Humans of Furman University: A System of Isolation

By Marian Baker, Class 2017

“HONY,” or “Humans of New York,” is a popular photographic blog project that showcases the incredible diversity and humanity found in New York City through short intimate interviews accompanied by photos of the interviewed subject. These vignettes are shared on a blog that reaches millions. HONY is so popular that Brandon Stanton, the blog’s creator, has even published New York Times Bestselling books filled with the blog’s contents. The influence of the blog has now even reached Furman, as members of the Shucker Leadership Institute here have begun their own project modeled on the popular blog: Humans of Furman University.

HOFU, as it is called, uses the platform of Facebook much like its original HONY counterpart. In its Facebook description, HOFU is described as “a project that seeks to capture the stories of the Furman community.” With 690 likes and nine posts already, the project seems to be off to a promising start.

Featured image
A screenshot of one of HOFU’s posts. (Photo Courtesy of HOFU)

So far, the posts on HOFU have been interesting and eye opening. There is a girl that works the CLP events, a boy that sits behind the Trone Center desks, a Starbucks barista, and more. These are the people that we pass every day, and maybe even wondered about, but never had a good enough reason to talk to. HOFU does that for you, providing a small insight into the worlds of these people. In this way, HOFU answers the questions that we never had the courage to ask.

However, the fact that HOFU does this may be, in and of itself, worrisome. Now that HOFU is asking the questions we all had, we no longer need to do it ourselves. We no longer have to converse with these people to know something about them. We no longer have the incentive to personally look outside of our own friend circle to experience the diversity that Furman has to offer.

Who knows, perhaps in the coming weeks HOFU will interview that person we have all been wondering about — Unicycle Guy. We should just talk to him ourselves, but why leave our comfort zone if someone else will do it for us? This is the problem of HOFU: we can get the dirt on people, once again, without having to leave to comfort of our dorms. In this fashion, HOFU joins YikYak as a vehicle for campus communication without actual social interaction.

This is a pervasive issue on Furman’s campus: lack of social integration. What would a Saturday night at Furman be without at least one Yak about how someone has no friends, and does not quite know how they can find other lonely students to interact with? Many students at Furman feel very isolated; some students seek to break this isolation, only to discover that Furman’s system is built around it. HOFU is not the problem by any means and yet it is a brick in the wall of the system of isolation that surrounds Furman.

In regards to its mission statement of storytelling, HOFU achieves its goal quite well, and provides an interesting and thought-provoking addition to the Furman social media tradition. However, in promoting a greater degree of social integration of the Furman community, it fails. HOFU merely expands the ability of Furman students to receive information without having to go through the experience of an interaction, which is perhaps what we really need.

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