social media

Social craze: pretending to be Humans Of New York tricks Americans

Written by elliegrounds

For people with any sense of apprehension about what they read on the internet, seeing people fall for ‘trolls’ is an hilarious pastime.

For people with any sense of apprehension about what they read on the internet, seeing people fall for ‘trolls’ is an hilarious pastime.

From laughing at the people who were outraged, Steven Spielberg had sacrificed a beautiful, living dinosaur for his films to being astounded at those caught on Jimmy Kimmel’s Lie Witness News who admitted to liking fictional band Shorty Jizzle and the Plumbercracks, being a bystander to people trolling their fellow humans can be a full-time commitment.

Although these bouts of trickery have left many in fits of laughter, it seems a new king of funny has arrived.    

Humans of New York

By now I have become accustomed to my Facebook feed being highly populated with high-resolution portraits accompanied by informative blurbs about the happiest memory or most important piece of advice of the person in the photo.

I am talking, of course, about the work of Manhattan-based photograph Brandon Stanton, better known to people around the world as Humans of New York. Stanton started HONY in the summer of 2010 because he thought it would be “really cool to create an exhaustive catalogue of New York City’s inhabitants.”

His photos are collected through an individual work technique of approaching people on the street and asking him if we could photograph them, while chatting to his subjects and collecting quotes and short stories from them to provide an insight into their lives.

The site has become a phenomenon: to date the Humans of New York Facebook page has over nine and a half million likes, with each photo receiving thousands of likes, shares and comments. Manhattan’s inhabitants jump at the chance to be featured. If only they paid a little more attention…

The prank

A video released this week purported to show behind the scenes footage of Stanton approaching New Yorkers for photos. And, like predicted, they were more than happy to oblige. “Oh, wait. You’re Humans of New York?!” Saying they were excited to be featured is an understatement.

Except for one thing – the guy taking the photos wasn’t actually the Humans of New York guy… It was actually Tyler Fischer, a comedian who made the video, titled Pretending To Be Humans Of New York for YouTube site Prankdialz.

Stanton is actually currently conducting a UN-sponsored world tour for HONY, but despite posting photos from various locations around the globe, New Yorkers were still ecstatic with what they thought was the chance to get their picture on one of the world’s most talked-about sites.

One lady in the video even asks, “But I thought he was travelling?” to which Fischer’s responds: “We sent interns. It was too dangerous.”

And she believes him…

Fischer also asks a few of his pretend subjects to lie about being homeless in order to get a better story to put alongside their photo. Pretty hilarious social experiment if you ask me. But apparently not, according to many of the people that watched it.

The reaction

The video was making such big waves around the internet that the real Humans of New York (legit this time, don’t worry) had to post it to his Facebook page:




And even though he found it (presumably) kind of funny, many of his fans did not, with the post igniting a huge debate.

One Facebook fan wrote: “I am surprised so many HONY fans and Brandon himself find this clever and amusing. It gave me a bad feeling and I just didn’t care to watch as people’s sincerity, sweetness and trust were misused for something that didn’t even strike me as very interesting or valuable.”

To this another, more cynical (and more my type, for sure) fan replied: “People didn’t give him a second thought until he told them he was from the already famous Facebook page. Folk ain’t so innocent.”

What started out as innocent trolling seems to have made a huge social statement – namely that it seems people are willing to go to any lengths for their five minutes of internet fame. This YouTube user summed it up quite well:

Don’t worry, PONY (Pretenders of New York, get it?!). At least some people got it.

What do you think of this week’s social craze? Let us know in the comments below!

Photo: YouTube