Navigating the blurred line between politics and peers, and why it’s important to know where you stand
PHOTO C/O: Alex Motoc, Unsplash
Friends and social media can shape your political orientation and ideologies. From a tweet shared by your favourite celebrity to a comment made by a close friend, several studies show that you may begin to question, and possibly even alter, your political stances in agreement with those around you.
The power of social influence is not a new revelation. For decades, psychologists have noted the ability of social groups to modify and impact individual behaviours and opinions. This phenomenon occurs as a means of meeting individual needs of acceptance and belonging through conformity in society.
On a smaller scale, the power of social influence can prompt you to follow basic etiquette in public. However, on a much greater scale, the people around you can affect your political views, causing you to take an ill-informed political stance before casting your ballot. As a result, without adequate information, you may end up siding with a political party or candidate that does not truly represent your beliefs and values.
Research is singlehandedly the most valuable strategy to combat and mitigate the power of social influence. Exploring each political candidate and their platform can help you solidify your political views to make a well-informed decision.
While it may not be completely obvious at first glance, there are certainly damaging ramifications of inadequate knowledge when it comes to politics and voting. A lack of political understanding diminishes the value of having democracy and leads to an inaccurate reflection of the public’s true wishes through government policies and action.
Take Paul Fromm as an example of the rash consequences that could result if ballots are cast with such blissful ignorance. Currently running in Hamilton’s nearing municipal election, he is a white supremacist and neo-Nazi that spearheads several organizations with deplorable objectives.
The stark and concerning reality is that there are very few eligibility criteria to run for a municipal election in Ontario. As such, it becomes the sole responsibility of us citizens to support and cautiously grant power to candidates whose visions and values align with our own.
So, whether you are preparing to vote at the next municipal election or an upcoming MSU election, beware of social influence and try to implement necessary measures to make your vote your own. Though the prospect may seem daunting, you are not required to vote for your friend or someone they support at an election. Only your opinions and ideas about a candidate’s qualifications and plans should matter when you check off the circle on your ballot.
It is also important to remember that along with your right to vote in Canada, maintaining the secrecy of your ballot is also a right that no one may infringe. While there is no harm in engaging in healthy political discourse, you should never feel compelled to share your political views with anyone, especially if it makes you feel uncomfortable.
As students receiving post-secondary education in a democratic nation, we ought to recognize our privilege and use it to effect positive change in our communities. Staying aware of how our friends and exposure to political views on social media can influence our stances, as well as doing our research, is vital to ensure we are truly making an impact with our votes.
The narcissism of today’s generation has supreme effects on our abilities to maintain relationships and feel empathy
By: Sama Elhansi, Contributor
Me! Me! Me! Everything is somehow always about us! If the baby boomers were considered the “Me Generation”, then it’s safe to say that Gen Z can be called the “Me, Me, Me, Generation”.
In my opinion, we have completely disregarded our extrinsic values. Instead of physically connecting with the people around us, we’d rather just send them a text or a snap. We are living in an increasingly narcissistic society.
Let me ask you a quick question: are you just a little too obsessed with your own Instagram feed?
As part of the generation that grew up with social media, a reflection on whether we are narcissistic is crucial. The significance of social media in our lives makes me wonder whether there are psychological implications of constantly checking our socials. Does it affect our relationship with others and ourselves?
My roommates and I decided to take a “how narcissistic are you?” test. To be quite honest, the four of us were concerningly leaning towards the narcissistic side. I would be lying if I said the results surprised me.
According to a 2010 study, the percentage of college students with narcissistic personality traits has increased since the early 1980s to 30 per cent. This study evaluated narcissism through the Narcissistic Personality Inventory, a widely used diagnostic test.
Surprisingly, research has found that narcissism has been increasing at the same rate as obesity since the 1980s, according to The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement by Jean Twenge and W. Keith Campbell, two psychologists.
There are examples of narcissism everywhere. The biggest example out there is Donald Trump. According to numerous mental health professionals, Trump is the epitome of apathy and narcissism. They’ve shared that aspects of his personality such as grandiosity and a lack of empathy are textbook features of narcissism.
Our narcissistic personalities are costing us relationships and the way we communicate our feelings. There is an immense amount of research stating that narcissism causes lower honesty and increased aggression.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not telling you, you shouldn’t love and appreciate yourself, but focus on endorsing self-esteem, compassion and respect rather than obsessing over the way you look 24/7. We need to foster a less narcissistic generation by instilling a healthy level of self-love.
Admire yourself, accept your most imperfect self and your insecurities to grow as a person. A word of advice, don’t conform to society’s toxic image of perfection as perfection is merely a fraction of our imagination and doesn’t actually exist! Focus on yourself and don’t compare yourself to others . . . you’ll soon realize that everyone is on different paths.
C/O Yoohyun Park
How social media has been fuelling eating disorders and body image issues
cw: eating disorders, body dysmorphia, body image, self-harm
With today’s society being submerged in a world of social media that advertises bodies that are considered “norms,” it can be quite easy for one to feel down about their appearance. Today, it is not a shock when young teens decide to undergo procedures such as lip injections that are supposedly meant to look “natural.”
It begs the question: how can one be confident in their own body? We are constantly surrounded by images of individuals with body types that may be unachievable.
For example, the current ideal for a woman’s appearance is deemed as someone with big lips, a tiny nose, long hair, thin waist and an hourglass figure. And don’t forget — men need to be jacked, tall and strong.
In my own experience, it’s been interesting seeing the norms change in the media throughout the years. First, we had the Tumblr phase, in which eating disorders, self-harm and anorexia were considered the norm.
It was a competition of who had it worse and whoever did was the most “beautiful.” These were the standards around the same time I was in middle school.
Then Instagram came in. At first, it was lighthearted but as the years went on, it became more toxic.
With the rising popularity of editing apps such as FaceTune, it can become immensely difficult to discern what is real and what is fake.
Popular Instagram models and the Kardashian family have set a “norm” for what beautiful women should look like, even though their beauty may have been attained through personal training and cosmetic surgery.
For example, let’s say I’m talking about my thighs. From a body positivity perspective, I love my thighs, cellulite and all. From a body neutrality lens, I would simply love my thighs because they help me walk.
While these terms have become more common and helped many, they’ve also negatively affected some people. The body positivity trend has also led to negative consequences such as skinny shaming, which need to be avoided if we truly desire to treat all bodies equally.
Our society also needs to understand that a certain body isn’t the picture of health and having another body type doesn’t mean you’re inherently unhealthy.
Being healthy is allowing yourself to eat what you’d like while balancing a lifestyle that allows you to receive all the nutrients you need. It’s learning how to take care of your mind and body. It’s creating healthy habits.
And it is okay to not love certain things.
It takes time — a lifetime, really. But be patient with yourself and the world and notice all the things that you were given, notice what they do and appreciate them. Practice gratitude towards yourself and others and everything else will slowly follow.
C/O Jorge Franganillo, Unsplash
Anti-vaccine misinformation on social media has costed many the ultimate price
Cw: death, COVID-19
“Anti-vaxxers” and “COVID-deniers” went head to head with those who support immunization and the use of masks. However, this was far from a friendly debate as misinformation put forth generated irreversible consequences for our society.
Many individuals who denied COVID-19 as a whole and deemed the virus as government propaganda used social media to voice their opinion. In the beginning, I observed that most of these posts seemed rather harmless in the format of humorous memes.
Alas, these seemingly harmless posts rapidly escalated into widespread misinformation.
Some started suggesting that the prediction models are fake, the test kits are contaminated and the media is exaggerating the virus as there is no pandemic. Others started suggesting how the vaccine will alter their DNA and stated how this is not a risk they will take.
There were even “factual checklists” suggesting the vaccine has not been tested on animals but is tainted with aborted human and monkey cells. Unfortunately, as the title of this article suggests, such mass amounts of misinformation came with a fatal price.
The prominent subreddit, r/HermanCainAward has been exclusively following the stories of individuals who did not trust the science and passed away as a direct result of COVID-19. This online discussion forum was inspired after the passing of Hermain Cain, a former presidential candidate for the Republican Party.
He was against masking mandates from the beginning of the pandemic and was seen maskless in large Trump rallies. Unsurprisingly, he soon contracted COVID-19, was admitted to the hospital and died after two days.
Influenced by Herman Cain’s story, the member of the forum decided to share stories similar to Cain’s in order to exhibit the dangers of misinformation.
One of the most recent awardees of the “Herman Cain Award” was Czech folk singer, Hana Horka. An unfortunate victim of misinformation, Horka passed away after deliberately getting infected with COVID-19.
Horka was told she couldn't perform unless she showed proof of vaccination or recent recovery from COVID-19. Sadly, because of misinformation and downplaying the repercussions of COVID-19, she chose the latter and passed away shortly.
“I know exactly who influenced her. It makes me sad that she believed strangers more than her proper family,” Horka’s son, who shared pro-vaccine views, stated.
Members of the Herman Cain Award subreddit are begging users to get vaccinated in order to prevent stories like Horka’s. And while many have taken offence to this community, labelling them as unempathetic and callous, I believe they have done more good than bad.
Although many posts harshly judge unvaccinated individuals, the community has motivated a lot of people to receive the vaccine. The community sincerely wishes and hopes this subreddit is deleted as soon as possible with no more unfortunate stories to share.
For the most accurate information regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and guidelines, students and community members should refer to the federal government website on COVID-19 here.
C/O Patrick Malleret, Unsplash
TikTok and Instagram’s image of “that girl” is not the only way to live a fulfilling life
TikTok has slowly developed an unhealthy obsession with a recent phenomenon termed “that girl.” For those unfamiliar with this trend, “that girl” refers to an individual (not necessarily a girl) who seemingly is well-put and has their life together.
“That girl” has a perfect routine that has made her fit, mentally healthy and motivated. Instagram and TikTok creators have been posting their daily routines in the promise of helping their followers also become “that girl.”
However, I strongly take issue with this newly risen phenomenon.
One of the less serious issues I have with these countless “routine videos” is the repetitiveness of it. In other words, every single influencer is telling you to do the exact same set of activities in order to achieve greatness. They only slightly change their wording and use varying camera shots and angles to differentiate themselves from other bloggers.
According to almost all of them, the pathway of success has four simple steps.
Firstly, you must wake unreasonably early between the hours of 5:00-6:00 am. Secondly, you are obliged to exercise and meditate immediately after you have woken up. Thirdly, you need to eat incredibly healthy and have a daily consumption of lemon water, avocado toast and berry smoothies. Finally, the last requirement is to replace all forms of technology with journaling.
And so forth, your phone addiction will slowly wear off and you will have a healthy obsession with journaling instead. I don't believe that these routines are inherently wrong, but rather disagree with the repetitiveness of them.
As I mentioned, almost all content creators are promoting the exact same and unvaried set of steps. This makes the audience question whether these four steps are truly the only route to success. One might ask themselves if they will ever achieve their goals if they don’t wake up early, exercise and eat healthy.
Unless it isn’t clear, no, the only way of achieving success is not through these four steps. To start, studies have shown that high productivity is not always linked to waking up early. Countless research articles have exhibited how some individuals are biologically more attentive and fresh in the morning, while others are more alert at night.
The same logic follows with replacing technology with journaling. Although it might be helpful to some, it’s not the objectively right method of accomplishing your goals.
To clarify, I don’t think that these routines are intentionally promoting the idea that these activities are objectively correct. However, social media can be incredibly toxic at times and swallow us in a tornado of insecurity, doubt and anxiety.
When we constantly see these routines, more often than not we doubt ourselves and our abilities. We question whether we’re behind in the “race of success” since we’re not following their advised typical four steps.
In these situations, we often have to take a step back, understand our individual situation and then proceed to make a decision on whether these routines are the best choice for us. If so, then great!
However, if not, we need to understand how it’s not a favourable routine for our lifestyle to immobilize the feelings of inadequacy and insecurity early on.
C/O Robin Worrall, Unsplash
Hamilton police investigated shooting threat made against McMaster University and Mohawk College
On Sunday, Nov. 7, a screenshot began circulating around social media which claimed that someone had made a shooting threat against McMaster University and Mohawk College for Monday, Nov. 8.
Messages in the screenshot showed an individual warning others not to go to campus on Monday. This screenshot was spread through various social media platforms, such as Instagram and the Spotted at Mac Facebook page.
That day, a statement was released through McMaster Daily News, saying that the police had been informed of the situation and that McMaster would be proceeding with classes as usual on Nov. 8.
“The university has not been made aware of any reason not to go ahead with its usual operations. Based on the information that McMaster has received, McMaster will be operating normally on Monday,” stated the university.
Navya Sheth, a second-year student at McMaster University, noted that most of her initial information about the shooting threat was learned from discussions with her peers. Sheth said her peers reacted to the shooting threat and to McMaster’s statement in different ways.
“Several of my friends were really concerned and took [the threat] really seriously. Others were not concerned at all and didn’t think that it was going to happen regardless. And then there was a third smaller fraction which might have been concerned, but then, when the university took action and when class was still running, decided to continue as normal,” said Sheth.
On the morning of Nov. 8, Mohawk College released a statement on Twitter.
“Police are investigating and there is no indication that this represents a credible threat. College campuses and services will be operating as normal today,” stated Mohawk.
On the morning of Monday, Nov. 8, the Hamilton Police followed up with their own statement on Twitter, saying that they had located the source of the threat.
The Hamilton Police managed the investigation into the shooting threat and determined that it was not credible.
Still, both McMaster and Mohawk experienced increased police presence on Monday, Nov. 8, as a precaution.
C/O Markus Winkler, Unsplash
How social media has tampered with our perceptions of love and relationships
By: Ana Mamula, Contributor
Rom-coms are my favorite, especially The Notebook. I couldn’t even fathom a man writing me a letter every single day until we meet again, a man who would wait his whole life for me. Today, love is if he likes your Instagram picture, slides into your DMs and is your number one friend on Snapchat.
It’s matching on Tinder with strangers hoping for that Notebook kind of love. However, in actuality, love this way is superficial and impossible.. Love is non-existent today. Love is transactional; it's a like, a comment or a FaceTime. It’s getting jealous over your significant other liking another person’s picture, it’s cheating coming in so many different forms and becoming so accessible.
I hate it.
Love has turned into lust. Today, we are just focused on physical attraction rather than having a genuine relationship. Hookup culture is the norm and seeing someone just for their appearance is the norm due to social media. As a result of the media uprise, men and women have lost the acceptance of themselves today and feel they must live up to society’s expectations.
And maybe that's why I love rom-coms so much, and why girls love rom-coms so much. Rom-coms liberate us from regular concerns and dump us straight into that beautiful space, a fantasy featuring no real responsibility or risk.
Then we have social media that dumps us into a space full of anxiety, jealousy, low self-esteem and so much more. It is so rare to actually meet someone out and about and just click and then start dating. Nowadays, a swipe right is all it takes. Individuals do not even look for relationships anymore. It starts and ends with a hookup and if it escalates into a relationship, well you’re in luck!
Social media has created such a toxic space for relationships that bring out the worst in us. Jealousy and self-esteem issues are on the rise and the accessibility to cheat is so much more pronounced. With Facebook, Snapchat, TikTok, Instagram, webcams and other such social media platforms, partners can carry on affairs from the comfort of their couch, illuminated by the light of their computer or smartphone screen.
Social media is meant to highlight the best parts of one’s life, including the positive aspects of their relationships. This restrictive positivity does not allow for a person’s negative aspects to be brought to the light until we get to know someone. We never truly know how someone is or what someone’s relationship is like until we see it in person.
All of these false representations of love, from rom-coms to modern dating on social media, make it difficult to understand what a relationship should look like due to our clouded judgments. The media has shown us such an unrealistic standard of love that we do not even know what to believe anymore — and that is scary to me.
What even is love anymore?
In light of the ethnic cleansing and violent dispossession of Palestinians, social media activism has never been more important
By: Shehla Choudhary, Contributor
cw: genocide, ethnic cleansing, violence
On May 16, nearly 1000 protestors gathered at Hamilton City Hall and marched through the downtown core. Similar demonstrations occurred in Toronto’s Nathan Phillips Square and Mississauga’s Celebration Square. These massive turnouts were facilitated by online advocacy, organized and advertised through social media outlets.
The objective of the demonstrations, although constantly portrayed as an incredibly complex situation, is rather simple: to stop the violent and illegal evictions of Palestinians from their homes; to cease the relentless airstrikes resulting in the murder of Palestinian civilians; and to end the occupation of the current open-air prisons known as Palestinian territories.
The situation escalated and garnered worldwide attention when earlier this month, eight Palestinian families joined the roster of forceful evictions in the neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah in order to enable Israeli settlements that are illegal under international law. This area is accustomed to such occurrences, having seen similar displacements earlier in 2009.
Demonstrations in protest of the expulsions quickly occurred throughout the neighbourhood and were immediately met with police violence. Despite warnings from Hamas promising consequences if Israel continued attacks in Sheikh Jarrah and east Jerusalem, this pattern of oppression further manifested through attacks on worshippers at Al Aqsa mosque. This involved excessive Israeli force using stun grenades, rubber bullets, live bullets and tear gas. Following Hamas’ rocket strikes, an 11-day onslaught of Israeli airstrikes was unleashed upon the occupied and blockaded Gaza strip, killing at least 248 Gazan civilians, including 66 children and wounding more than 1900. It is estimated that the rocket fire killed at least 12 people in Israel.
Social media activism, commonly exercised through retweets on Twitter and story posts on Instagram, has gained traction throughout the past year. Sparked by the murder of George Floyd in the summer of 2020, it has exponentially contributed to the growth of the Black Lives Matter movement, but has also been met with criticism.
Social media activism brings with it concerns of “slacktivism,” otherwise known as performative activism, in which individuals share posts simply to appease followers, without taking any substantial actions to further the cause. While performative activism can be hurtful, as exemplified by worries of drowning informative posts under the BLM hashtag on #BlackoutTuesday, refraining from posting due to the fear of being perceived as “hopping on the bandwagon” is also deeply hindering.
There is no denying the significance of material contributions. However, in the context of the current movement for Palestine, productive social media exposure is just as, if not more, important. What the Palestinian cause needs most at the moment is the sharing of infographics, videos and interviews that have led to conversations and protests, while directing the international gaze and scrutiny to Israel’s actions.
Palestinians have long argued that Western media consistently fails to accurately represent the ongoing apartheid inflicted upon Palestinians. Mainstream media’s misrepresentation of events paints the aforementioned issue as a conflict, a clash and a war. These words carry the implication of two equal parties engaged in an armed fight, avoiding the reality of state-sponsored Israeli militia with police officers occupying and attacking civilian men, women and children.
This veiled journalism is not surprising, considering the strong allyship of North American countries with Israel. Examples can be seen through examining Canadian-Israeli arms sales and the $3.8 billion dollars of yearly military aid that the United States provides Israel. Portrayal of events in Palestine in Western media usually carries a one-sided and biased perspective.
The coverage from Palestinians amounts to cell phone coverage of protests, bombings and police inflicted violence. In addition to social media posts by not only journalists and activists, the West also sees regular civilians currently enduring settler colonialism and ethnic cleansing.
By resharing these posts and raising further awareness, social media has drawn attention to Palestinian activists such as Mohammed El-Kurd. El-Kurd has since been invited for interviews by many mainstream news organizations and successfully addressed their biases while providing an accurate picture of the situation in Sheikh Jarrah.
Further illustrating the relevance of social media activism to this cause is Israel’s targeting of towers housing media offices in Gaza. Israel justifies its attacks on civilian residential buildings, hospitals and COVID-19 testing labs by citing alleged Hamas presence, often without providing evidence to back these claims.
The demolition of the al-Jalaa tower and the al-Awqaf building, hosting multiple media offices, is yet another attempt to suppress Palestinian voices. These attacks, which many have urged the International Criminal Court to investigate as war crimes, are undoubtedly instigated by Israel’s failure to control the narrative due to overwhelming Palestinian support online. In light of these attacks, our responsibility to ensure that the voices of the oppressed are continued to be amplified through our social media platforms becomes increasingly evident.
The issue of Palestinian apartheid, which has long been painted as historically intricate and irrelevant to a regular citizen in the West, has now become reframed as a human rights issue relevant to everyone. Infographics taking over Instagram and videos shared on Tiktok have allowed accessibility to content that clarifies Israel’s tactics to shut down these conversations, such as incorrectly equating anti-Zionism with antisemitism and using pinkwashing to dehumanize Palestinian victims.
Consequently, these conversations have revealed the prevalence of Zionism in our social circles and opened the doors to debate that illustrates the problematic nature of taking a neutral stance. Remaining uneducated, ignorant and silent despite available and plentiful information, or using nonspecific language while refusing to condemn Israel is choosing the side of the oppressor.
This shift in public perspective regarding the urgency of this matter has empowered people to ask questions. I have personally had multiple conversations with McMaster students hoping to learn more as a result of content shared to my social profiles. This exemplifies that resharing posts is not a passive display, but a medium for reaffirming true allyship.
The impact of social media pressure in this struggle for liberation has already been witnessed: due to public scrutiny, Israel’s Supreme Court proceedings for the Sheikh Jarrah evictions have been postponed. Under the pressure of worldwide protests organized through social media outlets, various government officials, including Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, called for a ceasefire.
However, the movement has not yet accomplished its goals. Despite agreeing to a ceasefire on May 21, Israeli forces continued with violent attacks on worshippers at Al Aqsa mosque in east Jerusalem. The ceasefire does not end the blockade of Gaza or the siege of Sheikh Jarrah.
The ceasefire does not end the illegal Israeli occupation and settlements on land internationally recognized as Palestinian territory. The ceasefire does not end the displacements of individuals who can trace their entire lineage to Palestinian land. The ceasefire does not end the demolition and stealing of ancestral homes. The ceasefire does not end the decades-long apartheid. The need for continued social media activism, reshares and reposts, within the McMaster community and beyond, has never been more apparent.
As of Wednesday, June 16, the ceasefire has been broken and Israel has launched airstrikes in the Gaza strip.
Aided by the amplification through social media, “hustle porn” encourages unhealthy work habits
C/O Prateek Katyal on Unsplash
By: Kimia Tahaei, Contributor
Social media has definitely been fruitful in the past decade with influencers sharing their expertise, educating others and promoting positivity. However, some influencers, such as Gary Vaynerchuck, advocate for “hustle porn.” A freshly coined phrase, “hustle porn” refers to the fetishization of extremely long working hours in the entrepreneurial world.
Influencers such as Vaynerchuck, the “self-made” entrepreneur millionaire and internet personality, have taken social media by storm by yelling words of “encouragement” at their cameras. I assume there is an adrenaline rush in recording yourself and demanding your followers to quit their "normal" jobs. Although there is absolutely nothing wrong with following your passions and leaving your day job behind, individuals shouldn't be pushed to this decision because of influencers.
Influencers often use manipulative tactics such as showing off their wealth in the background and making false generalized claims to push their relatively young audience to leave academia behind in pursuit of entrepreneurship and business. Vaynerchuck also often forgets to mention how he built off his empire based on his parents’ $3 million wine company.
Such important details often go unmentioned and all we see is the money raining over a Bugatti in a 15-second Instagram post. Time and again, this embarrassing boast is followed by wanting their naive followers to sign up for a business class or buy a marketing book of theirs.
I wonder if there are any pure intentions of wanting others to actually succeed behind these books and classes or if the focus is more so on developing another source of income? In addition, they encourage a strangely unhealthy lifestyle that is detrimental to one’s mental health.
Instead of promoting a “grind-like” lifestyle, influencers need to realize that continual hard work is not necessarily the answer and it can result in drastic mental exhaustion. As if this wasn’t enough, influencers like Vaynerchuck also encourage individuals in their 20s to completely leave behind any sort of leisure and relaxation.
Surely since Vaynerchuck spent his twenties “grinding”, he now has time to relax in his mid-forties and read Bertrand Russell’s short essay, “In Praise of Idleness.”
Russell argues that “[l]eisure is essential to civilization.” Not only does he claim that leisure is a necessity, but he also elaborates on the production upsurge that can be achieved through a reduced workforce. According to the British philosopher, if half of the population is overworking themselves, then the others are most likely unemployed.
However, if everybody contributes a normal work time to their community, the quality of everyone’s lifestyle will improve and people can enjoy “time to be civilized.”
The truth is, the workaholic “grinding” lifestyle is not designed for everyone. Leaving a stable job and a university education behind is a risk not many can and should take. Nothing against risks because they can be great at certain points in life, but the glorification of it can lead to irreversible damages. The entrepreneurial “leaving university” lifestyle isn’t a universally good choice that anyone with motivation can follow through with.
Studies have shown that a university education is valuable and the value of a degree is annually growing. Ultimately, life shouldn’t be defined by a masochistic obsession of unremittingly wanting to push yourself forward, so don’t let these wannabe “economists'' define your worth by your work hours.
Give yourself frequent breaks, gift yourself when you need to and don’t spend your 20s locked up in your room (well, at least after COVID is over). Enjoy trips, sneakers and fun events as much you can and don’t get intimidated by hustle porn’s senseless mantra. Following your passion doesn't mean sacrificing everything for it.
Bell “Let’s Talk” has devolved into a day of pageantry and virtue signalling, undermining the very values it hopes to represent
On Jan. 28, Bell “Let’s Talk” day was celebrated at McMaster University and across Canada. Did you talk to someone about mental health? Because I didn’t — I did double tap on the Instagram posts, though. Oh and I watched the funny Michael Bublé ad.
Bell Let’s Talk is an initiative that began in 2010 with four key goals: to reduce the stigma around mental illness, to increase access to mental health supports and services, to provide funds for research and for Bell to lead by example within their own workplace.
I think the fundraising is absolutely marvellous and one of the best ways a large organization can support mental health (watching Michael Bublé vacuum never felt so good). I must also disclose that I’ve never worked for Bell, so I can’t tell you how well their workplace initiative is going.
Where I think we’ve gone astray, especially at McMaster, is with regards to the other crucial component of supporting mental health: de-stigmatization through conversation.
McMaster states that more than 20,000 of its student-athletes will partake in leading the conversation about mental health on campus, alongside other students and university members to discuss the impacts and stigma that mental illness can have.
Now, I know that I can’t speak to other people’s views, so keep in mind that these are just some of mine: I am a varsity athlete. I’ve got the coveted blue hat. I’ve posed with the cute little speech bubble posters saying “#endthestigma” and “it’s okay to not be okay.”
I’ve also had my coach tell me, on the same week I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder no less, that she guaranteed that “whatever kind of week I was having, her's was worse.” I also remember the day the rookies on our team got their Bell “Let’s Talk” hats.
In the span of probably 30 seconds, we had them put on the hats, thrust the signs into their hands, snapped a picture for the gram and then left to go home. There was no talking.
I’m not blameless in this either. Even though I know too well the pain, discomfort and humiliation of a mental illness, I’ve been mean to teammates I didn’t like without thinking of their personal situations (or, even worse, with full awareness of their circumstances). I’ve giggled at other people’s spiteful and insensitive jokes, glad to be included and keen to not end up on the receiving end and I am ashamed.
My reason for saying all this is to illustrate how participation in Bell “Let’s Talk” day has become an exercise in pageantry, devoid of any of the meaningful action it purports to inspire.
To paraphrase Macbeth, it’s a load of sound and worry, signifying nothing. Holding up a sign that says “#LetsTalk” does not fulfill your obligation to have that talk. Writing “#endthestigma” doesn’t really end the stigma if you never make an effort to understand the “stigma” in the first place or change your own behaviour.
An opinion contributor for the Toronto Star wrote that on Bell “Let’s Talk” day, all they saw were billboards of mostly white, well-groomed people, alongside text that read “Mental Health Affects Us All.” When I look at the McMaster Marauders Instagram posts, for example, that is pretty much all I see, too.
The reality is that mental health is not pretty. Ending the stigma surrounding mental health shouldn’t be limited to a day where you can check a box saying “I care” by posting a photo on Instagram and then moving on with your life.
If we truly mean all those slogans and hashtags and well wishes, we need to sit down before (or after) the photo is taken and have that uncomfortable conversation about what mental health looks like, how we encounter it and what we can do to help. Then, we need to carry that conversation with us beyond Bell “Let’s Talk” day and apply it to our thoughts, words and actions.
Don’t laugh at those problematic jokes, talk to the person who is considered painfully uncool, stand up to people you admire and respect and love when they’re doing something wrong. As Dumbledore would say, “It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.”
No more pretending — let’s end this stigma for real.