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Every few months, we get a message from a student or alumnus who wants us to take down something they’ve written for the paper. Our policy around removal has always been that if the published article poses a safety risk or creates any other form of danger, we’ll take it down or take your name off the article as requested. Otherwise, we will work with the person to find alternative ways to mitigate their discomfort with having the article published.

Sometimes their requests are unreasonable — for example, requests to take the article down because the writing was bad, the author no longer agrees with an opinion article they submitted or that a true fact published in the paper will damage someone’s reputation. I understand these concerns. Now that all of The Silhouette’s articles go online, student’s writing, or the news about their on-campus activities is no longer just under university-wide scrutiny. Anyone around the world has access to it. This has been great for many of our writers and articles. We get readers from unexpected countries (as far as Australia!), and have expanded our readership significantly. It also means we get more complaints from people who don’t want the articles they wrote or are mentioned in to show up in their Google searches.

Wanting to delete articles you’re not proud of is fundamentally misguided. It speaks to a lack of understanding of individual growth. Whether it’s because your writing wasn’t as good as it could be, or you said something you don’t believe anymore, your acknowledgement of both shows how much you’re grown and improved as both a writer and a person. Publishing a controversial opinion in any online platform is an important decision. You have to be prepared for the backlash and the feedback, and be ready to defend your point of view. If you change your mind later and realize that you don’t even know the person who wrote those horrible things, then it’s up to you to own up to it.

Wanting to delete articles you’re not proud of is fundamentally misguided. It speaks to a lack of understanding of individual growth. 

If you fear a damaged reputation because you reported true facts, all I can say is: that’s too bad. The Silhouette won’t censor itself to help you clean up your public image. These situations can vary in severity, but they all speak to the need to act ethically, kindly and wisely in all aspects of your (public) life. This is especially true for student politicians.

While student newspapers and organizations are less serious and more forgiving than their “real world” counterparts, they’re still no joke. It’s a reality that’s not meant to scare you, but to inspire you to make the best of your time here. Put a lot thought into what you write and how you act. Stand up for things you believe in, but be open to changing your mind. If you make mistakes, the best thing to do is to own up to them. Even if we delete your article from our servers, rest assured that the internet at-large is not such a forgiving place.

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Every March, past and present MSU student leaders, University administrators and some members of The Silhouette, get together for Student Recognition Night, an evening that highlights achievements and successes in student politics and service provision. Apart from the awards ceremony, one of the most anticipated parts of the evening is the current MSU Board of Directors’ Swan Song — a humorous and final goodbye from the President and the Vice Presidents of the MSU that has traditionally been used to poke fun at student politics, sing a couple self-deprecating lines and throw a few (welcome) jabs at our coverage.

Unfortunately, this year the song crossed the line from humorous to offensive. Although much of the song was funny and light-hearted, I have two issues with it: the individual attack towards a student activist, and the way it ridiculed the efforts of student activism, specifically the pro-Vice Presidential election reform campaign team and the Student Mobilization Syndicate.

Addressing student concerns of increasing tuition rates and groups that have requested that the MSU be more active beyond its role with OUSA, the song included lines like, “They say that tuition has doubled; maybe because they’ve been here for 10 years,” and in the same vein, “They’re now on the SRA; at least I’ll soon be gone.” For anyone involved with the MSU, the identity of the person the BOD was referring to is very clear. It’s also well known that this person is also a mature student who used to attend McMaster and has now returned for reasons that we’re not aware of and which frankly are none of our business. Whether their choice to leave was because of financial reasons, health reasons, or simply a matter of personal choice, whatever angle you decide to look at this line from, it is extremely offensive.

The person in question is also, as the song gives away, a new member of the Student Representative Assembly. The lines only create unnecessary and damaging animosity between the executive branch of the MSU and its governing body members, which should expect more respect from the BOD. There is a difference between inside jokes and personal attacks towards people you don’t engage in constructive dialogue with. That the person was also not present (or invited) to Student Rec Night makes the whole thing even more uncomfortable.

Beyond the personal attack, I was also disturbed at the willingness of the Board to ridicule the efforts of student groups whose goals are to push for change within the MSU. I’m not arguing that their stances are good or bad, but students should feel free to speak their mind about how they want to govern their student union without being ridiculed. For example, one line from the song about the VP reform petition was: “VPs-at-large they tried to file a petition once or twice… by once or twice I mean maybe a couple of hundred times.” It later added, “It’s too bad you lost VP to some Yik Yaks and memes… 21 votes,” referring to the small number of votes the pro-reform side lost the referendum by (a sad 0.3% under the two-thirds majority needed). What good does it do to ridicule the efforts of students with good intentions and students who want to improve the democratic process of our union? The BOD are the people in power. Whether you choose to respect their opinions or not, they still hold a lot of ground. Ridiculing student movements creates a hostile environment that discourages people from expressing opinions that the larger voices within the MSU might look down on.

Before anyone messages us to let us know that we don’t get the “point” of the Swan Song, that it’s meant to be in jest, let me assure you that we know. We know that it is meant to highlight the sometimes ridiculous and immature nature of student politics, and give the BOD a chance to respond to criticisms they’ve faced throughout the year. But it is not meant to be malicious or attack individual people. It’s not meant to discourage student activism, especially not activism that doesn’t align directly with how the MSU sees itself. The petitions and activist groups get attention because they speak to people — the numbers speak for themselves: both in the number of people who signed the VP reform petitions and those who voted in favour — and the last thing the MSU should be doing is making people feel that they will be ridiculed for wanting to make a change or be involved. Though the Swan Song does not take away from this BOD’s accomplishments, it ends the year on a sour note.

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Following a three-week long election period, the race for MSU President has finally come to an end.

After Sarah Jama’s reinstatement into the presidential race and the retabulation of votes on Friday, Feb. 5, Justin Monaco-Barnes remained the winner of the 2016 presidential election. Jama came in second overall, and Jonathon Tonietto fell to third place.

Justin Monaco-Barnes is now officially the MSU President for the 2016-2017 year. Some highlights from his platform to look forward to in the next year and a half include: his promise to print cheaper courseware through Underground, work towards sustainability at McMaster and efforts to continue addressing sexual violence on campus. The Silhouette interviewed Monaco-Barnes for our Feb. 4 issue which can be found on our Issuu page.

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Sarah Jama was initially disqualified due to charges of misrepresenting expenses to the Elections Committee and a severe violation of “bad taste.”

The Elections Department released the minutes for the Jan. 28 post-election period meeting alongside the appeal decision. Following Bylaw 10 of the elections process, disqualification was briefly considered for Monaco-Barnes, Gill and Tonietto as well.

To counter the claim that she spent $500 on her website, Jama presented evidence that her campaign website was designed by a volunteer on her team who is also a co-founder of a website design company. Jama chose to display his logo on her website to promote the volunteer’s company as a sign of gratitude for his volunteer work. However, Jama told The Silhouette that she was still fined for not including her website designer as a part of her core team.

Jama’s campaign was also fined for a controversial retweet by one of her volunteers of an anonymous account that accused another candidate of sexual assault.  The CRO acknowledged, as the candidate herself posted on her Facebook page, that Jama took quick action to delete the tweet and remove two members from her team.

The retweet played a significant role in Jama’s initial disqualification. However, as stated in a press release by the MSU, following their deliberations on Feb. 5 the Elections Committee decided that the tweet did not significantly affect the integrity of the election.

With the end of perhaps the most contentious MSU election in nearly a decade, we can all go back to forgetting about student politics until the Student Representative Assembly elections in early March. See you then.

Photo Credit: Michael Gallagher/ Production Editor

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We might be lying to you. We don’t actually know if Justin Monaco-Barnes will be your next MSU President. Given Sarah Jama’s disqualification, which she is appealing this week, it’s possible that if she is successful, the vote recount will tell us that Justin isn’t the winner of this year’s election after all. The truth is that for many people, including most of the candidates, the election isn’t over yet.

However, we made the conscious decision to give Justin the presidential cover page he deserves if he is, at the end of it all, still the president-elect. But we aren’t ruling out the possibility of having another presidential face on our cover next week either.

From an outsider’s perspective, these elections have been messy. However, more than anything else, we have been surprised by the shortcomings of the rules governing MSU elections. Several things have happened in the last week that point to the need for change in how elections are carried out.

The most glaring shortcoming was the public announcement of a candidate’s disqualification without providing clear and detailed reasons behind this conclusion. While the results of the elections were released when the Elections Committee finished their deliberations in the early hours of Jan. 29, the general rules that Sarah Jama broke that led to her disqualification were made public approximately 12 hours later.

The minutes for the meeting, however, are still not posted on the MSU website at the time of this writing. It’s understandable given that the Elections Department wants to make sure the information that they release is accurate and that those involved are also full-time students, but the lack of available information does a disservice to both candidates and the student body.

Currently, Jama’s post is the only place where a student curious about the events that have taken place can find a detailed account. The problem with this account is that it is told through the lens of a candidate who is appealing her disqualification. We emailed the CRO to ask her to confirm the details shared by Jama, however, she did not want to comment on the veracity of the post.

More than failing to provide students with information in a timely manner, the process as it stands now also tarnishes the reputation of the disqualified candidate. When appeals are filed right before the end of the elections period, the targeted candidate does not have the opportunity to respond to the complaint. In the case of severe violations, the candidate should absolutely have the opportunity to present counterevidence before a decision as extreme as this is made. Unfortunately, the current system allows for campaign sabotage, especially if the Elections Committee is failing to reach out to the campaign in question for information. There have been only two presidential candidates disqualified in the MSU’s history, and the last one, in 2008, was overturned following more than a month of discussion. It is clear that disqualifications are rare and the decision to disqualify a candidate should be carefully examined and as transparent as possible.

In a high profile disqualification such as Jama’s — one only has to look at the attention her page’s status on the disqualification has garnered — the current results of the election should not be treated as if they are official. While the MSU Elections Department makes it clear in their post that the results are unofficial, you wouldn’t know that looking at the posts Monaco-Barnes or any of the other candidates made on their Facebook pages.

Several things have happened in the last week that point to the need for change in how elections are carried out. 

While we sympathize with the Election Department and Committee’s other responsibilities as students and understand that this is a sensitive process, we also think it is unreasonable to keep the student body in the dark so long after this decision was made. If the Elections Department is aware of its limitations, it should not make drastic announcements based on what appears to be incomplete evidence.

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Presidentials are an exciting (and exhausting) time for a lot of students on campus, including the staff at The Silhouette. As writers and editors, our first instinct will often be to find and fairly assess merits and shortcomings in the candidates’ platforms. You will notice this in our print and online coverage over the next week. While we want to hold student politicians accountable, it’s important to recognize the great things that come out of presidential elections.

Some of the biggest changes to the MSU and the University have come from presidential campaigns. Mac Farmstand was introduced by Mary Koziol. Fall break and the Peer Support Line were introduced by Siobhan Stewart. David Campbell advocated for our full-year bus pass. Last year, the controversial Light Up The Night end-of-year celebration, being held again this April, was the brainchild of Teddy Saull. And this year, talking about tuition in Ontario has been a priority for the MSU more than ever before because of Ehima Osazuwa’s campaign promise.

However, ideas that change the way our student government functions and what it prioritizes aren’t limited to those of winning candidates.

Every year, candidates bring forward what may seem like a never-ending list of ideas. Although many might seem infeasible, impractical and sometimes stale, they speak to the needs of the McMaster community.

A survey of the last three years of Silhouette coverage highlights some specific issues.

In 2013, Dan Fahey (would recommend looking up the coverage for this year — it’s quite entertaining), pushed for radical reform in the MSU, including more open vice presidential elections and a focus on marginalized groups. As an exchange student, he saw something MSU insiders couldn’t. Even if not entirely because of his campaign, these issues have struck a chord with many students since, especially considering the VP election referendum this year. In his first presidential run that same year, Jacob Brodka introduced the idea of a Freedom Credit (taking a course out of your discipline on a pass/fail basis). Although Brodka never won, and the Freedom Credit hasn’t been given a chance, it continues to appear in presidential platforms, showing that it’s still something many students want.

In the 2014 presidential election, some big campaign points included Israa Ali’s Spirituality Centre and Jyssika Russell’s Emergency Fund. The need for an interfaith space is still an issue to this day, even though temporary solutions (such as a small room in the basement of Thode) have been implemented. Additionally, an MSU emergency fund was implemented this past year in the form of a $500 bursary for students in financial need.

Institutional and financial transparency has also been a recurring theme in presidential elections, from Tristan Paul’s 2015 run to Rory Yendt’s 2013 campaign. In recent years, transparency has undeniably improved between the MSU and the student body, a sign that our student government is listening to the members that cast their vote in support of these candidates.

Ultimately, presidentials are another opportunity for the student government to listen to its student body by taking each point from accessibility to sustainability to financial strain as seriously as if the candidate that’s bringing it forward won the election. And even though some platforms might seem outlandish, full of holes (that The Silhouette will definitely continue to point out in the days to come) or outright ridiculous, it’s important to remember that every candidate is bringing forward a unique perspective on what a better university experience means to them.

Every year, candidates bring forward what may seem like a never-ending list of ideas. Although many might seem infeasible, impractical and sometimes stale, they speak to the needs of the McMaster community. 

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My first reaction to seeing the words “shopping cart” on Mosaic was to post a joke about it on Twitter. After my tweet got three likes and my sense of humour was externally affirmed for the day, I glanced over the words again and felt nauseous.

The words “shopping cart” might seem small and meaningless and the intent behind it was probably harmless, meant to turn an administrative process into something familiar. Unfortunately, it speaks to a larger reality of university education: the normalization of seeing universities as businesses and our degrees as products.

These words now serve as a reality check. It makes me ask over and over again: what’s university? Is it a place where knowledge is advanced, where society is challenged? Is it a hub of innovation? The answer is obviously yes, but there’s more to it than that. Being in our undergraduate degrees, many of us will not get to participate in that culture. Many students leave undergrad, either find a job or go to a professional degree, without having ever interacted with the culture of knowledge-advancement that is the essence of the university as a concept.

To undergrads, university is sold as an experience, as the best four years of your life — a fact that I sincerely hope is not true. Degrees are framed as skill-giving products, and those that don’t offer hard professional skills feel the need to justify their existence by teaching “soft” skills, or by shaping their products into something innovative and cool that can then be sold as “elite”. Admittedly, a lot of this has to do with university programs just trying to survive as funding decreases for any non-STEM field that involves even a bit of critical thinking.

It makes me ask over and over again: what’s university? Is it a place where knowledge is advanced, where society is challenged? Is it a hub of innovation?

“Shopping” equates a process as significant to our life and career trajectories as academics with trivial everyday undertakings. Things you put in your “shopping cart” usually include: groceries, clothes from online stores, highly acclaimed books from Amazon you’ve been pretending to want to read for a few months. This language positions the university as the seller of knowledge, and you, the buyer.

Universities already use ads to sell their undergraduate programs — a tactic I’ve found ethically questionable for some time. While advertising is understandable, ads playing in movie theatres for our Engineering program directly following that guy from The Source explaining some cool new tech product makes it a lot harder to think of my education as a genuinely enlightening experience.

The student-as-consumer narrative creates a feeling of disconnect between me and my education that cheapens the whole experience, which is unfortunate, because it’s anything but cheap.

But the problems faced by our public education system won’t disappear if McMaster decides to change a few words on Mosaic, or stop playing ads in movie theatres. In a way, I am thankful for the language used on Mosaic. The idealized view of a university education as the creator and disseminator of knowledge in the public interest is seriously endangered by rising tuition fees, degree inflation, and a rocky job market that leaves many graduates unemployed for frightening periods of time.

While we must continue to think of the university as the place for groundbreaking and socially challenging research, reminders of the state that our education system currently finds itself in might not be such a bad thing. Language like “shopping cart,” as uncomfortable as it makes me feel, serves as a much-needed wake up call.

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McMaster’s Academic Librarians have their contract up for re-negotiation this year. Collective bargaining, which began on July 22, started out smoothly but has since faced several roadblocks, according to a press release issued by the McMaster University Academic Librarians’ Association on Oct. 9.

MUALA filed for conciliation with the Ontario Ministry of Labour, which brings in a conciliation officer to help mediate the disagreements between the union and the university. The union represents 24 full-time Academic Librarians who work at McMaster’s libraries.

“One of our key roles is that librarians act to support teaching, learning and research needs of the campus community. Specifically, we are supporting [students’] learning and research needs and of faculty members and other research teams. How we do it varies by the individual role that the librarian has,” said Laura Banfield, MUALA’s President and chief negotiator.

Prior to the conciliation talks, which began on Oct. 14, at a MUALA meeting with 92 percent of their membership present, all attendees voted in favour of a strike mandate.

Andrea Farquhar, McMaster’s Assistant Vice President Public Relations, said that half of the contract had been agreed on prior to conciliation talks.

Although neither the university nor the union can speak to the details of the talks, the general points of contention were addressed in MUALA’s press release. These include compensation and academic rights of Academic Librarians.

MUALA states that the employer — the university — wants to “rollback compensation and limit salaries far below inflation.”

However, Farquhar said that there are no rollbacks to compensation being proposed.

“The university has tabled salary increases exceeding inflation. That includes a combination of across-the-board increases and a merit pool that members are eligible for based on their individual performance each year,” added Farquhar.

The disagreement in interpretation between the two parties is clear, much of it founded on the meaning of “inflation” and how they individually define fair and reasonable compensation.

As for MUALA’s claim that the university is trying to remove Academic Librarians’ right to participate in academic decision-making, Farquhar commented that the meaning of this was “unclear.”

Based on previous bargaining updates on MUALA’s website, the union has shown concern about the university’s proposal to “delete substantial portions of procedures and criteria” for promotions, evaluations and other decisions, which would leave these decision entirely up to the university’s discretion.

MUALA claimed that this would seriously degrade working conditions.

When asked if the vote would mean that in the case of unsatisfactory conciliation talks the Academic Librarians would go on strike, Banfield said that the vote simply gave MUALA’s executives the ability to call for job action if the situation requires it in the future.

“Our desire it to settle things through conciliation … even once a ‘no-board’ report has been filed then there is the situation in which both sides decide to go to mediation and still try to settle things before the lockout or strike mandate is acted upon,” said Banfield.

A “no-board” report by the third party would signify that an agreement was not reached through conciliation meetings.

“The issues that we’ve raised are the ones that resonate within our population,” said Banfield.

Both parties hope the conciliation meetings will address these disagreements and help them effectively move forward with negotiations.

On Thursday, Sept. 17, the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance visited the McMaster campus as part of their larger promotional efforts in member schools across the province.

OUSA’s visit to campus gave The Silhouette a chance to discuss its priorities for the year with Spencer Nestico-Semianiw, VP (Education) of the MSU and OUSA’s president, and Sean Madden, the organization’s Executive Director.

Every year, OUSA releases policy papers on six post-secondary education topics in Ontario that dictate the organization’s lobbying and advocacy on the specific issues. For the 2015-16 year, OUSA will focus on teaching assessment and student success.

However, OUSA’s priorities this year extend beyond the annual policy papers. In addition to the policy papers, the organization’s research and advocacy efforts will also be put into the timely topics of university funding and the province’s tuition framework.

Last month, OUSA released its submission on the university funding formula for the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities. The MTCU launched consultations on modernizing the formula in May 2015.

The funding formula determines how the provincial government distributes funding to individual universities.

Among other recommendations, OUSA’s submission criticizes the current formula for ignoring demographic shifts, failing to enhance differentiation and not reflecting true relative costs of education.

Speaking to the true cost of education, Semianiw believes that the province’s basic income units– which reflect the idea that the cost of educating different students in different programs varies– are out of date.

“A lot of the changes that we’ve seen in terms of how programs are getting funded isn’t so much reflective of the actual cost of the program,” said Semianiw.

“Institutions on an individual basis have found ways to transfer funds and make sure it’s working but from a provincial standpoint, that system needs to be re-evaluated.”

OUSA is also advocating for a higher proportion of the funding given to universities reserved for specific initiatives that enhance student life.

“I don’t want to throw any of the fine people who run universities under the bus, but it’s kind of no coincidence that the amount of money that’s spent on salaries and benefits is pretty much exactly the amount of money that the government doesn’t strictly set aside for other purposes,” said Madden.

“We want to add a little more accountability and transparency and limit the proportions that are unrestricted without being unreasonable.”

Madden noted that the current funding formula erroneously rewards enrolment growth, when in fact, the province has reached its peak enrolment rates and many universities are and will continue to be under-enrolled according to the principle.

Overall, like the province, OUSA wants to see a funding formula that is up to date with current demands and focuses on bettering the student experience.

The conversation on the province’s tuition framework, however, has not officially begun. The framework is due to be reviewed in the 2016-17 academic year, but Semianiw is attempting to lay the groundwork for the topic during his yearlong mandate.

“Universities are allowed to increase tuition three percent  on average [per year] per institution. Five percent for some programs. We want to see a fully funded freeze. We don’t want to see tuition keep increasing for students,” said Semianiw.

Madden says that the results of the funding formula consultation will have a direct impact on the tuition framework conversation.

“The funding formula is going to control the way funding flows. If it magically it gets more efficient, we can make an argument for lower tuition. If it constrains the amount of flexible money they have, then that’s going to impact their costs.”

Photo Credit: Spencer Nestico-Semianiw

“Okay… I’m doing this,” a woman says with a small tremor in her voice. “There is something that I want you to know, and that something is...” She pauses–eyebrows lifted as she takes a large gulp of air.

“...I’m gay.”

On June 9th, internet celebrity Ingrid Nilsen disclosed her sexual orientation to millions of subscribers on YouTube. However, Nilsen is not the only person to have released a “coming out” video in the recent months; popular content creators such as Joey Graceffa, Connor Franta, and the Rhodes Brothers are among many who have done the same.

In our increasingly connected world, all forms of coming out statements have been brought into the forefront of our social media. Take fourth-year Life Science student Kevan McDougall’s story, for instance.

In a “Humans of McMaster” post back in March (which has been viewed over 10,000 times) McDougall shared that he owed himself the courage to be more vulnerable, before discussing personal experiences with his mental health and identifying as gay.

While some may liken coming out online to a social media fad–a contest for internet virality–it is in reality anything but a simple fad. Coming out is a highly personal process that is not reduced to a single event in time.

“It was definitely a process,” McDougall shares, “one that included coming to terms with myself, speaking with family, coming to university, and being in the right, supportive environment.” The reality of all coming out experiences is that most of it happens away from cameras and cellphones. It is a natural and ongoing process of personal discovery that can span from weeks to years, and even decades.

Although coming out statements today are increasingly met with acceptance, there has also been space for fair criticism. Specifically, in an age where the discourse of LGBTQ+ related issues is moving towards normalization, we find ourselves living with a strange dissonance in which this discourse is simultaneously normalized and sometimes interpreted as being over-dramatized, especially when shared online or in public forums.

“Moving forward, I think we need to stop treating LGBTQ+ discussions as an abnormal topic we always dance around,” explains Jennifer Chan, a third-year Psychology, Neuroscience, and Behaviour student, “we are just people who want to love and be loved–like everyone else.”

Similarly, Marina Monahar, a third-year Communication Sudies and Multimedia student, also encourages readers to think about coming out differently.

“Sexuality is very fluid, and people should do as they please without labels.”

While it may not be possible to completely wipe out the idea of publicly coming out, what we can do is redefine the phrase for ourselves. Choose to see coming out as an enlightening process of self-discovery, instead of a single moment when one dramatically comes out of hiding. Choose to learn about the fluidity and plurality of our sexualities, and choose to understand everyone’s story. The only thing we should come out of is a closed mind.

About a week ago I was texting a friend of mine regarding a stand-up comedy show that we both planned on going to. The text was simple, all it said was, “Ahh ok, I was wondering when to drop off the Hannibal Buress money.” I sent it intending to have a fairly straight-forward conversation. Unfortunately for me, my phone had bigger plans.

Instead of sending once, somewhere along the way my phone decided it would be more exciting to send that text 20 times.

What’s worse is that these texts didn’t get delivered all at once. Even though I sent the first message at around 9:00 p.m., the text was sent periodically over several hours with times like 3:49 a.m., 3:58 a.m., 4:19 a.m., all the way until the next afternoon— each text asking the exact same question.

If you’re anything like me, my first thought wasn’t, “I hope she doesn’t think I’m really excited to give her ticket money!” It was, “Holy shit. What other texts have I sent that have done this?”

You see, accidentally sending 20 texts about dropping off money for stand-up tickets is funny, but sending 20 texts of “Hey we should hang out!” to that cute girl you met a week ago between the late night hours of 3:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. is basically the opening plot for a 21st century horror movie.

Despite that scenario probably being a fairly uncommon experience, worrying about text messaging is not something unique to my life, and for many people my age, it’s incredibly common.

This is especially true when it comes to romance. Dating can be stressful enough as it is, and with more and more people communicating primarily online or through their phones, textual communication introduces a whole new set of problems for modern singles.

It’s these kinds of scenarios that make Aziz Ansari’s latest book, Modern Romance, so engaging. The comedian and Parks and Recreation actor teamed up with sociologist Eric Klinenberg to do a study on the highs and lows of modern dating. The result is a book that mixes the fresh and intelligent comedy Ansari is known for, while offering genuinely engaging research.

Specifically, what makes Modern Romance such a fun read is that the book isn’t trying to solve the problems present in 21st century romance. Instead, Ansari seems more interested in creating a book that compliments the collective frustrations of single people all around the world.

So whether you’re wondering if you should have added an extra “y” to the “Heyy” text you sent last night, or puzzled at the idea of men thinking dick pics are the key to a girl’s heart, Ansari and Modern Romance is written mainly to relate to the ridiculous situations most modern singles face.

Despite this, Modern Romance does offer plenty of information that’s both helpful and hilarious. For example, did you know guys with photos looking away from the camera and off into the distance are also the most likely photos to get a positive response from women? What about the fact that even the lowest rated girls in terms of attractiveness on OK Cupid receive more messages per day than the highest rated guys? Or even, that Japan is currently desperately trying to combat their declining birth rate, because most guys are too busy jerking off into a plastic egg-shaped sex toy?

Maybe you didn’t want to know that last part, but even still, most of what Modern Romance has to offer can, at the very least, make you laugh, and at best, can help you correct some of the dating mistakes you’ve made in the past. Even better, the book doesn’t focus on a specific demographic, so it’s almost guaranteed to be relevant to some part of your life.

Of course, Modern Romance obviously isn’t perfect. At times it can be difficult to maintain interest when the book covers a particular demographic that I don’t relate to. Moreover, it’s not hard to imagine readers occasionally finding some of the hard data a little dry, but Ansari’s wit manages to overcome these minor obstacles. So whether you’re young or old, from a big city, or a small town, Modern Romance effectively covers something for everyone, and will leave you laughing even after you’re done.

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