Facebook page inspires students

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Facebook page inspires students

By Taira Alabi / Staff Writer

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Struggles and stories around Pittsburgh that once went unnoticed are now garnering thousands of likes on Facebook. 

Humans of Pitt is a spinoff of the popular Humans of New York Facebook page, a place where Facebook users can view photos of their fellow citizens captioned with quotes and anecdotes. Humans of New York, which has over 6 million likes on Facebook, was started by Brandon Stanton in November 2010 after he was inspired by New York City’s beauty and diversity. The founders of Humans of Pitt had similar sentiments.

“We wanted the page to have a message of how truly wonderful and diverse this city is,” Sarah Thornton, a sophomore majoring in studio arts and co-founder of Humans of Pitt, said. 

The “Humans of” concept is simple. Pictures of random individuals accompanied by quotes from the subject of the photos are placed on a Facebook page for those who like the page to see. There are hundreds of other “Humans of” pages online now, including Humans of the Armed Forces and Humans of State College.

Thornton and her co-creator, Anish Kumar, a sophomore studying pre-med, started the page in April after a text message conversation.

“I just said, ‘Maybe we should start a Humans of Pitt page’ and literally the next day I was walking up to strangers asking them if they had heard of Humans of New York,” Thornton said.

The page has been widely well received. In its first month, the page received over 2,000 likes. As of time of publication, the Humans of Pitt has roughly 3,000 likes.

“It struck a chord with me because like Humans of New York, it shows the different classes of people that walk the streets of Pittsburgh,” Florence Kwok, a sophomore majoring in molecular biology, said of the page. “It allows us to see whether we have had similar experiences and gives us a chance to relate or contemplate.”

But Kumar said the page won’t be exactly like the Humans of New York page, which has over 6 million likes —they aren’t aspiring to that much popularity.

“We are keeping the page [description]with our own vision and not just a replica of Humans of New York,” Kumar says.

Finding people on Pitt’s campus is literally a walk in the park for Thornton and Kumar.

“We go out on Sundays to Schenley Park or wherever there are people out and go up and talk to them,” Thornton said. “I ask if they’ve heard of Humans of New York and then ask them a question from my notebook.”

Thornton’s brown notebook contains handwritten questions she and Kumar have thought of, including, “What was the hardest experience you’ve had?” or “Who do you miss most right now?” 

These are questions that Thornton and Kumar hope will help delve into the souls of their subjects and reveal something personal about them that wouldn’t normally be seen.

“I remember this one girl who said she missed her grandma,” Thornton said. “We posted the picture and her grandma responded and said the she was proud of her. It was awesome.”

But for all the triumphant posts and comments Humans of Pitt receives, there are negative aspects.

Sophomore Ali Greenholt was excited to be photographed by Kumar on a sunny day in oval sunglasses, clutching her notebook while she was lying on the grass in Schenley Plaza. She had heard of Humans of New York and was glad that a version of it had arrived at Pitt. 

When she recited a piece of prose from her notebook about her anticipation for high school to end and college to begin, she didn’t expect much to come out of it except a few likes on the Facebook page and maybe a few shares from proud friends. 

But a few hours after her picture was posted, Zach Westerfer, a senior majoring in psychology who does not know Greenholt personally, posted a comment, “Wow, look at Jack f*cking Kerouac over here,” on the comments section of the picture.

“It was pretty impulsive. I didn’t really think it through,” Westerfer said.

Westerfer said felt he was merely speaking his mind. Greenholt, an English writing major, did not take it lightly. 

“I wanted to tell [the photographer] to take the picture down. My picture was the only one with negative comments so it made me feel bad about myself,” Greenholt said.

Instead, Greenholt chose let her picture remain on the page as a testament to her personality.

Despite the incident, Thornton and Kumar stand by their page and see the potential good that has come and they hope will continue to come out of their page.

“It’s heartbreaking when something like that happens but even in the short time the page has been around, so much good has come. We have no control over what people say,” Thornton said.

Thornton may be right. 

Even after the negative comment, Greenholt said she still does not regret having her picture taken. She admires the page and says the positivity she and others have received should answer anyone’s concerns about the negativeness.

“There will be more people for you than there are against you.” Greenholt said.

With students both new and old making the trek to Pitt in August, Thornton said she hopes the page can be “a resource for all of how unique Pittsburgh is.” 

Thornton said she wants students to know a little more about  the people around them. 

“I had interviewed someone who heard of Humans of Pitt for the first time and she was so excited and really wanted to be on the page,” Thornton said. “It’s great to know that people are noticing.”

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