Restoring the Human in Us: Humans of UCSD

The Humans of UCSD Facebook page elicits more than just a scroll through your notifications bar. It provides a pathway to meeting people, and more importantly, knowing the strangers that make up the vast student body, with touching and relatable stories of the interviewees helping take readers to a place of genuine human connection.

Amid the hordes of students that bustle down Library Walk each day, it can become very easy to lose one’s sense of self.  

With headphones on and hands shoved in pockets, the typical UC San Diego student goes unnoticed amongst the 35,000 that make up our student body. Something about the way that people have become numbers — an iClicker vote, a statistic on university records, and an indistinct face among the masses — has created a crowd of non-humans living in a non-human world.

Strangely, it is this very sense of anonymity that propels the beauty of Facebook pages such as “Humans of UCSD.”

Created in 2014, “Humans of UCSD” (HoU) has sought to illuminate the diversity and culture that is present within the very individuals who dwell on campus. Its mission: to show that people are more than just the sum of their GPA.

Yet, this page is not entirely original by nature. Rather, it is considered to be a subsidiary of journalist and photographer Brandon Stanton’s “Humans of New York” — a Facebook page that has garnered over 18 million followers since its origins in 2010. Capturing pieces of New York through its inhabitants, “Humans of New York” has inspired “Humans of UCSD” to do the same. By going around and seeking out random people to interview on a weekly basis, the HoU team has been able to showcase many of the unique individuals that constitute our campus.

So who makes up this team of people? Hidden behind the simple white Facebook photo runs a group of around six active members, each brand new to the team this school year. For them — with all old members having graduated — one of the biggest difficulties has been having to start with virtually no experience.

“When we’re starting off, we’re just trying to figure out what [the page] is,” commented Nick Lin, a Revelle College sophomore data science major. “We don’t know what to ask. We don’t know exactly how conversations are supposed to go. And we learn out of experience. We’re also trying to figure out our own styles of interviewing and all that other stuff. And it’s the beginning that’s the most difficult, I believe.”

However, hard as it may be, it is this sense of a “fresh start” that has allowed for new goals and ideas to develop. To remedy the lack of activity and involvement characterizing the page in the past, the new team seeks to up its posts to around one per day. Alongside this, there have also been other substantive goals.

Meet Daniel Walker, a Marshall junior and soon-to-be anthropology major. Despite joining the team only about a month ago, Walker already has big ideas for the page. For him, HoU has the potential to be be more than just a news site or a professed community. Instead, it should constitute an actual connection.

“One thing I’ve noticed with ‘Humans of New York’ is that, every now and then, someone in my friend group will comment, like, or see a post from three to four years ago. All of a sudden on my news feed, it will be like, so and so liked this post from ‘Humans of New York’ back in 2013. And then I go look at what they liked, and it’s this emotional story, and what they were commenting was how it resonated with them or it got them through because they were having a similar scenario — things like that,” Walker said.

It is this sense of connection that really displays what the Humans of UCSD page is about. In a school filled above and beyond the capacity of the resident halls, Humans of UCSD takes a unique approach to meeting people. In a way, it gets to the heart of what it means to be human.

By sharing painful moments like the loss of a loved one, or even by expressing the simple joys in life — such as the interviewee who talked solely about rice — HoU takes the reader to a place of deep connection, one that is genuine and sweet. It shows that any given person you sit next to in lecture, stand in the endless Starbucks line with, or work out beside in RIMAC has a story to tell. It celebrates our differences, all the while highlighting what connects us. It is this that makes Humans of UCSD so special: that we, as readers, are invited to take part in that.

Yet, there are challenges in bringing out this unity without seeming fake. As mentioned by Eleanor Roosevelt College junior Kyoka Matsunanga, “Some people have some inherent quality in them or something about them that is very unique, very different from everyone. But at the same time I don’t want to choose them because of that, because I don’t want them to feel like some sort of symbol or something. The last time we did interviews, we were going to chase down this one guy that we saw on Library Walk, and he was blind and he had a walking cane. We were thinking of interviewing him, but at the same time it seems like we’re interviewing him just because he’s blind. We’re not seeing beneath all that, we’re not seeing him just as a person. And I’m trying to come to terms with how we should go about that. I guess it’s in the kind of questions we’re supposed to ask.”

In the end, the Humans of UCSD page creates more than just a bridge — it enacts a full and complete story. And hopefully, it is this very story that creates the sense of community that “UC Socially Dead” seems to be lacking. Perhaps it is best summed up by Walker when he explained the effect he wants the page to have. “What I’m hoping happens is after interviewing and showcasing so many points, people start feeling those points, and it helps them one way or another. It could just be a laugh at a time when they really need a laugh or a deep connection with somebody they’ve never met before,” he said.

In order for UCSD to become a well-rounded community, more interactions and conversations such as these need to take place. For our school as a whole, Humans of UCSD can be that first step.

If you would like to learn more about Humans of UCSD, please visit their page here: https://www.facebook.com/Humans.UCSD/.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *