve either been living under a rock or gave up on my FB too early, but this is the first I have heard of HONY. As I mentioned in my post, I am relatively new to the world of blogging, so there isn’t much competition, but HONY is definitely in my top 3 blogs to follow. I’m not even sure how many pictures I’ve been through tonight, especially because of how easy it is to toggle between pictures.

    You hit the nail on the head saying it’s all about audience with HONY. I usually try to avoid appealing to as wide an audience as possible in my own writing, but universality is really what makes HONY work. I doubt that anyone could go more than 5 pictures or so without finding a relatable post. Writing needs an audience as much as a tree falling in the woods needs someone to hear it, and HONY’s audience could be anyone with a computer.

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