Accounts: WhatIsNewYork; SubwayCreatures
Follow for: Viral videos and double-click-worthy photos documenting eccentric NYC subway passengers, hilarious notes between neighbors, peculiar pets and the occasional heartening moment. Locals and visitors capture quirky content and submit clips to be featured and watched by millions of followers from all over the world.
What’s your relationship to New York City?
Rick McGuire: I grew up just across the river in New Jersey. As a kid, I was always in the City and knew it was the place I was going to live—surrounded by the chaos that makes this city so interesting. Manhattan is definitely my favorite borough. It really does feel like the center of the universe.
WhatIsNewYork and SubwayCreatures show a side of New York City that resonates with a huge audience. How do you think your profiles fit into the overall perception people have of NYC?
RM: The reason the pages have been so successful is the wild content that is sent in on a regular basis from my followers. Out-of-towners can’t believe this is everyday life for New Yorkers, and New Yorkers love the page because they can relate to it so well. I've actually had people tell me they put the NYC subway on their to-do list when they visit because of all the crazy things they’ve seen on @subwaycreatures.
What do you think the value is of showing this personality-driven side of the City?
RM: I like to say that the pages celebrate the uniqueness of NYC. They spotlight the diversity of its people and show that it's OK to wave that freak flag and be yourself. I find myself saying a lot of the time, “That person isn't necessarily crazy. It's just a New Yorker being a New Yorker.” I think a lot of people around here understand exactly what that means. There are times when the comment section can offer extra information like identifying who someone is or why they are doing what they are doing. It allows us to understand some of these crazy videos a little better.
How has riding the subway changed in your opinion over the pandemic? Did you take any time off from it during Covid?
RM: Before Covid I was always in the subway and presenting pop-up concerts with big-name musicians. Obviously, those had to be put on hold (still are) and I watched life in the subway become almost nonexistent. I vividly remember someone sending me a video of the 42nd Street/Port Authority stop on a Tuesday evening at 5pm and there was not one person on the platform. That really put things in perspective. I still find myself in the subway a lot but nowhere near as much as I used to.
What’s the most “New York” thing you've witnessed on the subway?
RM: A woman getting on the train with her luggage and the [luggage] wheel getting stuck between the train and the platform. The doors wouldn't close, which also meant the train couldn’t leave the station. Everyone from that subway car got out and rocked the subway train so she could free her bag. It was followed by applause from everyone, and while it was amazing to see people helping someone who needed it, I realized it was New Yorkers realizing they couldn’t get home unless the problem was taken care of.
What are some of your favorite NYC IG accounts?
RM: I'm going to stay away from some of the common answers for this one and give some exposure to the hidden gems. @dannycortesnyc is an awesome follow. He makes unbelievable miniature replicates of bodegas, buildings and other NYC landmarks. I also like the @discernation team, who interview New York artists and creatives and tell their stories.