When Humans of New York (HoNY), a trending social media project that extends across several platforms including Tumblr and Instagram, published a young boy named Vidal’s story on January 19, it sparked a fundraiser that raised nearly $1,000,000 for his junior high school in one week.
Created by Brandon Stanton in 2010, HoNY shares anecdotes about the various residents of New York City with the world. Paired with a photograph of the featured person, HoNY’s posts vary between short interviews to longer stories about their lives.
The recent movement began with a short post featuring Vidal, who praised the principal of Mott Hall Bridges Academy for her philosophy of education. Instead of criticizing her students for defying school rules, Ms. Lopez emphasizes their individual worth and the impact of education on their futures.
“When we get in trouble, she doesn’t suspend us,” explained Vidal to Stanton. “She calls us to her office and explains to us how society was built down around us. And she tells us that each time somebody fails out of school, a new jail cell gets built. One time she made every student stand up, one at a time, and she told each one of us that we matter.”
Since then, strangers inspired by Vidal’s story have used the crowdfunding site Indiegogo to donate funds for the school to attend a field trip. Crowdfunding is a phenomenon in which people worldwide can donate money to a cause through online resources. Other successful projects such as Star Citizen, a video game, and Pebble, a smartwatch, illustrate the influence and success of crowdfunding.
The strong support of Vidal’s cause stems from HoNY’s immense popularity. The project has attracted more than 2.4 million followers on Instagram by transforming the accounts of New York residents, who are strangers to the rest of the world, into diverse and heartwarming stories.
“I think it’s close to storytelling, just through pictures and the words of the people instead of an author,” said Eric Kang, a sophomore at Valencia High School, in an interview with JSR.
HoNY, among others, is an example of the increasing influence of social media over society. Through crowdfunding and raising awareness, social media has amplified local and global movements into worldwide efforts.
“Raising awareness is actually beneficial to our society because I feel like everybody is on social media nowadays. It gets more attention not only in the regional areas but around the world, so that everybody has a say,” said William Chung, a Valencia High School sophomore, to JSR.
“It’s impacted our society because more changes have been occurring due to social media,” continued Chung. “More people are socializing on medias such as Twitter, which results in bigger and more multicultural opinions towards common goals.”
Other noteworthy causes have gained support from social media besides Mott Hall Bridges Academy’s field trip. Let’s Bring Richard Home, another crowdfunding project started by HoNY in October, funded more than $80,000 for a family’s chance to adopt a child in Ethiopia. Likewise, massive signal boosting through social media helped spur a global civil rights movement after the shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri last August.
Today, millions of people have the ability to instantly donate or raise support for any cause, which has resulted in a surge of progressive change. Despite criticism from some members of older generations, social media is driving the modern world into a new, technologically advanced age in which change can be a definite outcome — not just a possibility.
HoNY’s fundraiser has secured an educational opportunity for the students of Mott Hall Bridges Academy and those who are interested still have seven days to get involved. To learn more about Vidal’s cause or donate to the website today, visit https://life.indiegogo.com/fundraisers/let-s-send-kids-to-harvard.