Though social media has been criticized for its superficiality, one group of Emory students has used Instagram to create a close-knit community for a student body scattered across the globe. On July 5, Hannah Jian (23C) and Kristina Trifonova (23C) launched The Humans of Emory, a platform that aims to “connect, uplift and humanize” the Emory community through sharing their stories, offering mentorship and hosting virtual social events.
Inspired by Humans of New York, the pair decided to spearhead the project after the transition to remote learning left Emory students disconnected and isolated from the community at large. Upon opening the account, Jian and Trifonova received submissions ranging from the Black Lives Matter movement to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) regulations. The students also share resources for supporting the social movements mentioned in the posts, oversee the mentorship program Candid Connections and host Zoom sessions where freshmen can socialize and seek advice from upperclassmen.
“We’re going into a semester where students are isolated and disconnected from the Emory community,” Jian said. “Our mission is to unite and inspire students.”
The account boasts more than 1,200 followers and has seven students’ stories posted to its profile. Each post includes the author’s name, headshot and story. The stories include Jack Miklaucic (23C) encouraging voter participation and Aayush Gupta (22B) explaining the effects of ICE’s policies on international students. On July 10, Emily Kim (23C) shared her experience discussing the Black Lives Matter movement with her Korean immigrant father.
“Submitting a post was not easy,” Kim wrote in an email to the Wheel. “It was definitely something I mulled over for a week until I finally just wanted to let go. It brought me the closure I wanted in my life, and I hope it did to some reader as well.”
Kim said she did not expect any public reaction to her story, but felt encouraged by her friends leaving comments on the post. Jian said that Kim’s story was her favorite because she had a similar experience with her parents, and connecting students through shared experiences is one of the organization’s goals.
Since many of the stories involve social issues, the team decided to link resources related to the issues in the Instagram biography in order to help students struggling with similar experiences. These resources include explanations of the Black Lives Matter movement translated into various languages, a White House petition against ICE’s regulation to deport certain international students and a list of 2020 primary election dates.
After Emory announced its plans for the semester, Trifonova began brainstorming ways to help first-year students connect with each other and the larger Emory community through virtual events. The Humans of Emory has now hosted multiple virtual events, such as Emory 101, Candid Connections and Dorm Dynamics, which in total attracted 712 attendees.
The team launched Candid Connections on July 13, which matched over 250 first-years with upperclassmen volunteer mentors. The mentee program aims to help students succeed in Emory’s challenging environment by providing advice, encouragement and socialization. On Aug. 3, the team moderated Dorm Dynamics, a Q&A session with previous residents of each residence hall. This event also gave first-years a chance to meet other students living in the same hall in breakout rooms. On Aug. 8, The Humans of Emory held Emory 101, a Zoom session in which first-years asked the executive board questions about Emory and chatted with their classmates.
“With so much uncertainty going into the semester, [Dorm Dynamics] was a great opportunity to introduce first-years to Emory and teach them about life on campus,” Trifonova said.
Moving forward, the team hopes to grow their executive board and bolster their social media presence by expanding onto additional social platforms. Jian noted that, though the future is filled with uncertainty, the group will work to cultivate a community despite any obstacles.
“Community is crucial to the college experience,” Trifonova said. “It’s something that we are all lacking this semester so we’re grateful for the opportunity to share stories and host events that bring people together.”