When it comes to a quick-fix window on the world, Instagram is hard to beat.
Yes, it’s awash with vanity, narcissism and product placement, and at least one UK study shows it depresses young people more than any other application, but it also offers plenty that is rare, wonderful and inspiring.
One account that is dedicated to illuminating more of our shared human experience, is Humans of New York. According to its creator Brandon Stanton, the original goal of the Humans of NY project was to photograph 10,000 New Yorkers on the street and create a catalogue of the Big Apple’s inhabitants. Somewhere along the way, Brandon says, he started to interview his subjects and add quotes and stories from their lives to the portraits.
Fast forward to 2017, and the project is a true phenomenon with over 17 million Facebook followers, 7 million Instagram followers, and having spawned two best-selling books. That success has propelled Brandon to duplicate his unique project in some 20 more countries, most recently Peru.
Trawl through some of the thousands of HONY posts and you’ll be amazed by the candid nature of the subjects’ revelations and the incredible breadth of human experience. But what shouldn’t come as a surprise is just how much of the human condition you share with those strangers you pass every day on the street.
“I’m practicing French right now. I want to move to Europe so I can force myself to start over. I have a nine-to-six job. It’s a good position. They pay me well. I love my team. But everything just feels so familiar. There’s no discomfort or uncertainty anymore. On weekends I go to the same neighborhood bar. I eat at the same restaurants that I know are good. I take interesting vacations, but even those tend to follow a regular pattern. As much as I tell myself that I'm being adventurous when I hike in Peru—it’s a very planned risk. I think a new city will be good for me. I’ll start out alone. I’ll be forced to reflect. I’ll have a sense of unexpectedness. I want to feel like a tourist in my own life again.”