Behind the Scenes with Humans of Macquarie

The international phenomenon brought to our campus


Words || Ashley Regan

The original ‘Humans of’ account set up in 2010 by Brandon Stanton located in New York City, now has 8.8 million followers, and the page has created an international phenomenon. A single photographer altered the function of Instagram by replacing the typical highly-curated self-focussed photos with raw and emotional posts. This trend to highlight individuals as they are has spread to every corner of the world, you can find a ‘humans of’ account for any place, particularly universities.

The accounts are entirely based on equal representation of all social groups focusing on sensitive experiences. The style of posts uses direct quotes from interviewees, to allow people to represent themselves as they want instead of having another other talk for them. This is important for groups who are negatively covered by the media, for example prisoners have massive stereotypes attached to them but through the independent Instagram account, these individuals can be humanised.

Similar to the original ‘Humans of’ account, Macquarie’s version has a sole creator. Thanks to Samir Chahine the humans of our campus are given a chance to share their untold stories. He combines self-taught journalism, photography and editing skills to interview students, and express their hidden emotions.

“I love the chill vibe of our university, we’re not super elite who only focus on studying and HD’s. But there’s no way of anyone knowing about Macquarie’s amazing culture without actually being on the campus. This is what I wanted to do, show the world what is happening on campus, to show the real human beings that are at university. Highlighting their problems, raw emotions, feelings and experiences, showing that everyone is struggling at university and no one is in this alone.”

“In my first year of university I was super quiet and I really did hate uni because I wasn’t experiencing any of our campus culture. As soon as I joined Law Review, getting involved outside of the classroom let me experience more and interact with like-minded people. Then just like that I loved uni and starting joining everything. The more I got involved, the more friends I became close with, I though they’re such awesome people I want everyone to know about them and about the activities Macquarie has available. The friends I made through Law Review were the first to feature on the page, I thought I would only get 20 followers but now I have over 1,200 because I’ve always had a heap of fun with the page so I’ve never stopped.”

“I started on my phone with portrait mode, now I’ve invested a lot of money into a professional camera making the quality of my page increase so much. I fell in love with photography because of the reactions I received. The same process always happens, people start out insecure, afraid of the camera and feel like they have nothing “interesting” to say. I’m sorry but you are all wrong! Everyone has something to say, from personal experiences or opinions of something they love. When I show people the quality photo I take they fall in love with themselves and a lot of the time they upload it as their profile picture on Facebook. That’s why this whole thing is worth it for me, I get to make people happier with themselves and encourage them to break out of their comfort zone. I never edit any of my photos because with these kinds of portraits it is not needed. Everyone on the page is represented the way they actually look and sound instead of an edited, brushed or healed version of them”.

His confidence spreads to the interviewee, not only making the individual feel special at university, but it carrying through other aspects of their lives. Although Samir hasn’t always been this ball of confidence. Moving to Australia when he was a child he always felt out of place. As a young adult he learned to love his culture and heritage and refused to ignore his natural appearance. His long journey of self-love helps him encourage confidence in everyone he meets.

“I try so hard not to be dry when I approach them, I always start off with chit chat to get to know them and be relatable. We become friends not co-workers. I like to make people extremely comfortable because that’s when they are truly themselves. Obviously the first 20 first photos won’t work, but with experience they get more comfortable in front of the camera and we end up with dozens of stunning photos, I always post the photo they are most happy with. In total one post would take three hours to complete which I repeat every Monday to Friday”.

Even with his wholesome content and a hardworking creator putting in minimum 20 hours a week, Instagram algorithms make it difficult for Samir to grow the page. Since 2016 user feeds are controlled by an algorithm that estimates the type of posts you would like and put the post in order from most relatable to least relatable.

“The algorithm makes a whole lot of followers blinded by my content, regardless if they want to see it or not. When you post the amount of likes and comments you get in the first hour will affect the algorithm, if your post gets lots of attraction in the first hour, Instagram is more likely to put your post at the top of your followers feed”.

“Because of these ridiculous algorithms there are measures I put in to make sure I maximise my engagement. I post consistently at every weekday between the ‘hot hours’ of 8 or 10 at night. With every post I also make a story, influencing viewers who see the story but have missed the post encourages them to check out the post too. I always hashtag similar fields such as the university and photography accounts. I do all these things so as many people as possible get to see the feature of the specific student”.

“Not only am I showing the humans of Macquarie but I’m also showing the humans of the world.” If you want to become apart of this international phenomenon make sure to follow @humansofmq, and send Samir a message.