One woman photographed all 626 of her Facebook friends. Here are 5 of them.
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Sometime between New Year’s Eve 2010 and New Year’s Day 2011, Tanja found herself wondering about the concept of friendship.

The night before, she’d been quietly multitasking — handwriting a letter to a friend deployed in Afghanistan while instant-messaging with another in Indonesia.

Waking up the next day, she was consumed with questions about technology and friendship. She started thinking about whether her online relationships were as real as the ones she’d formed in person. She looked at her list of Facebook friends, hundreds of names long, and wondered: “Am I really friends with all these people?”


She knew she had to find out.

Her plan was simple: Travel to the home of every single one of her 626 Facebook friends, spend time with them, and photograph them.

Tanja Hollander's self-portrait with friends Karin and Barry in Auburn, Maine. All images copyright Tanja Hollander, used with permission.

For five years, Hollander crisscrossed the globe to meet her friends in a project she called "Are You Really My Friend?" She traveled an average of two weeks every month, chronicling her journey for fans on Facebook and Instagram. By the time she ended her trip in Israel in 2016, she’d visited four continents, 12 countries, and 34 states, and she'd been welcomed into more than 400 homes.

“I have crawled on the floor to play Legos and read books with children I just met. I have been shown urban gardens, admired chickens and off-the-grid cabins. I saw a bee sanctuary being built in North St. Louis as part of an urban beautification project. I shared a bowl of gumbo in New Orleans with a friend I hadn’t met in real life. In Washington, D.C., I toured the West Wing with a friend who was a staff photographer for President Obama. I have listened to stories of family tragedy and strength, and the difficulties of surviving in this economic climate. Most importantly, I have learned about human kindness and compassion. I continue to be surprised by the number of people, especially the real-life total strangers who have opened their homes to me — offering me a place to stay, sharing their lives, their stories, and their families while allowing me to document it all.”

Colin Dusenbury and Thaddeus Herrick. Photographed at home in Los Angeles.

As Hollander learned more about herself and friendship through her travels, her fans were eager to share their own musings on the subject.

Hollander began soliciting comments at lectures and events, asking attendees to write their answers to the question “What is a real friend?” on Post-it notes.

She eventually collected hundreds of answers, scanned them one by one, and posted them on her website in a garish, beautiful collage.

“It was fascinating seeing the different ways people answered the question,” she says. “Sometimes a kindergartener would have the same definition of friendship as someone with three Ph.D.s.”

12 Post-it notes from Hollander's collection. There are hundreds more.

There are worse ways to pass an afternoon than scrolling through them.

Responses run the gamut from pithy and witty — “a real friend holds your hair back when you’re drunk” — to profoundly sincere — “a real friend sees you at your best when you’re at your worst” — to surprisingly moving — “a real friend has a different life with the same heart.”

Kyle Durrie, photographed in the Type Truck in Brooklyn, New York.

As for whether the project answered her own questions about friendship, Hollander says it did.

Mary Bok, photographed at her home in Camden, Maine, alongside some adorable furry pals.

“I learned that people come in and out of your life at different times for different reasons,” she says thoughtfully. "There is value in relationships that are fleeting and are ephemeral. I have friends that will go see music with me but won’t go see art with me. That doesn’t mean our friendships are less real. And as we get older and have kids and families and relationships, things will change and continue to change. That doesn’t mean our friendships weren’t meaningful at the time.”

Melody, Ike, and Zachary Nwangburuka, photographed at their home in Converse, Texas.

As for whether friendships can be categorized by whether they happen online or offline, Hollander says her opinion is clear.

“One thing is for certain,” she says. “There isn’t a difference between online friendships and offline friendships. It’s something that weaves in and out of everything we do, from work to friendship — everything, literally. There are some people that I see in person more often than friends that exist only online, but that doesn’t mean I’m closer to the people I see every day.

Social media is just a different way of communicating.”

Courtesy of Tiffany Obi
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With the COVID-19 pandemic upending her community, Brooklyn-based singer Tiffany Obi turned to healing those who had lost loved ones the way she knew best — through music.

Obi quickly ran into one glaring issue as she began performing solo at memorials. Many of the venues where she performed didn't have the proper equipment for her to play a recorded song to accompany her singing. Often called on to perform the day before a service, Obi couldn't find any pianists to play with her on such short notice.

As she looked at the empty piano at a recent performance, Obi's had a revelation.

"Music just makes everything better," Obi said. "If there was an app to bring musicians together on short notice, we could bring so much joy to the people at those memorials."

Using the coding skills she gained at Pursuit — a rigorous, four-year intensive program that trains adults from underserved backgrounds and no prior experience in programming — Obi turned this market gap into the very first app she created.

She worked alongside four other Pursuit Fellows to build In Tune, an app that connects musicians in close proximity to foster opportunities for collaboration.

When she learned about and applied to Pursuit, Obi was eager to be a part of Pursuit's vision to empower their Fellows to build successful careers in tech. Pursuit's Fellows are representative of the community they want to build: 50% women, 70% Black or Latinx, 40% immigrant, 60% non-Bachelor's degree holders, and more than 50% are public assistance recipients.

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Yesterday I was perusing comments on an Upworthy article about Joe Biden comforting the son of a Parkland shooting victim and immediately had flashbacks to the lead-up of the 2016 election. In describing former vice President Biden, some commenters were using the words "criminal," "corrupt," and "pedophile—exactly the same words people used to describe Hillary Clinton in 2016.

I remember being baffled that so many people were so convinced of Clinton's evil schemes that they genuinely saw the documented serial liar and cheat that she was running against as the lesser of two evils. I mean, sure, if you believe that a career politician had spent years being paid off by powerful people and was trafficking children to suck their blood in her free time, just about anything looks like a better alternative.

But none of that was true.

It's been four years and Hillary Clinton has been found guilty of exactly none of the criminal activity she was being accused of. Trump spent every campaign rally leading chants of "Lock her up!" under the guise that she was going to go to jail after the election. He's been president for nearly four years now, and where is Clinton? Not in jail—she's comfy at home, occasionally trolling Trump on Twitter and doing podcasts.

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Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
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Glenda moved to Houston from Ohio just before the pandemic hit. She didn't know that COVID-19-related delays would make it difficult to get her Texas driver's license and apply for unemployment benefits. She quickly found herself in an impossible situation — stranded in a strange place without money for food, gas, or a job to provide what she needed.

Alone, hungry, and scared, Glenda dialed 2-1-1 for help. The person on the other end of the line directed her to the Houston-based nonprofit Bread of Life, founded by St. John's United Methodist pastors Rudy and Juanita Rasmus.

For nearly 30 years, Bread of Life has been at the forefront of HIV/AIDS prevention, eliminating food insecurity, providing permanent housing to formerly homeless individuals and disaster relief.

Glenda sat in her car for 20 minutes outside of the building, trying to muster up the courage to get out and ask for help. She'd never been in this situation before, and she was terrified.

When she finally got out, she encountered Eva Thibaudeau, who happened to be walking down the street at the exact same time. Thibaudeau is the CEO of Temenos CDC, a nonprofit multi-unit housing development also founded by the Rasmuses, with a mission to serve Midtown Houston's homeless population.

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Whatever it was, Edmund decided to reach out to Twitter and share what he was feeling.

"I am not ok," he wrote. "Feeling rock bottom. Please take a few seconds to say hello if you see this tweet. Thank you."

O'Leary didn't have a huge Twitter following, but somehow his tweet started getting around quickly. Response after response started flowing in from all over the world, even from some famous folks. Thousands of people seemed to resonate with Edmund's sweet and honest call for help and rallied to send him support and good cheer.

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With the election quickly approaching, the importance of voting and sending in your ballot on time is essential. But there is another way you can vote everyday - by being intentional with each dollar you spend. Support companies and products that uphold your values and help create a more sustainable world. An easy move is swapping out everyday items that are often thrown away after one use or improperly disposed of.

Package Free Shop has created products to help fight climate change one cotton swab at a time! Founded by Lauren Singer, otherwise known as, "the girl with the jar" (she initially went viral for fitting 8 years of all of the waste she's created in one mason jar). Package Free is an ecosystem of brands on a mission to make the world less trashy.

Here are eight of our favorite everyday swaps:

1. Friendsheep Dryer Balls - Replace traditional dryer sheets with these dryer balls that are made without chemicals and conserve energy. Not only do these also reduce dry time by 20% but they're so cute and come in an assortment of patterns!

Package Free Shop

2. Last Swab - Replacement for single use plastic cotton swabs. Nearly 25.5 billion single use swabs are produced and discarded every year in the U.S., but not this one. It lasts up to 1,000 uses as it's able to be cleaned with soap and water. It also comes in a biodegradable, corn based case so you can use it on the go!

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