How “Humans of Framingham State” went viral overnight

Photo courtesy of Humans of Framingham State

Moments after their first post hit social media, the notifications flooded the phones of the six “Humans of Framingham State” team members.

“I remember messaging the group after 20 likes and saying, ‘this is going to trend up very quickly,’” said senior and team member Tyler DeMoura. “‘If we got seven likes in 30 seconds, this is going to blow up tonight.’”

DeMoura’s predictions were right.

Their first post, which featured the notoriously cheerful Sodexo worker, Clara, “passed over about 40,000 people’s screens – which is far more people that even go or work here combined,” said DeMoura, citing Facebook’s analytics charts.

Their debut post received the most attention. The quote that the group decided to use was said after the simple question, “Where are you from?” Her response –

“I am a medical technologist formerly. I worked in Puerto Rico for 40 years. I learned all the things also and now I am trying to paint a little. I like it. I learned when I was young, so now in between students I draw some things – flowers, animals, things, sometimes tennis shoes, bottles.”

Team member and junior, Caroline Beermann, did not expect the impact the page would have.  “Our original goal was to get up to 50 likes, but now we’ve got up to 700 likes,” she said.

“Humans of Framingham State” is Beermann’s brain child, and a product of much deliberation. The page arose from a Communication Arts capstone project and was inspired by the popular “Humans of New York,” which started as a book and segued to social media.

The project is to make a change on campus.

The group of five seniors, DeMoura, Merissa Zaltzberg, Kayla Hopkins, Candace McOsker and Tabby Silvia, and one junior, Beermann, tossed around a few ideas, but could not fully agree on anything at first. Beermann suggested “Humans of Framingham State” as a last ditch effort.

Other groups in the class are launching a campaign to get more outlets in the library, another group has ‘before I graduate’ boards and another starting a ‘read freely’ textbook campaign where they donate their used textbooks to the library.

But these other efforts have not received the attention that “Humans of Framingham State” has. DeMoura said that it’s not that the other capstone projects are not successful, but this project is designed to draw attention.

“I think it’s just very much the type of project we chose,” he said. “It’s just naturally one that would garner more attention. There’s nothing wrong with everyone else’s projects, obviously, they’re all cool. It’s just that ours is the kind of thing that I think spreads more easily.”

They explained how their project fit into the capstone’s criteria – making a difference on campus. “On a small campus like ours,” said DeMoura, “you see the same people and the same groups of people every day.”

The team looked at several similar pages from different schools and communities in order to learn from their failures and successes.

“Personally,” said Beermann, “I think a lot of them failed because they were too based around the school.”

In order to avoid this, the team dodges asking questions such as, “Why did you choose this school?” Instead, they ask questions about who the subjects are and how they came to be here.

“We had no idea we would get this kind of response, so we had no reason to discuss keeping it going,” Beermann said. “This is just for a class, but I’d like to think it won’t just stay for a class.”

The team hopes to keep the project alive into next year, despite that five of them are graduating in May.

“Tyler and I have discussed maybe making it into a club to keep it student-run,” she said. “People would be more likely to open up to a student rather than a faculty member.”

In addition to posting to their Facebook page every other day, they are also promoting their Instagram page, and considering arranging a gallery viewing of the posts at the Red Barn in the library to reach more students.

“We’re trying to create a more inclusive community on campus by going around and talking to students and staff, just to get more of an idea about who they are,” Beermann said. “And that it’s OK to go up to a person you saw in a post and say ‘Hello.’”