SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - A snapshot and a story! The popular "Humans of" project on the internet and social media has found it's way to a San Diego high school.
From selfies, to photo filters, to that bright white smile, social media is a world that perpetuates perfection. But to some, it seems the fascination with other people's lives has turned into starvation for real life.
Salwa says when she set out on campus with her camera in hand, taking pictures was the easy part, but building trust was a lot harder.
She talks about the initial reaction she received from underclassmen about her project. "They thought I was pulling a senior prank on them and they were, like, we know you're going to put us in a garbage can and light us on fire, that's what we've heard," she said half in fun. She assured them she was not and just wanted to ask them a few questions to go along with the photos for her social media page.
To Salwa's surprise, a few dozen followers turned into several hundred, then thousands.
When she offered to keep some posts anonymous, students really opened up. There were posts on academic achievements, campus life, and friendships.
One girl revealed that she had been abused and was depressed. The post drew a lot of attention at her school and opened up a discussion on getting help for students in need.
Salwa says no topic is off limits, from the death of a parent, to depression and even suicide attempts.
"I couldn't sleep at night ... people are telling me stuff that I had a hard time listening to. That was really intense," she said.
Sophomore Zade Noman shared his father's very personal story of being the victim of a bombing.
"In my community, because we're Muslims, we all get stereotyped because of terrorists and stuff," he said.
It received so much reaction that, in the post's comments section, some students apologized for calling him names.
"Everyone is the same and everyone is going through stuff," Zade said.
Sophomore Mika Sueyoshi wasn't afraid to be a bit more candid about a health situation she went through.
"It was cancerous and it's called solid pseudopapillary neoplasm of the pancreas," she said. She received her cancer diagnosis, a rare tumor usually found in young women, three years ago.
Mika says it was scary at that time but she can laugh about it now. Her wound has healed, but the scar she proudly wears is a reminder.
"I like to tell my friends if it doesn't hurt and you don't think it's anything, get it checked out because it could be really serious," she said.
Salwa says there has been so much interest surrounding her page that the Huffington Post picked up the story and eight other schools in the district emulated the idea.
Now she travels around the county advising students on how to start their own "Humans" page.
Salwa says the idea is spreading and so is the compassion.
"Being able to read someone else's story and then see them in the hallways, and think, I know a lot more about that person than I did before - that's powerful," she said.
Salwa is graduating this year and will attend San Diego State University.
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