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.”

Images courtesy of Mark Storhaug & Kaiya Bates

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The experiences we have at school tend to stay with us throughout our lives. It's an impactful time where small acts of kindness, encouragement, and inspiration go a long way.

Schools, classrooms, and teachers that are welcoming and inclusive support students' development and help set them up for a positive and engaging path in life.

Here are three of our favorite everyday actions that are spreading kindness on campus in a big way:

Image courtesy of Mark Storhaug

1. Pickleball to Get Fifth Graders Moving

Mark Storhaug is a 5th grade teacher at Kingsley Elementary in Los Angeles, who wants to use pickleball to get his students "moving on the playground again after 15 months of being Zombies learning at home."

Pickleball is a paddle ball sport that mixes elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis, where two or four players use solid paddles to hit a perforated plastic ball over a net. It's as simple as that.

Kingsley Elementary is in a low-income neighborhood where outdoor spaces where kids can move around are minimal. Mark's goal is to get two or three pickleball courts set up in the schoolyard and have kids join in on what's quickly becoming a national craze. Mark hopes that pickleball will promote movement and teamwork for all his students. He aims to take advantage of the 20-minute physical education time allotted each day to introduce the game to his students.

Help Mark get his students outside, exercising, learning to cooperate, and having fun by donating to his GoFundMe.

Image courtesy of Kaiya Bates

2. Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids

According to the WHO around 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression. In the US, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 1 in 20 experience severe mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Kaiya Bates, who was recently crowned Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen for 2022, is one of those people, and has endured severe anxiety, depression, and selective mutism for most of her life.

Through her GoFundMe, Kaiya aims to use her "knowledge to inspire and help others through their mental health journey and to spread positive and factual awareness."

She's put together regulation kits (that she's used herself) for teachers to use with students who are experiencing stress and anxiety. Each "CALM-ing" kit includes a two-minute timer, fidget toolboxes, storage crates, breathing spheres, art supplies and more.

Kaiya's GoFundMe goal is to send a kit to every teacher in every school in the Pasco School District in Washington where she lives.

To help Kaiya achieve her goal, visit Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids.

Image courtesy of Julie Tarman

3. Library for a high school heritage Spanish class

Julie Tarman is a high school Spanish teacher in Sacramento, California, who hopes to raise enough money to create a Spanish language class library.

The school is in a low-income area, and although her students come from Spanish-speaking homes, they need help building their fluency, confidence, and vocabulary through reading Spanish language books that will actually interest them.

Julie believes that creating a library that affirms her students' cultural heritage will allow them to discover the joy of reading, learn new things about the world, and be supported in their academic futures.

To support Julie's GoFundMe, visit Library for a high school heritage Spanish class.

Do YOU have an idea for a fundraiser that could make a difference? Upworthy and GoFundMe are celebrating ideas that make the world a better, kinder place. Visit upworthy.com/kindness to join the largest collaboration for human kindness in history and start your own GoFundMe.

via Gage Skidmore/Flickr and Terry Morgan/Flickr

Senator Ted Cruz and a kangaroo.

Conservative media in the United States has painted Australia as a state on the brink of authoritarianism due to strict COVID-19 protections in some parts of the country. These news outlets appear to be using the country as an example of what can happen in America if liberal politicians go unchecked.

Fox News' Tucker Carlson ran a story on Australia earlier this month claiming the country "looks a lot like China did at the beginning of the pandemic." He ended it by saying that "what's happening in Australia might be instructive to us in the United States" and that things can "change very quickly" and become "dystopian and autocratic."

Carlson provides zero reasons why Americans should be fearful of becoming an autocratic country due to COVID-19, beyond the idea that "things can change very quickly" so his appeals sound a lot more like fear-mongering than genuine concern.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."