Every time somebody says to me, “It’s so impressive how you manage to get writing done despite being on Facebook/Twitter/etc. all the time,” I cringe. I’ve been hit by a backhanded compliment. I’m surfing, tweeting and emailing — leaving my digital prints everywhere and probably picking up some nasty computer viruses — while serious writers are working pristinely, heroically beyond the clutches of the Internet.
Jonathan Franzen found the Internet such a threat that he disabled it by plugging an Ethernet cable into his computer with super glue. The philosophy behind this act of almost rageful vandalism seems self-evident. Compared to the hard work of writing, the Internet gives an easy way out. Before, the writer took breaks for things like coffee, cigarettes, drugs — items that each have natural limits in the human body. But now, you’re basically working in an intellectual red-light district where, at any time — every three seconds if you want — you can dip into the constantly replenished streams of email/Facebook/Gawker/eBay/YouTube/Instagram.
You can sense when somebody wants something. It’s all about energy exchange, it’s not about words. That’s what I learned from doing Humans of New York. Somebody’s willingness to let me photograph them, and willingness to tell me a story, has nothing to do with the words I say. It all has to do with the energy I’m giving off, which hopefully is very genuine, very interested energy. It’s It’s just two people having a conversation in the street. I think that’s where genuine content comes from.
Brandon began the project in the summer of 2010 in an effort “to construct a photographic census of New York City”. Originally, the idea was to plot the photos on map, but after speaking with 10,000 strangers (New Yorkers and visitors to NYC), he decided to turn the project into a blog which features a portrait of each person, accompanied with a quote or short story from them. Humans of New york has nearly 1.5 million Facebook fans, over 33,000 Twitter followers and Tumblr posts with notes in the thousands.