“13 Reasons Why” and Media’s Effect on Mental Health

Last Friday, Ontarian’s saw their first school board make an official statement pertaining to the new Netflix original Drama “13 Reasons Why”, an adaptation of the 2007 Jay Asher novel of the same name. “Incidents of self-harm can increase after media portrayals of suicide. We do not want to contribute to this. We know, of course, that some students will watch this series or read the book outside of school”, wrote The Hamilton Wentworth District School Board on their website.

Disclaimer: I still have not finished “13 Reasons Why”. I know…I have brought shame to my millennial counterparts. But alas, after every episode I found myself searching for words to describe how the show made me feel. Amongst the uneasy feelings evoked, I knew one thing was consistent; I was searching for a clear-cut “like it” or “don’t like it” assessment.

As I begin to present both the pros and cons of this show, I now know that the answer is not that simple.

My most powerful argument against this show does not echo the most common complaints from viewers/critics (its graphic depictions and controversial topics). I actually find that those themes are what makes the show truly hook the viewer in. The “shock-value” that has viewers thinking “I can’t believe that this could be real” or “Do these things still happen in school?” is an effective attention-grabber.

What I find most detrimental to this show and its effect on young people actually has little to do with the show at all; it’s all about the medium. By that I mean that it’s a Netflix original.  Netflix, as we know, is a relatively uncensored database of TV and Films promoting “binge-culture”. Netflix just recently reported having 100 million subscribers, with more than 60% of Americans saying they binge-watch and 37% of teens reporting they watch Netflix every single day.

This medium has quite obviously changed the way we consume visual media, but has also made acquiring content meant for adults much easier than it was pre-Netflix. I relate it back to my “torrenting” days, where downloading any R-rated content was a risky activity, usually inviting an abundance of viruses to destroy your computer.

Hannah-Baker

Promotional still for “13 Reasons Why”. Courtesy of  www.thespinoff.co.nz

I’m not foolish to believe there weren’t ways around getting your hands on adult content back then. I grew up in a relatively strict house when it came to mature content, but I had friends who had older siblings that purchased or rented content, which trickled down into our juvenile hands. In contrast to now, things are much simpler. Teens can easily (and sneakily, might I add) download services like Netflix onto their phones, TVs, and video game consoles, and welcome themselves to a wealth of relatively unrestricted content.

You may also argue that since “13 Reasons Why” was initially a book, any potential threat the storyline poses on someone with mental health issues has existed for years. It is my personal opinion that while literature certainly provides uniquely extensive detail (he says modestly as a writer…), the visual imagery that is depicted in the TV version allow for a much darker and more impactful perception. It is my best idea that this is attributed to the subconscious characteristics we observe but don’t regularly notice. Characteristics such as the visual style and score often combine together to create an incredibly addicting program, able to trigger those already vulnerable to mental health struggles.

I am far from a mental health expert, but I figure I should explain what “trigger” aspects I found most noticeable in the ten episodes I have watched thus far. I believe that Hannah Baker (the main character who commits suicide and whose story you are chasing) receives a great deal of attention for the impact of her suicide. Some find that this glorifies suicide and self-harming behavior. For example, imagine the impression this may have on an extremely lonely and isolated individual. Could this portray that in order to gain the attention you have craved night after night, the easy way is to cause yourself serious harm? Additionally, Hannah sends all those who have wronged her in the past a set of audio tapes and a map, creating what at time feels like a game or treasure hunt.

Now, here’s where I would like to flip the script.

13 Reasons Why could feasibly give naïve viewers (whether teens, young adults, parents, etc.) a somewhat accurate representation of warning signs to look for in someone who is suffering. Observing the way characters react with each other can often help the viewer begin to draw conclusions and reflect on their own relationships. For example, seeing a character avoiding their home life at all costs (only to be revealed that his mother has substance abuse problems), is a very relatable plotline that unfortunately happens in real-life. These plotlines serve well as a reality check; an eye-opener that these are real-world issues.

An open line of communication is often the key to any healthy relationship. Adding the potential hazards of overexposure to media into the mix, should make the need for communication between parents and kids even greater. Parents need to have an honest conversation with their kids about bullying, depression and the many other themes this show explores. It doesn’t have to be prying or as awkward as “so…um…do you get uh…bullied?” It can start of as reflective, letting your kids know that these teenage hardships are not new, that they most likely occurred when you were a teenager, and that it’s up to kids like yours to stand up and help end them.

Another aspect of the show that reinforces why parents and educators should be having a conversation with teens is just how disoriented or out of the loop every adult seems to be in this show. The producers do a fantastic job of illustrating just how easy it is for adults to get overly involved in their own life, especially if there is poor communication between them and their kids.

I enjoyed how “13 Reasons Why” accurately depicts to the viewers which characters really loved and cared Hannah, and which did not. Throughout the show, many classmates as well as school faculty exude a very “I’m in it for me” type of mentality, worrying about their reputation and displaying other self-absorbed behaviors. Again, with the proper reflection, these portrayals of may be an asset to a teen who is being neglected or taken advantage of by their friend(s).

“Characteristics such as the visual style and score often combine together to create an incredibly addicting program, able to trigger those already vulnerable to mental health struggles.”

Finally, I found this op-ed in Vanity Fair by writer Nic Sheff to be pretty compelling. He recounts a story of how a woman he met in a rehab centre once graphically described her own suicide attempt. Finding himself struggling with his own drug abuse, Sheff once attempted to take his own life. After recounting the terrifying memory of the woman’s graphic detail, he stopped his suicide attempt cold in its tracks. Sheff cites this occurrence as his sole inspiration for portraying the graphic detail in which Hannah Baker commits suicide. He fought hard to keep it in the show and stood by the reality that “suicide is not relief at all,—it’s a screaming, agonizing horror.”

I’m not naïve enough to end this off by pleading to parents to restrict their kids from watching this. It doesn’t take an expert to explain how telling your kids not to do something makes them a thousand times more likely to do it. What I would like to plead here is to talk openly about it. Your kids, or your parents can take it. If you don’t have an open relationship with your kids and you’re too afraid to start; it’s now or never. Mental health and bullying are very real problems that plague schools in a multitude of ways, whether we accept that or not. Acknowledging that their existence and talking about ways to combat them may not only make the lives of youth more enjoyable, but it may save them all together.

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Are we still talking about millennials?

By now, I’m sure you have heard a ton of stereotypes about millennials.“Lazy”, “unmotivated”, “entitled” and overall “poorly suited for the working world”. You have probably seen the countless articles on your LinkedIn, memes on Twitter, and you have almost definitely seen the 15 minute Simon Sinek dissection of millennials in the workplace that’s been viral as of late.

Personally, I’ve grown really tired of it…and not your regular “I got six hours of sleep last night instead of a healthy eight” type of “tired” either, more like a “I’ve mentally ran six back-to-back marathons and I’m exhausted”.

It seems every news outlet would like a seat on the millennial hate-train, from Forbes to Rolling Stone magazine (Yes, I’m serious). The problem is that most of these articles consist either of click-baity nonsense, or they are loaded with “facts” that are circumstantial.

Thankfully, researchers who provide factual information in order to prove or disprove still exist in the world (I know…it’s rare, but it’s real, I swear!). For example, this peer-reviewed study examines the work values between Baby Boomers, Generation X and millennials, finding that they differ ever so slightly.

There is no denying that as a millennial, we speak, act and learn differently than the generations that came before us.

Still, what continues to irk me are the unfair stereotypes millennials are subjected to. Specifically, that they are unfit employees. Recruiters are often feared into thinking that to hire a millennial is to hire a narcissistic, selfie-taking, unqualified employee…and it is total nonsense. For example, despite having little to no job security, some studies show that millennials most often hold job security above a competitive annual salary. It is reasonable to consider that maybe recruiters should feel more reassured about millennials, given that they are also facing adversity in home-ownership and working in their field of study; challenges that are not quite comparable to past generations. In turn, these are stronger motives for millennials to feel a drive for success, and loyalty for your company or organization.

10_years_work_experience

Courtesy of Dailyhaha.com

You do not have to look far to find how we different from Boomers and Gen X’ers. A simple example of which is the way we consume news and media. All generations are free to own and absorb the same technology and information, yet it is the millennial generation who are illustrated for having technology frequently at their fingertips. Therefore, would that make ALL millennials distracted, info-hungry savages who singlehandedly killed the traditional news mediums?

No.

It merely suggests that we’ve adjusted to the “on-the-go” world, which we were merely born and raised in. Like many living species, we’ve found ways to adapt to our surroundings, in order to  refrain from being left behind. As a millennial, I often fantasize of a simpler time where we weren’t connected to multi-media 24 hours a day…especially since our instant-news habits have shown signs of having a negative impact on our physical and mental health.

There is no denying that as a millennial, we speak, act and learn differently than the generations that came before us.

I realize it seems a bit hypocritical that I’m defending the “bashing” of millennials, by flipping the script and “bashing” past generations. I am well aware that every generation has had their own bout of difficulties, and feel a strong admiration for those who rose above those hardships. Being raised by immigrant grandparents and first-generation parents, the challenge of adversity has never been lost on me.

I think it should all come down to critiquing a person’s work by the qualities that have stood the “test of time”. These are assets and virtues which have practically been enrooted in human culture for generations. To list just a few qualities I admire:

  • Your “hunger” (Do you crave success or are you here to just “coast”?)
  • Ability to work on a team/work individually (self-explanatory)
  • Perseverance (If there’s a fire and you get burnt, do you run away or do you heal and hustle on?)
  • Interpersonal skills (being glued to your phone is one thing, but do you understand when emotion and eye contact are needed?)

The beauty about these skills and virtues is that they know no background, no age, no ethnicity. They are human. You acquire them when you experience life; making mistakes, learning from experiences, meeting new people, exploring and discovering as a human being. There is no generation that is exempted from any of this. So please, before you launch the next 100 millennial resumes into the trash or blame them for something they have no involvement in (like your losing lottery ticket), make sure you’re really checking the facts.

Now I’m going to go take 10 selfies while live-feeding myself watching a Netflix marathon and online shopping.

You know, typical millennial stuff.

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Graphic Media and Censorship

Last Friday, a day after the attack in Nice (which at the time I’m writing this, already feels like a few months ago…rather than 7 days.) the CBC published a thought-provoking article exploring what the effects of graphic images have on the public. Further than just one’s psyche, they explore the impressions graphic images actually have on the media industry and what the value is in sharing these images. The idea of this had me hooked, and I was immediately reminded of (now fairly well known) case studies of graphic images and whether or not they should be censored. Most notably, we remember the Falling Man from the 9/11 terror attacks, and how it was published on the front day of the New York Times the very next day.

Without getting into too much detail, this became a case study for media professionals everywhere simply because it was a “game-time” decision to run the photograph, subsequently turning the heads of the nation, especially those of families whose wounds were as fresh as they ever would be. Prior to and since then, western media has been on a fairly good run of censoring graphic or non-family-friendly material from media outlets. Granted, the implementation of technologies like time-delays on live TV made censorship efforts easier throughout the years, but it still begs a number of questions. Have we been doing it right? Are we robbing people of the truth and cutting out the full scale reality of the story?

Enter social media.

We’re all aware of the instantaneous updates social media allows for when breaking news occurs. In total honesty, this is not going to be a blog bashing social media for that reason­—in fact it’s going to be quite the opposite. Considering that my most easily recalled examples happen to be the positive ones like  the creation of Facebook Saftey Checks, Live tweeting attacks censored by media and government, and constant police shootings in the USA, which provide a real-time and potentially unbiased view (such as but is not limited to, Alton Sterling). All of these examples, despite some include shocking content matter, proved to have an undeniable impact on the dissemination of media in terms of frequency, timeliness and global reach. Something that was unimaginable a mere 10 years ago­—and giving credit where credit is due, it is a huge advancement for social media given Facebooks compared to 10 years ago when it was just an online tool for picking up Harvard sorority girls.

2016_06_02-Socialmedia-arrests-ILL_homepage-3-23259958881

The gift and curse is that these technologies have given us a front row seat to dramatic incidents. With all this technology and censorship…we arrive at another problem. There is no censoring social media. Take this Facebook live-stream shooting for example, was the gang violence in here really worth being spread around the world? Does it offer any value to deterring those from joining gangs, or does it help provide an entertainment factor for those who may already be too desensitized to real life violence.

That, I believe, is the true issue with uncensored media. The fact that I can log onto Twitter or Facebook and watch a man being shot in full focus is definitely disturbing, but what does it say for our everyday lives that watching that no longer shocks me in the slightest. In fact, it almost seems (with no disrespect for the lives of others intended)…mundane in today’s world. That is to say, it is almost expected, not surprising, part of the routine. All of that is a pretty sickening thought. As CBC put it, it’s hard to scroll through Facebook at work or with kids when you’re anticipating seeing a cute dog or your friends at a highly-rated restaurant…but instead you get images of a man being shot repeatedly in the chest or people running for their lives through streets and alleyways.

Again, I am torn to think that maybe the desensitization humans attribute towards media play apart in our violent tendencies. In other words, are some of us incapable as human beings to distinguish when entertainment violence (watching a Die hard movie) and real life violence (war, gang culture) are damaging or not?

It’s a heck of a lot harder to censor when the media is in the hands of the public rather than the opposite.

Yes, there is a very real possibility that someone who already has a real violent persona or perhaps a mental illness may watch a real news story be motivated to attack innocent people as well; it doesn’t always have to be fake. But, logic dictates that to be entertained by high-speed car chases, reckless behavior and explosion…and to actually harm human beings should be different worlds

I think more attention needs to be given to devising a plan to stop desensitization. The harsh reality is it takes effort to sit back after watching violent news images or videos and remembering that this happened to someone like you. What’s worse is that these reflections have almost become cliché. To think or say “this was a loved one, someone you’d pass by on the street or sit next to on the bus” have to become desensitized statements; stripped of the emotions which make them powerful and earnest.

In short, there are a lot of attempts to put protocols in place…but without some real totalitarian control (which would end up doing more to set us back then bring us forward), I don’t see it being possible to filter everything that is not “family-friendly” out of it. It’s a heck of a lot harder to censor when the media is in the hands of the public rather than the opposite.

The Panama Papers highlight how anonymity fuels corruption — TED Blog

TED Prize winner Charmian Gooch has worked for years to end anonymous shell companies. At TED2014, she gave the audience a look at how anonymity feeds corruption. Yesterday’s release of the Panama Papers illustrates her message, with 11.5 million documents that paint a picture of a global network of anonymous dealings. Photo: James Duncan Davidson/TED A trail…

via The Panama Papers highlight how anonymity fuels corruption — TED Blog

Mansbridge vs. Henein: What we SHOULD be discussing

There’s been a lot of chatter over the web the last few days since CBC’s juggernaut and The National host Peter Mansbridge sat down with Marie Henein, the brilliant and well-spoken defence attorney for former CBC employee Jian Ghomeshi. The interview, which aired Tuesday night, came after Ghomeshi was acquitted of all sexual assault charges. Henein herself has received copious amounts of backlash from many Canadian women citing that she allegedly did harm to the reputation of women everywhere after deciding to take on Ghomeshi’s case.

The interest I have in all of this is does not derive from the case from a legal point of view, which in my own (admittedly basic) opinion was a closed case after Henein helped narrate a story of “he said, she said” between Ghomeshi and his sexual partners. Instead, I’d like to focus on the Mansbridge interview specifically, as already done by Leah McLaren of Chatelaine in this incredibly insightful article. As we see in the media everyday, any good interview whether in video, audio or writing attempts to hammer home the points of whatever argument is attempting to be proven with little breathing room for argument. That is a given. However, I’d love to explore the reasoning behind these arguments and what real, undisputed (at least for now) takeaways we can find from both sides of this sit-down.

To begin, here’s what you need to know. The interview is approximately 20 minutes long. Of those twenty minutes, Mansbridge rarely focuses on anything else besides the fact that Marie Henein is a woman who is defending a man on the hook for allegedly harming women in sexual acts with no consent. Immediately, it became clear that this was the interviews sole angle. This is what either Mansbridge himself, or his producers have decided will be the theme of the hard pressing questions that will follow in the next 20 minutes. And honestly, can you blame them? It is all that has been talked about since Henein stepped on the scene and was purposefully hired by Ghomeshi in November of 2014. These are the questions every average citizen in Canada wants to be asking, sitting in Mansbridge’s chair and staring Henein in the face. “Why? Why him? Why put yourself in the position to be portrayed as an advocate AGAINST women”?

jian-ghomeshi-trial

Courtesy of cbc.ca

But of course, this is not the case, is it? While radiating sophistication and composure, Marie Henein stuck to her guns. She has a job to uphold, and it’s a little thing called the law. Within this justice system, the bottom line remains that (At the risk of repeating this so much as to call it a cliché); we are to be innocent until proven guilty. While I won’t bore you with the details of the Ghomeshi case, the evidence showed how numerous women attempted to keep in contact with Ghomeshi after they were allegedly assaulted, which in turn poked a giant hole in the prosecutions narrative that these women were broken and betrayed after the alleged assault. Thus, it becomes 100 times harder to absolutely convict Ghomeshi when the character of the accusers is being questioned.

Going back to the interview, the thematic questions Mansbridge uses throughout the duration of the interview continually intrigues me. If you’re having a hard time following my fascination, simply ask yourself the following questions. Would this interview between Mansbridge and Henein be as widespread if this theme of women’s right and consent was not consistently asked about? Would it be shared on Facebook and Twitter? Would you have watched the interview in full? Would you have watched it at all?

I’d have to argue that the viewership would have been dismal, and that’s what it breaks down to. Yes, the questioning is tiring for some. But for others, they want to hear what a lawyer has to say outside of the courtroom, where they can watch his/her reaction, get visual cues on his/her emotions, etc. This is media, and we are in the business of driving viewership and emotional engagement. It is what draws us to fictional programming the same way that it can draw us to non-fictional programming.

The main issue I have with this interview is simple: It does not push forward the subject. We can talk about how Mansbridge is indeed an older, white male who works for a government-funded media conglomerate, therefore maybe the questions would have been a bit different from a reporter who is a young woman. But why are we are still talking about the same “why would you do that” and “how could you” that we have been since before the trial and during the trial? The issues that need to be confronted are things like awareness of consent, knowledge of what to do when you find yourself in these situations (especially with a co-worker) and perhaps expanding that knowledge in multiple channels so that a woman can, for example, not fear about losing their job when they want to make a formal complaint about someone who has a lot of power in their workplace/everyday life. Furthermore, how about being proactive and finding a way to really show men how inexcusable this behaviour is, instead of waiting for women to have a problem that needs to be dealt with.

This is media, and we are in the business of driving viewership and emotional engagement

These are more widespread, multifaceted issues that may seem impossibly attainable for some, but will only stay that way if we keep entertaining interviews with (to borrow the words from McLaren of Chatelaine) very basic and toothless questions.

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Canada’s residency versus healthcare double standard

A very informative story broke on the CBC this morning that immediately grasped my attention. Without repeating the whole story verbatim, I’ll give you the Coles Notes and link to it here .

Essentially, Felipe Montoya, an environmental professor at York University, and his family are being denied Canadian citizenship after living in Toronto for three years. This is mainly due to the fact that his youngest son has Down syndrome. Montoya has supposedly been trying to gain permanent status in Canada since first arriving from Costa Rica three years ago, and was “warned” by the hiring officer at York that his sons condition will most likely be a detrimental issue concerning whether or not his family will be granted citizenship.

The extreme circumstances revolving around this put me a bit on edge.

First and foremost, this law taken from the Immigration and Citizenship act, states  “a foreign national is inadmissible on health grounds if their health condition might reasonably be expected to cause excessive demand on health or social services.”

In playing devils advocate (as I usually do in this blog), I can certainly see what POV the state is attempting to come from. Canada is the largest country in the world where it is within your rights to receive a certain degree of free healthcare. In saying that, it is pretty obvious that several laws must be put in place to protect that right. Therefore, this would attempt to prohibit a party from immigrating to Canada with a life altering disease/condition, gaining citizenship and reap the benefits of universal healthcare.

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Courtesy of mises.ca

The issue I have with this out-dated law is the sort of double standard that is enrooted within it. I’ll explain my point with a bit of an extreme contrast. As mentioned in the article, the immigration council cited that the care for children with Down syndrome would put an extreme burden on taxpayers. The irony is that (while I don’t have the exact statistics) Canada surely admits hundreds if not thousands of immigrants who are chronic cigarette smokers every year.

Therefore by this logic, should cigarette smokers be barred from gaining Canadian citizenship due the burden that most of them will surely put on taxpayers? Surely the number of avid smokers  attempting to immigrate to Canada outnumber those with developmental disabilities.

Finally, there is one overpowering fact in this ironic contrast. Cigarette smokers are (arguably) not born with their addiction. They choose their own fate, with many knowing the health risks involved and the addictive road that lies ahead. Can the same be said for those with developmental disorders? Absolutely not. Many children are born with developmental disorder through no fault of their parent’s health/lifestyle decisions. These children have not chosen to be put in the situation they find themselves in, and it can be therefore deduced that they are more deserving of healthcare than some others.

We in Canada are encouraging in the opposite. We are saying that it is okay to deliberately degrade your physical state of wellbeing and we’ll cover the medical care tab, but we “draw the line” at those who came into the world suffering from a disability.

I admit I am not usually a huge advocate for these kinds of stories “plea to the public stories”. As the article explains, this is certainly not the first situation we’ve seen in which this law has come under fire in the news. While there is certainly a need for starting this conversation with the public (a truly powerful pro use of mass media), the fact of the matter is Felipe Montoya and his family will most likely be forced back to Costa Rica before any revisions to the legislation or ending of a stigma will come into play.

All and all, the conversation has started Canada. The torch has been passed. But don’t be as shocked as I was to learn of this unfair stigma. I’m sure stories of this nature will continue to pop back up into the news world every few months or so until a proper change is made.

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Resume and Cover Letter: The Subjectivity of the Job Search.

Summary or no summary? One page or two? Should I address the reader or keep it general? Or how about bullet points? But wait…if you use bullet points, make sure you use the same number of bullet points throughout. That means if you’re listing three points for a contract position that lasted four months, you better be sure you sum up that five yearlong position you held in three points as well!

Any of this sounding even vaguely familiar?

For some of us Millennials, this seems to be what haunts us in our nightmares. We grew up quickly, passing boogeymen, home intruders, serial killers and possessed dolls. Now what has us lying awake, wide-eyed and sweating at 3 AM is whether or not you accidentally used a personal pronoun in your most recent resume draft (a document which, after all, describes the effort and experiences YOU have put in to your professional life). All of this would lead you being swiftly skipped over by an employer’s tired eyes, or his/her software program that could very well dismiss you based on your font choice or use of a header in a resume

I have to admit, it can be a lot of pressure. It’s nothing that many of us aren’t up for. But, the implications of merely submitting the resume can be more daunting than the job in question. To play devil’s advocate here, the vigorous editing and re-editing this manifest of your work experience can teach some pretty meaningful skills. Some of which include but are not limited to diligence, attention to detail, competitiveness and (in many cases) sacrifices.

Furthermore, I’m certainly not implying that millennial are sore losers. That for example, we think so highly of ourselves that we couldn’t possibly fathom how we could lose a job to someone more qualified than us. We should all be trying our best at whatever we strive to achieve in our everyday lives. However, do not be surprised if you fail because there is always going to be someone better than you at something. We learn that as children, and honestly I still think that’s a kind of wonderful thing about the world. Call it lame or corny or what have you, but what good as it being the absolute best at anything to the point that no one is even in your realm of competition?

This is not about that.

The question I pose is…at what cost? Have we as a society of meticulous, nose to the grindstone-type workers bred a generation of job seekers who will see their efforts of applying for job after job get thrown by the wayside as a thing of normalcy? Or is this some way of (and excuse me for gender stereotyping here) separating the boys from the men?

For this, I have no answers. I can only offer a plea, which, in itself, seems a little doomed from the start. That plea is for employers to interview as many people as they possibly can. In person. On the phone. Allow us entry-level, young go-getters the chance to talk to you like a normal human being for once so that you can make your decision from there. Not everything in life has to be a constant sales pitch. I can’t speak from hiring experience, but it seems that the simplest answer would be that an employer should be looking for candidates with the capability to pose innovative ideas, not just read/write you a bunch of recycled statements they’ve been told will “capture the attention of your interviewer”.

Besides, there’s only so much researching and crafting you can do when you’re three months into the job and facing an end of day deadline with next to nothing complete.

So I ask you, resume overly-crafter…Where is your “how to” guide then?

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Canada and the youthful vote

Well, there you have it Canada. After nine years in office, Stephen Harper has been officially ousted in what many are calling a landslide victory for the Liberal party. Projections of a Liberal win started rolling in around 9 p.m. last night, while projections of a Liberal majority government came merely an hour later.

Quite possibly the biggest story to come out of the Election Day is the huge spurt in voter attendance. An estimated 68 per cent of eligible voters hit the polls in the last week, making this election the highest attended in 22 years. This was also a seven per cent jump compared to the last federal election just four years ago.

Critics and analysts from all over the country are mainly chalking this excellent surge of voter participation to the increase participation from young voters, and I can’t say I disagree. The amount of engagement I’ve seen around the Internet and various social media websites persuading the younger demographic (around 18-24 specifically) to vote has been truly phenomenal. However, there is something to be said about those voting, particularly those whom fall under the millennial generation category.

There’s a lot of factually targeted media that upon examination, one would find is targeted mainly to the youngest voting audience. Don’t believe me? Taking a short scroll through my Facebook page can easily justify it. Young or old, I’m sure that as long as you are from Canada, in Canada or have a large amount of Canadians on your social media page you would find a tremendous amount of satirical federal election-based content. From videos of Jose Bautista knocking a picture of Stephen Harper out of the Rogers Centre, to various memes of Harper and Trudeau, to the now infamous segment on John Oliver’s program “Last Week Tonight”, this election campaign has almost entirely been indirectly or directly aimed at young voters.

Courtesy of @tiffmaclennan

Courtesy of @tiffmaclennan

So what does this all mean? I’ll start with what I believe are the positives.

This election has shown the true power of the information age. In a few months, we will enter 2016 (sorry for the harsh reality). The Internet is only growing more and more accessible to people all over the country, and we now have tools that were unfathomable 50 years ago. These tools, amongst others, include an assortment of websites that are essentially cheat sheets to elections. For example, isidewith.com, a short quiz that gives users a variety of questions in order to match up their answers with ideologies of a corresponding party. I am definitely aware these platforms of knowledge may be a tad biased at times (see whynotharper.ca for more details). Despite the fact that voting was held as a much more of a popular duty some 50 years ago, I’m sure that websites like these would have been an incredible asset to have and I am unbelievably happy that they were not overlooked during this campaign.

Canadians have spoken, and the stats really speak for themselves.

Furthermore, Canadians do not vote for the prime minister themselves, but a Member of Parliament who represents their community. Therefore, I took the initiative to do a bit of research on the eligible MP’s running in my area in order to have a well-informed idea of whom I would vote for.

However, this is where we, as young Canadians, get into a bit of trouble.

Despite these widely accessible tools, I’ve found two major worrisome themes after having political discussions with those also in young voting demographic.

I understand that many of us have long since taken a political class in high school or post-secondary. But, a serious problem in which I’ve observed is that many people are not sure or plainly do not know what power/responsibilities the federal government has. I should start by saying that yes, there is indeed a certain degree in which the federal government allocates a specific amount of funding to each province or territory. However, I was extremely surprised at the number of people I came across that were blatantly confused as to which government body was responsible for healthcare, education, transportation, and infrastructure (and how much these words were just thrown around to make themselves sound more informed). This, combined with the amount of somewhat biased content out in the media condoning these uninformed opinions creates a huge setback as to if these votes were really well-informed or not.

Another aspect of this election campaign that I wasn’t entirely fond of was just how much everyone from the media to average citizens inflated the egos of young people who voted. Before I digress, let me add that voting at any age is exceedingly important, and that in no means am I attempting to undersell that. However, the amount of young people who received a huge pat on the back was unnecessary nd exaggerated. The fact of the matter is, voting is a basic right and a duty to practice as a Canadian citizen. It is something that, when the opportunity presents itself, you are supposed to do, like keeping a tidy lawn or maintain your personal hygiene (trivial examples, I know).

During this years campaign, I found tons of people or organizations (even Facebook, Twitter and Google) did a great job of endorsing the importance of voting by using reminders or some sort of user engagement. Unfortunately, this is a double-edge sword, and these strategies ended up giving voters a sort of instant gratification for voting. I perceived this message as an illustration that your vote is the be all and end all of this campaign.

To best describe my annoyance on this issue, I’d again like to compare this election with any election 50 years in the past. I can’t speak factually since I certainly wasn’t alive then, but I am sure no one was congratulating and thanking an 18-year-old for voting. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised that if you had publicized your blatant disregard to vote, you’d be frowned upon, maybe even shunned or ostracized in some circles (in contrast to the “rebel” persona that had been attached to this behaviour in more recent years).

All and all, Canadians have spoken, and the stats really speak for themselves. A Liberal majority government surely means that a ton of Canadians came together and had their voice heard. Moving forward, I’m sure that the power will be passed like a baton from Liberal to Conservative parties in the future. All I can say is that there was a time in the last 10 years where it made the most sense to have a Conservative party in power, and now it seemingly makes sense to have a Liberal party in power. This fluctuation and competitive nature between parties allows Canada to thrive as a nation. No matter whom you support or have supported in the past, let’s continue working to be well-informed Canadian citizens and help Canada soar above and beyond the expectations that may be.

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Toronto: Two thousand and not quite yet

Well, there we have it Torontonians. The City of Toronto will not be putting an official bid in for the 2024 Summer Olympic games. Despite the controversy surrounding the bid, some of the main reasons being tossed around include the cost of a bid and the lack of public interest. Of course, this is also followed by the overwhelming fear of Canada’s Olympic team not producing on home soil, considering we are generally weaker in our summer sport performance compared to winter.

No matter, this is about Toronto as a whole. After buzzing from what I believe (and will defend wholeheartedly) was an extremely successful 2015 Pan/Parapan American Games, the Olympic bid was an inevitable question on any Torontonians mind, catching media-fire the moment the Games came to a close. Having had the incredible and much appreciated opportunity to work for the TO2015 games two consecutive summers in a row, it may seem like my views promoting multi-sport games in Toronto are a bit skewed. That is to say until you may discover that given all the enthusiasm towards TO2015, is that I am in fact a supporter of the decision to withhold bidding for 2024 Summer Olympics. Now, it may look like I am contradicting myself here. Therefore, it is time to explain.

My reasoning begins and ends with the fact that it is not time for Toronto…yet.

2015713-pan-am-toronto-sign

Courtesy of uotoronto.ca

What I mean by this is that 2024 is a quite a ways away. It is arguable that our ideology of what it takes to host a multi-sport games has become much more realistic than it was in 2009 when we successfully won the bid for the Pan American games. It was a total of six years from the moment the bid was accepted, to the moment the games took place. In that time, the municipal/provincial government tried scrambled around trying to get our city into the shape it should have been in decades before. Don’t get me wrong, Toronto got a lot of fantastically overdue upgrades and facelifts that were either directly or indirectly a product of the games. The Union-Pearson express, the facelift of Queens Quay/West Don Lands affordable housing, internationally renowned facilities (the Velodrome in Milton, Aquatic House in Scarborough) are all prominent examples of TO2015’s impact on Toronto.

Yet, the city remains at a standstill in many disciplines that separate us from being one of the world’s best cities to live in (despite what some publications might say). The longstanding issue still looms in the mind of Toronto citizens. It is the dreaded “t-word”…transportation. The Toronto populace are fighting a daily battle against a poor transportation system that can barely support our growing population of 2.5 million and the surrounding Greater Toronto Area (GTA). Not to mention, the hundreds of thousands of potential tourists we would have undoubtedly seen if given the 2024 Games. Some may argue the same tourism numbers were said about the Pan Am games, which ended up being a well-documented dud. I’d quickly rebut that the allure of the Olympics is far more commanding and internationally inclusive compared to the Pan American Games…something that the naïve minds of Toronto-critics cannot yet fathom.

Harshly put, the city remains plagued by a set of tongue-tied politicians and indecisive residents whose continuing fight of whether or not a Scarborough LRT should be extended shouldn’t even be a topic of discussion. If we had followed suit to our friends to the south in NYC all those years ago, we would have had subways connecting us from Mississauga to Oshawa by now.

Finally, don’t even get a Torontonian started on traffic issues on our maxed out, three-lane highways. Just a mere month of putting a HOV lane up on the major highway routes in order to ensure fluidity for the TO2015 games had the whole GTA up in arms and contemplating crawling in a dark hole for a month until it’s safe to return.

It may not seem like it, but I actually do sympathize with those who voiced their displeasing emotions during the games. It is realistically unfair that a government-funded multi-sport games did not have the proper stage to put on a worldly event that they deserved to host, and that the basic urban needs such as transportation and infrastructure (that every other major city seemed to get right) had been neglected for so many years.

I have to say that so far, I am impressed with Mayor John Tory’s efforts to get the city back on track to being the greatest city on the planet. I also have much respect for him in the wake of this Olympic bidding cloud. His intentions were clear from the get-go that he would not rush Toronto into something that is not even a guaranteed gig, and could have cost the city between $50-$60 million dollars just to bid for. Tory was quoted this morning saying “I believe that one day Toronto will be a great venue for the Olympic games, but not in 2024. Time was against us in building the kind of support you have to have from the community in order for this to work”

Finally, let’s take the fault off the Canadian Olympic Committee. A lot of commentary across forum websites has slandered the COC for pushing the bid. What is often overlooked here is the simple fact that…it’s their job to do so. If they’re not going to try to persuade the public to bring another Olympic games to Canadian soil, then their object fails. Now that we are in a position to see Toronto pass on 2024, it is evident that the COC has not given up, having shifted attention to the possibilities of hosting the 2026 Winter Olympics in Quebec City or Calgary.

All this is the chronic case of Toronto’s “shoulda, coulda, woulda” syndrome. It is not to say that it is too late for a transit/infrastructure revival. I trust that these highly necessary needs of the city will slowly start to develop throughout the years, even though they may sometimes seem to be taking a few steps back in order to take a few steps forward. As for Toronto’s Olympic fate, I will leave you with more words from John Tory.

“I am not saying no to the Olympics. I am saying not this time.”

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Re: National Post’s “Note to Readers”

A pretty drastic and, I’d go as far to say, revolutionary move made by the National Post this morning concerning the way users digest and respond to online news stories. The organization owned by news conglomerate Post Media, announced in a short online memo that they would be changing their online commenting format to require a Facebook login in order to post a response to the article. The organization cites that the decision to make this change (a modification also made by other Post Media websites) stems from the fight against constant victimizing and hatred found in their online comment section. By eliminating the ability to post anonymously, users are compelled to be more cognisant of whose views they may be criticizing without allowing a safety blanket to hide behind. In other words, and to paraphrase from the great poet Ice Cube, to “check yourself before you wreck yourself”.

I think this is HUGELY important in the modern age of technology for a number of reasons. One being, in today’s world, the practice of writing a “letter to the editor “ is becoming increasingly dismal. A letter to the editor is a much more formal, private and 1 on 1 type of interaction. It is debatable that readers nowadays would be much more enticed to publish their opinion on the internet in order to achieve the instantaneous feedback (most commonly in the form of “likes”) for whatever point they may be arguing. The ability to possibly entice arguments over the web, which I’m sure many of us are aware, can sometimes cause a story or idea to become viral/famous for all the wrong reasons.

The idea of having your name attached to the things you say really enforces readers to “keep themselves honest” being as it is becoming increasingly difficult to hide your online persona. This plays a key role with ones relationship with any important stakeholder in their lives, whether it’d be a future/current employer or their own parents. While the list of potential adverse examples are extensive, a few do come to mind. The highly intelligent Toronto native “FHRITP” guy, and more recently, Nicole Arbour, the “comedian” who posted a fat shaming video on her YouTube channel that led to her being fired.

Courtesy of CNN.com

Courtesy of CNN.com

Of course, there are certainly some ways to dodge your identity being known. There is a high possibility of users creating what is known as a “throwaway account”. Throwaway accounts are traditionally used in online forums to protect the identity of people who want to speak about their life experiences on sensitive subjects (such as abuse, addiction, disease etc.). On the other hand, some highly “dedicated” people who may have too much time on their hands can create these accounts easily in order to evade the knowledge of their identity and continue to negatively blast people online.

Therefore, I’d like to use this post as a general PSA that is of the utmost importance when it comes to Internet etiquette. We have a responsibility as citizens of a free, online medium to speak our minds, to share insights, feelings and ideas…but to do so in a respectable manner. To not attack those who may have a different opinion that you don’t agree with or understand. To be considerate and mindful enough to realize that just like you, another person has the right to let their opinion be heard. It is not your duty to stop them or to hurt them for taking the same basic steps you might have in voicing an opinion. Unless of course, that opinion is deliberately made public in order to hurt others.

In fact, I challenge any reader of this post to not only become actively aware of this problem, but to take it upon themselves to help crush any negative vibes that may be floating around the internet. Giving the benefit of the doubt, some commenters may not be aware that what they are saying or implying is insulting or wrong . A simple “you shouldn’t be saying this” or “hey, that’s not cool” can possibly impact the perspective of someone who didn’t realize it before. When 10, 100 or 1000 people amplify that, we begin to see a positive alteration. It is these kinds of acts that can spark a change and bring people like the FHRITP-man or Nicole Arbour to light by letting them know that we will not stand for that kind of destructive, hateful behaviour.

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