Look at the person sitting two tables over from you at the Rebecca Stafford Student Center, or the student in the back of the classroom whose name you can’t seem to remember. What are their fears, aspirations, talents and passions? It is the goal of Taylor Smith, a freshman psychology and social work major, to find out.
Smith announced a new project through a Facebook page called “Humans of Monmouth.” Modeled after the well-known “Humans of New York,” this project will feature photos of every day students and unique captions that aim to define their personalities.
“Originally I was looking for a way to be interactive with the community without joining Greek life,” said Smith. “As a freshman I wanted to get out there and interact with new people and get my name out there and just talk to people.” Smith is currently the only person working on the project.
“Humans of New York” posts photos on their website (humansofnewyork.com) of average people in the city accompanied by brief interviews or quotes from those people. Examples include a father with his son describing how proud he is, and a young boy who claimed to be a knight when asked why he carried a toy sword.
While the University does not offer as diverse of a crowd as NYC in terms of age, professions and social status, Smith wants to start off small, catering solely to MU’s campus, though talking to strangers outside of the University is tempting. “It’s funny, now that I’m doing this, I’m recognizing people, even at home, at the store or something, or on the street and I just want to go and talk to them, but right now I’m just keeping it at Monmouth,” said Smith. “I have seen people that I really want to go speak to and they’re not from the school so I can’t. Well, I can, but I’m not going to.”
So far Smith has spoken with about 12 students on campus. She hopes to get the project officially started on Facebook within the next week, once she has enough interviews to keep up with it consistently.
With a passion for people, Smith describes her student selection and interview process. She said that she won’t stop anyone who seems to be running to class, but will often stop what she’s doing to talk to a person who catches her eye on campus. She tells them, “I’m going around and trying to capture people’s personalities in a quote and I’m going to put it below your picture and I just want to get to know you. All I want to do is be friends with you, get to know you.”
Smith’s biggest goal for “Humans of Monmouth” is to get students thinking about others differently. “I really want someone to see a picture and have their judgment be completely wrong based on a caption,” Smith explained. She described the student with the most surprising response. “I asked someone the other day what their greatest struggle was and they said ‘waiting for the future.'”
According to Smith, the boy carried a skateboard but left it out of the photo because he didn’t think it was a part of who he is. After he explained his greatest struggle, Smith said, “It got me thinking, that is so true. I agree with you, [waiting for the future] is a huge struggle. Other people can relate to you,” she said referring to her subject.
While she is only focusing on students for the start of the project, Smith has a wide variety of “Humans” to choose from. “Every day I can meet so many people so it’s not like I’ll ever run out of people I don’t think,” she said. Her confidence and friendly smile exudes optimism about “Humans of Monmouth.” With over 125 “likes” on Facebook before her first rounds of “Humans” are even posted, she believes that the project will be a success, and others do, too.
“People think it’s awesome. They’re like, ‘I’m so surprised. You’re so ambitious; you’re doing this on your own.’ I think it’s cool and it’s a way for me to get out there and be social. I’m a very social person,” said Smith. “It’s good for me and people are all for it. People are really supportive; my friends are really excited about it.”
Olivia Caruso, a junior communication major, thinks “Humans of Monmouth” will be a positive thing. “It is a great way to interact with new students and uncover what is unique about them,” she said.
Smith said that after speaking with a student for a few minutes, she asks them broader questions. Sometimes answers come easy, but other times students are completely stumped. “I asked someone, if you could give one piece of advice to a group of people what would it be, and they sat there for like, three minutes and were like, I honestly feel like there’s so much I could say but I have no idea,” said Smith. “He ended up saying, ‘make mistakes.’ Okay, that’s good. That gives me insight into your life.”
As difficult as the questions might be, sometimes capturing students’ photos can be even harder. “Girls are harder because they don’t want me to take their picture, they don’t want to look like crap. They’re like, ‘Oh, really today?’ and I’m like, ‘Yeah, really, can I please?'” said Smith. She said that male students are usually more willing to take photos.
Though Smith is doing this project to enhance her own social life at the University, she hopes it will impact the rest of MU as well. “I feel like this project is going to bring people together and that you’ll see yourself in other people and make [your] own captions.”
PHOTO TAKEN by Casey Wolfe