What Grinds My Gears: Humans of UCI
By David Ngo
Call me a sucker for life stories — I love reading people’s memoirs. I adore it when people want to share their experiences. I love it when some of them are a bit sillier than others, or when they’re a bit more on the serious side. That’s why I put Humans of New York on such a high pedestal, even if the blog’s stories are criticized for being misconstrued or taking away a sense of subjectivity from each photo.
You’d think Humans of UCI would be the first thing I check on Facebook, then, but that’s an incorrect assumption. In fact, I’m not very fond of Humans of UCI at all.
For me, Humans of UCI is a bit of a swing and a miss; but mostly, it misses. A lot of the posts I read on that page don’t ever really resonate with me. In fact, it gets annoying at times, since I don’t really get out as much as I would from reading a post from HONY. I shouldn’t be comparing these two, right? Wrong — they’re both trying to achieve the same goal of sharing stories, and the less original one could do so much better.
So… why? What is it that Humans of UCI is missing? Why does it pale in comparison to HONY? And, more importantly, why does it suck? OK, maybe that’s a bit harsh.
Do-over: What can HOUCI do to suck less? I mean, “improve.”
Well, I can think of a few things. Here are some of the gripes I have with this potentially-successful blog.
One: The motivation and context for these stories (or lack thereof) are sometimes atrocious. I want to read about a person’s story; their struggles, silliness and experiences. What I don’t want is someone who uses their post as an advertisement, or don’t really have anything notable to say.
I don’t love, like, or support stories that just don’t really say anything about anything. There needs to be a point. I’m not asking for a beginning, middle, end — just some sort of significance or insight into something. You also need to add some detail in there; some pizazz so it doesn’t sound particularly plain.
The HOUCI page describes its goal as, “Through Humans of UCI, our team wishes to celebrate the diversity at UC Irvine in an effort to foster solidarity and empathy amongst our campus.”
I find solidarity and empathy a little challenging to find when some of the posts are 3 paragraphs of personal history and struggle, then “VOTE FOR XXX FOR ASUCI,” or “Help pay this guy’s hospital bills even though this entire post about him has nothing to do with it.” I really want you guys in charge of this thing to succeed, I just don’t want you to be fake. I guess you could say there’s a time and a place for these things.
Two: representation. This is actually something that’s always been pretty good, so I won’t go overboard with this.
I don’t know much about how things go down when people become posts, but I just want you photographers for HOUCI out there to not just take pictures of your friends or people you know. UCI’s a big campus, and you need to ask about strangers’ stories. There’s students, professors, grads — a whole slew of people out there — and you guys need to be the ones to be brave enough to find them. For instance, why don’t you ask someone who works at one of the dining halls or Aramark?
Three: Some of the posts can be a bit generic. The questions that are asked by HOUCI lead to some great answers, but I feel there are times where those questions don’t really have much direction. You can ask “What is happiness?” or “What is your definition of beauty?” but if those questions don’t allow for someone to share something all that personal about themselves, it gets a bit bland. I guess that’s up to chance though too, depending on the person being asked.
Despite my rambling, I’ll admit that HOUCI has definitely improved.
For starters, they’ve gotten rid of inappropriate hashtags thanks to people’s suggestions. Thank you, people who made those suggestions! The hashtags were definitely just a popularity grab for the most part, and while that’s understandable for a blog starting out, it’s not exactly acceptable. I don’t want to see an infinite list of hashtags after I’ve read about someone’s past struggles unless it’s appropriate in terms of context, such as the BSU post a few weeks back.
Secondly, their posts in general have been improving. There’s more insight given by the people taken in the photos and there’s better context along with these stories so that people know what the hell they’re talking about, etc. Good on you, HOUCI!
Still, the blog has a lot of room for improvement. I’m holding out a lot of hope that instead of getting peeved when I’m checking the page, I’ll actually feel a sense of resonance with the people studying, working and living on the same campus as I am.