Coronavirus social distancing rules change how Humans of New York tells stories

Brandon Stanton, creator of the Humans of New York series, says the coronavirus pandemic is changing the way he conducts interviews and tells stories online.
Brandon Stanton, creator of the Humans of New York series, says the coronavirus pandemic is changing the way he conducts interviews and tells stories online.

The popular blog and social media series Humans of New York is adapting to the coronavirus pandemic with a new focus on quarantine stories as the new social distancing rules don’t allow for interviews with strangers on the streets of New York City.

Brandon Stanton, the creator behind Humans of New York, tells Yahoo Lifestyle, “I’m not going out and interviewing random people at a time when we need to be social distancing. So my first thought is, how would I tell stories when I’m following the guidelines of how to best contain this thing.”

His answer: conduct interviews over FaceTime.

On Monday, Stanton reached out to his combined 28 million followers on Instagram and Facebook and asked them to email him their most amazing, uplifting stories. He says he’s received hundreds of responses and has already posted three new quarantine stories.

Over the past decade, Humans of New York has offered intimate insights into the joys and struggles of humans around the world, tackling tough issues from domestic abuse to addiction and divorce. But Stanton says, for now, he’s only telling stories that inspire.

“Right now if you look at Twitter and social media, the stream of bad news is just endless. I don’t want to add any extra burden onto the psyche of my audience right now,” he said. “I think what is helpful are these doses and reminders of normal life, normal happiness, normal joys, normal love.”

Stanton says he was worried the new posts wouldn’t resonate with his audience, but they did.

“Two days ago when I posted I said ‘Oh my god, I can’t believe this worked!’ To post it and have the response be similar or even greater to the interviews that I’m doing on the street – it was amazing and surprising to me that it worked. So now it’s trying to figure out of the basics, what program do I use to call these people? How do I take the screenshots? Little things like that.”

He says he’s trying to adapt to the new normal of the coronavirus pandemic along with the rest of the world. But his goal is to address another crisis he believes will rise from the pandemic.

“I think parallel to this pandemic is going to be the mental health crisis of people in this atmosphere; of fear and anxiety, being isolated and being locked away from their support networks, from their friends, from their family members,” he said. “So I think there will be a strong need for connection over the next few months and hopefully this will just be a small part of that.”

Stanton says he plans to encourage his millions of followers to call and reach out to those people in their lives who don’t have a strong support network of friends or family. And in the coming weeks and months, he may focus Humans of New York to feature the people he believes are the new heroes of this century: doctors and nurses around the world treating COVID-19 patients.

“Not everybody can put on scrubs and a surgical mask and go out there and save lives,” he said. “But you can pick up the phone. And so I think I will be encouraging my audience to do what they can.”

For the latest news on the evolving coronavirus outbreak, follow along here. According to experts, people over 60 and those who are immunocompromised continue to be the most at risk. If you have questions, please reference the CDC and WHO’s resource guides.

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