But one man, Brandon Stanton took on an unexpected endeavor to fix stereotypes. Not by pretending to be the savior of humanity or prophetizing a cause for humanity. But by telling stories of people, and with one story at a time, Stanton's page Humans of New York is changing minds of thousands across the globe.
Be it a soldier from Pakistan, a Persian teacher or an Indian housewife frustrated by her mother-in-law, the rather trivial nature of the platform (a Facebook page) is blurring geographical lines and uniting the world on emotions that are unexpectedly universal.
Not only does Humans of New York present the world and its people through an honest eye, but also proves how travel is not just about tourism. Packing your bags, customary visits to tourist attractions and coming back home, doesn't make much difference. You might as well visit China, Jerusalem or Russia, and the visit would be of no effect. It's the people, who make Iran different from Iraq, and who have lived lives which will fill you with emotions of deep relatability and extreme gratitude.
Here is how Brandon Stanton is breaking stereotypes for 14.2 million people everyday.
By showing that memories of love, are most cherished across age and countries.
"I met him in a youth movement when I was 15. In the old days things moved very slow. We took a long time to fall in love mentally. Then one night we decided to go see a movie, and there was a blackout in the theater. And because nobody could see... we held hands. Oh man, that was a very big deal back then! Then a few weeks later, he brought me an orange. Oranges were very rare! There were no oranges anywhere. That's when he got his kiss."
And love, doesn't always have an happy ending. Neither for Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner, nor for a shepherd in Jordan.
"We were engaged for six months, but her parents made her marry a richer man."
"What's the last thing you said to her?"
"I told her: 'I've done all that I can do. I wish you happiness in your life.'"
And it is for love, that all battles are willing to be fought.
"We just want to be together and not be afraid."
Children across the planet are filled with dreams.
"I'm going to be an astronaut. There's another world out there. And I want to go there."
She said she wanted to be a pilot, and when I asked why, she spoke two words. My translator said: "She says, something like: 'I want to be able to control myself in the air.'"
"But what exactly did she say?" I asked.
"'Kuar Nhial,' he answered. 'It means: 'I'll be the leader of the air.'"
(Tongping Internally Displaced Persons Site, Juba, South Sudan)
"I want to be a pilot so I can fly everywhere."
No parent anywhere likes their kids leaving.
"She's our only child. She started college in Michigan this year. I took this photo on the day that I dropped her off at school. The morning I left, I walked into her dorm room, and saw a bundle under the covers. I said: 'Sweetie, do you want to say bye to your dad?' Then I saw that the bundle was shaking. I pulled back the covers, and her eyes were filled with tears. My heart was melting when I left. These days I stay at the office as long as possible, because my wife works late, and I don't want to be at home with no one there."
And not all trips taken by those kids end up in epiphany.
"I just came back from ten months in Asia. I learned a lot about myself."
"What's one thing you learned?"
"If you do what you love, the way will always open."
"What do you love?"
"That's what I have to figure out next."
War, is nobody's friend.
"The new recruits had to walk in front."
(Ho Chi Minh City / Saigon, Vietnam)
It breaks families,
"My father left for war in 1992, and never came home. Our mother didn't tell us he was dead for a long time. We just thought he was still fighting. But one day we were being extremely difficult, and she started crying, and said: "Please behave. I'm a single mother now. So I'm going to need your help."
(Juba, South Sudan)
And haunts children (that smile though),
"She always dreams about the bombs." (Erbil, Iraq)
We often forget that those fighting wars are people, with families and homes,
“This is the worst time of my life. I have two brothers. A few years ago, one of them was diagnosed with polio. And he can’t walk anymore. And last year, my other brother got a brain tumor. And he can no longer remember my name. So one brother needs me to be his legs. And the other needs me to be his mind. My father is too old to work, so I support us all on a soldier’s salary. If something happens to me, there will be no hope for any of us.”
(Hunza Valley, Pakistan)
Suffering and fighting without a sign of contempt.
"Before I went to the protest that day, I stood in front of a picture of the Dalai Lama, and I swore an oath: 'If I am arrested, I will not give the names of any of my friends.' They put me through eight months of interrogation. They burned cigarettes on my face. They made me stand in ice for four hours, until my skin froze into the ice, and then they pushed me forward. They gave me electric shocks on my tongue. They told me they were going to kill my father and mother. After eight months, I had a trial. Two guards stood next to me when I testified, and they hid electric shocks in my sleeves in case I said something they didn't like. I was sentenced to four years. Sometimes I'd get so hungry I'd eat toothpaste. And sometimes I'd get so thirsty, I'd drink my urine. When I finally got out, I weighed 39 kilograms."
But with great pain, comes great wisdom.
"My mother died when I was three. I don't remember much about her. But I do remember, when she was very sick at the hospital, she said to me: 'Never let a man steal your life.'"
About being a respectable community member,
"How did I become a community leader? Every time there's a wedding, I go to say 'Congratulations.' Every time there's a funeral, I go to say: 'I'm sorry.'"
And about the joys of not over-thinking everything.
"I'll do this until something better comes along. Then I'll do that."
The world is basically full of animals and humans being adorable.
Seen in Ho Chi Minh City / Saigon, Vietnam
Look at that cat, and kid.
Seen in Bila Tserkva, Ukraine.
Who won't find little monkeys hugging each other cute.
Just two baby monkeys hugging.
The purpose of Humans of New York is not to redeem the world of it's evils. But to break the polarities of mainstream media and tell stories; of love, pain, hope, dreams and struggles.
No matter how small.
"I'm trying to look at my phone less."