Fighting my monster: living with anxiety

A student’s perspective on why we need to end stigma surrounding mental illness

There is nothing more frustrating than having a millions things you want to say and not being able to say them.
There is nothing more infuriating than feeling out of control of your own emotions and actions.
There is nothing more discouraging and isolating than people pushing you aside, and labeling you as feeble.

I have suffered from anxiety for a very long time, and was recently diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. I have dealt with obsessive compulsive behaviour, anxiety attacks, fear, and the constant feeling that something bigger and more powerful than me was standing on my chest 24 hours a day, seven days a week—in a constant state of fight or flight and high alert from what is usually a fabricated danger.

This summer, I found myself unable to sleep, curled up in a ball in my bed at 3 a.m. crying to my mother about how I couldn’t take it anymore. I just wanted it all to stop. Despite my struggles, I was never one to ‘give up,’ as they call it.  I was never one to lose total control. I always thought I was in control; I always had it all figured out.

My world was spinning—I felt as though I was alone in a dark room with no windows… no air. I could see the light through a small crack. I could see the people going about their everyday life; my friends, colleagues, everyone I knew so far away—out of reach. I knew what was out there, I knew it was good, but I couldn’t fit through the crack because the monster on my back was too large.

It was at that point that I realized I let my anxiety take complete control of my life. I had seen doctors in the past; I have had many health issues related to my stress. They’ve given me tips and ways to manage my anxiety. I’ve always managed to do it on my own, but now I felt defeated because I no longer could, and I felt like I had nowhere to turn. I was ashamed.

This year, I started treatment for my anxiety. This year, I spoke up and said that I could not longer do it on my own. I can proudly say that as of right now, I have not had a panic attack in three months.  I can take elevators again; crowded metros aren’t the death traps I once considered them to be. I can go to a movie theatre without constantly looking over my shoulder at every little movement I see in the dark. Small steps, but I am no longer ashamed of my struggles.

These may seem like completely ridiculous feats to you, but to me they are paramount accomplishments.  To me, they symbolize my ability to silence the monster on my back. It’s still there—I still have a lot of work to do, but if I keep reminding myself that I control it, and it not me, its power is greatly diminished.

I am writing this because people are quick to share links and re-tweet tweets on “Bell Let’s Talk” Day, but that’s one day in the year.  There are 12 months, 52 weeks, 365 days, and 8765 hours in a year, and in the life and struggle of someone suffering from anxiety, depression, and mental illness. It is so easy to feel alone and isolated, and for many that makes the situation even worse.

A change of mentality—an end to the stigma surrounding mental illness needs to be brought forth. It’s such an immense part of so many people’s lives. According to Canadian Institute of Health Research, one in five Canadians will experience a form of mental illness at one point in their lives. And yet, we are still whispering about it. Just writing this and publishing it with my name has me feeling rather nervous, even though I shouldn’t be.

The stigma is alive and thriving and I have unfortunately experienced it first hand. I am not weak, rather I am stronger than you could ever imagine. And to the people who say, “just shake it off,” you don’t just shake the monster off. You look it in the eye, and you fight it.  A person is always more powerful with the support of those around them.

You are not alone, I can promise you that.

Let’s talk about it. Let’s talk about the what, the why, and the how surrounding mental illness. Be kind, be good, take the time to be understanding and open-minded, and together we will find concrete solutions.

To learn more about “Bell Let’s Talk Day”, visit


Imagine Dragons leave fans feeling “On Top of The World”

The Bell Centre was booming with radioactivity this past Monday as Las Vegas native rockers Imagine Dragons lit up the stadium during their Night Visions tour.

Photo by Nathalie Laflamme

Concertgoers were treated to two opening acts, The X Ambassadors and kiwi indie band The Naked and Famous.

 The Naked and Famous had the crowd moving with their hits “Girls Like You” and “Young Blood.” It felt like a cool and breezy summer night at the Bell Centre, and the flower crowns were out and about to prove it.

Brooklyn based newcomers The X Ambassadors really got the crowd excited. Their unique sound, contagious energy, and catchy lyrics definitely stuck with you long after the show had ended.

Imagine Dragons burst onto the scene, opening with an instrumental lead into their song “Fallen.”  The stage looked like a set out of Sleepy Hollow: with bare ridden trees that cast shadows as the light hit them, and a large round screen that projected various photos of nature, and also of the crowd and band themselves. In quirky Imagine Dragons style, they even let loose giant balloons filled with confetti during the set, and who doesn’t love giant balloons?

With its infamous drumming and chirpy intro, the crowd roared and took the lead when fan favorite “It’s Time” began to play. Fans of all ages were seen dancing and laughing along.  While concerts at the Bell Centre aren’t the most intimate, the crowd was as great as ever, singing loudly in unison with the band, much to Imagine Dragons’ own surprise and awe.  By the time they got to Radioactive it wasn’t even noticeable that lead singer Dan Reynolds had not started singing yet, as the fans took control of the song.

Fan interaction was great despite the large space, with Reynolds leaving the stage and making his way around the ground floor, and even courageously diving into the crowd.

The mood grew a bit more thoughtful as the band dedicated a song to Tyler Robinson, a 17-year-old fan who recently lost his battle to cancer. Fans came together and shined the flash on their smart phones as the Bell Centre grew eerily quiet, nothing but the sound of Reynolds’ voice filled the arena, thousands of little white lights swaying side to side.

Imagine Dragons take risks with their set, straying away from their songs and allowing for long guitar riffs, giving each member their time in the spotlight. Fans may also appreciate the large drums on stage.  It adds to the bands style, however it could easily be overdone.

The mixed audience proved that there was something for everyone. Even a little surprise for fans of classic rock, as the band played a cover of Rush’s “Tom Sawyer.” Reynolds told the crowd how the band had grown up on their parents music, listening to a lot of Led Zeppelin, and Rush, which they were excited to play for a Canadian crowd.

After ending with an explosive audience collaboration of “Radioactive,” the band came on scene once again for an encore of one song, “Nothing Left to Say.” Sporting Habs jerseys, of course.

Overall, the setlist was no surprise, as the band is still rather new to the scene, Night Visions being their only album. However, they managed to use their musical talent and charisma to keep it fresh and exciting.

Imagine Dragons is a powerhouse of a band who definitely know how to command a crowd.  Montrealers have fallen under their spell, and I have a feeling this one is going to be hard to shake off.


Confessions of a 20-something #13

Graphic Jenny Kwan

The first two weeks of the semester are always a bit strange. It takes time to get back into the groove of school, and get back on a schedule of class, homework, and work; all the while trying to maintain enough of a social life so that you don’t forget how to interact with human beings.

It’s also a trial period for classes. I’ve heard a lot of professors speak about “shopping for classes” and “jumping around,” especially when it comes to electives. When speaking to my fellow students, and asking for advice, I often ask what they look for in a class. The words that come up most often are: interesting, fit my schedule, and easy.

Is it just me, or does anyone else feel terrible when they justify taking a class because you heard it was “easy.”

When coming into university I had the naïve and romantic idea that electives would be classes that I could take to broaden my knowledge on subjects that I don’t exactly want a degree in, but would like to learn more about. As well as possibly piquing  my interest in another field of study for a minor or Grad school.

This is the attitude I held at the start of registration, even this term, scouring through the list of electives offered, checking out the class descriptions and asking around about how engaging the material is.

And then, it happens. Others question me as to why I chose a class with so many readings, or why I chose a class with a lot of essays and a major final. Why didn’t I take something easy, something I already know a substantial amount about, therefore ensuring not only a pass, but a pass that involves very little effort?

I can understand why people opt for the “easy” factor. There is the pressure to keep a high GPA, and rough program course loads that don’t leave much room for equally heavy electives.

However, I think it’s a sad state for our education system when students at this level are feeling the need to search for easy passes instead of opportunities for new knowledge and discovery.

It’s not to say that I’ve never asked the question myself. I have started to do so more and more as the semesters progress, because I can feel the pressure. However, I’m still holding on to the romantic idea of taking classes I enjoy, even if the material may be a little dense and may require reflection and thought.

Some may think electives are a total waste of time, but it’s important to see what else is out there. It’s important to understand and know what others are studying, because once you’re out of university, you will be working with many different types of people.

Having an arsenal of understanding and knowledge in many different areas when collaborating in the professional world is an asset. No, that one marketing class won’t make you a pro, but it will give you some understanding and insight, as well as a possible curiosity to venture off and research on your own.

It’s important to be realistic. If you failed biology three times in both high school and CEGEP, then taking a biology elective alongside four core program courses is probably not a bright idea. However, I think that if it’s feasible, students should stay away from easy and predictable, and grab a spot in a class that sounds interesting, intriguing, and maybe a little bit scary.

That’s just what I think. Who knows, maybe by my last semester in university my growing cynicism will consume me entirely, but for now I am holding onto this idea.


Snapping photos and exploring oneself: the age of the selfie

The Oxford English Dictionary named “Selfie” the word of the year 2013. Photo by Keith Race.

Self-portraiture is something that has existed long before the days of smart phones and Instagram. The invention of the mirror in the 1500s gave a platform for artists to explore the canvases of their own face and bodies, giving them control over how they appear. Social media and smart phones have taken this idea, and morphed it into what we now know as a “selfie.”  Many are quick to label them as narcissistic and vain, but when it comes down to it, selfies are essentially born from the human need to connect, share, and belong.

Selfies were much spoken about in 2013, with Oxford English Dictionary naming it word of the year, and Hollywood actor James Franco being pegged as Selfie King on the Today Show. Franco published a piece in The New York Times called “The Meanings of the Selfie.” His article touched on the relation between selfies and the need to stay connected and promote oneself. From celebrities, politicians, adventure seekers, and most of all, everyday citizens, 2013 was the year of the selfie, and it is not surprising or really that alarming.

Many argue that selfies are plaguing social media. It’s part of the whole blasé  “I don’t care” attitude that people have towards others online. If you’re on Instagram, Facebook, or other sites and applications that provide a photo-sharing platform, then you’re going to have to expect the occasional selfie popping up on your news feed.

It’s not just about showing off; there is a psychology behind the action. The BBC published a short video where two experts, Lisa Orban and Andrew Przybylski, spoke of the human behavior associated with the taking of selfies. Orban called it a means of safe and controlled self-exploration, which is especially important in adolescents. Przybylski also mentioned a link to the psychological theory of “relatedness need-satisfaction,” otherwise known as “the need to belong.”

Essentially, selfies are a way of connecting. It’s an instant connection, a way of saying “I’m here!” Yes, it is a way of saying, “Look at me! look at me!” but is that anything new? It’s something humans have been doing all along in different ways.

Technology has now provided  an instant platform for this behaviour and need to manifest itself. It’s a small way of making a mark, and leaving something behind. These photos are labelled as narcissistic, and that masks the need to connect that lies behind them.  The action is focused on oneself, but it reveals a lot about the search and need for belonging, especially with the “likes” and “views” that these photos accumulate online.

This is why applications like Snapchat are so popular; it is a back and forth instant communication of emotions with those seeking to connect.  It’s sharing experiences in the here and now. If one wishes to keep their lives private, that’s fine. No one is holding a smartphone camera to your face forcibly.

Is there such a thing as too many selfies? When one can actually count the amount of time spent taking selfies on a weekly basis, then maybe they should organize and strategize the use of their time. There is a time and place for partaking in this trend, and just like with almost everything we partake in, moderation is key.

It’s quite nice to see what people are up to, and interesting to interact with those who are not always present in our immediate lives.  If someone does not wish to see selfies or is that bothered by the photos, there is the option to scroll away or “unfollow.” That’s the magic of social media, haven’t you heard?


The self-deprecating humour conundrum

Self-deprecating humour is a tool I use a lot in my daily life. Chances are, you’ve heard me make fun of my unfortunate clumsiness and sometimes-awkward demeanor.

As I grow older and start to take on more important tasks in my life I have begun asking myself whether my self-deprecating ways are actually affecting the way people view me. Does this talk allow manipulative people an opening to take a jab? Does it open the window for people to make unwarranted criticisms and scrutinize me for the sake of their own egos?

The role of self-deprecation is an actual topic being discussed and studied. Researchers at Seattle University recently conducted a study on their undergrads in which they were presented a list of descriptions about a new boss joining a fictitious company. The description that showed his self-deprecating side was most popular with the students, because they felt he seemed to be “a more likable, trustworthy, and caring leader.”

According to the article in INC. Magazine, “Self-deprecating humor enhances perceptions of leadership ability because it tends to minimize status distinctions between leaders and followers.”

I am always meeting new people, and often find myself in leadership situations. This type of humour is my way of trying to make myself approachable and open to others. I also want to be likeable…there, I said it.  However, this is where I have noticed it can become dangerous. I can’t help but feel that these comments, quips, and jabs at myself should only be used around those who I know are sincere, and when I have control of the situation.

I find it important to be able to poke fun at yourself. I usually feel more comfortable around people who can, because it shows a sort of acceptance of one’s weaknesses, which we all have. Someone who thinks they know it all and jumps at your throat the minute they get the chance to correct or criticize are the most exhausting to be around. This is not called “tough love,” it’s being rude.

Maybe the reception of the humour also has something to do with gender? The Guardian reports that linguistics expert Dr. Judith Baxter did an 18-month study into the speech patterns of women and men from seven big companies in the UK. She studied the language used at 14 meetings led equally between women and men.

She found that most of the time, humour used by men was met with better reception than humour used by women. Also, women were much more likely to use self-deprecating humour, as it is a safer option to poke fun at themselves. Baxter also mentioned the fact that men have traditionally held the “leader” position in the business world, and women are still claiming their place.

This suggests a broader issue in terms of a woman’s place in the work field. However, in terms of using self-deprecating humour overall, I think there is a general rule: there is a time and place for everything, regardless of who you are.

It’s a double-edged sword, because I want to be myself around others, however this also opens me up to the wrath of megalomaniacs. I personally see nothing wrong with using a little bit of self-deprecating humour, being funny is an asset. However, I just can’t help but feel it is important to be careful of your environment and whom you’re speaking too. You also don’t want it to be misinterpreted as self-doubt; no one wants to be the human version of Eeyore.


Halloween Mixtape

It’s Halloween! The ghosts, ghouls, and vampires have come out to play. What better way to celebrate the spooky season than to shake your bones to some scary tunes. Side A of this mix is composed of some go-to Halloween songs, many from classic movies and artists.

Side B is a little more unconventional. Songs that aren’t necessarily about Halloween, or related to the holiday, but have that eerie feeling to them. That feeling that just sends tingles up and down your spine and forces the hairs at the back of your neck to give the song a standing ovation. I threw Backstreet Boys in there because everyone remembers dancing to that Halloween video. Everyone.

Happy Hallows’ Eve!


Side A: The Obligatory Halloween Karaoke

1. “Time Warp” – The Rocky Horror Picture Show – The Rocky Horror Picture Show

2. “This is Halloween”- The Nightmare Before Christmas – The Nightmare Before Christmas

3. “Jump In Line (Shake Señora)”- Harry Belafonte – Beetlejuice

4. “Thriller”- Michael Jackson – Thriller

5. “Superstition”- Stevie Wonder – Talking Book

6. “Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)” – David Bowie – Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)

7. “Ghostbusters”- Ray Parker Jr. – Ghostbusters

8. “Ghost Town” – The Specials – Single

9. “Monster Mash” – Bobby “Boris” Pickett & The Crypt-Kickers- Single

10. “I Put a Spell on You” – Screamin’ Jay Hawkins – Single


Side B: The Not-So-Obvious

1. “Heads Will Roll”- The Yeah Yeah Yeahs – It’s Blitz!

2. “Running Up That Hill” – Placebo – Sleeping With Ghosts

3. “People Are Strange” – The Doors – The Soft Parade

4. “Somebody’s Watching Me” – Rockwell – Somebody’s Watching Me

6. ” My Body’s a Zombie for You” – Dead Man’s Bones – Dead Man’s Bones

7. “Dead Hearts” – Stars – The Five Ghosts

6. “Point of Disgust” – Low – Trust

7. “All Fall Down”- OneRepublic – Dreaming Out Loud

8. “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)” – Backstreet Boys – Backstreet’s Back

9. “Creep” – Scala & Kolacny Brothers – On The Rocks

10. “Cinderella” – Aqualung – Memory Man


Top 10 – Zombie apocalypse songs

So, the zombies are taking over and all you have is your iPod — or music player of your choice — to keep you company. We all have those ideal songs we would go to in order to block out the moaning and groaning, and to give us to motivation and strength to kick undead ass.

These songs may give you that feeling, that boost, and maybe even that sense of normalcy during the most dangerous moments of your life.

1. “Zombie” – The Cranberries

OK, this is the first song that may pop into a lot of people’s minds. Whether you prefer the Cranberries rendition, or that of Ed Helms on The Office, this is a great song to open the scene. Zombies, zombies are everywhere. What is happening?

2. “Move Bitch” – Ludacris

So now you start realizing that people are really getting aggressive and all up in your personal space, trying to eat your brains and whatnot. You’re not down with this. No way. It’s time to rustle some bones.

3. “Radioactive” – Imagine Dragons

This is it. You realize that it is do or die, and shizz is getting real — real scary. This is where you start using the rules that Zombieland taught you. Double Tap, always remember the Double Tap.

4. “Uprising” – Muse

Don’t let them fat-cat corporate zombies get to you, you need to keep fighting, band together with other real humans. Don’t approach the babies or the kittens as they are traps set to lure you into a feast where you’re the main course. They cannot control you.

5. “Sail” – AWOLNATION

You’re still kicking zombie butt, but you’re getting worried. You just want it to end, and for things to go back to normal, but you cannot control that right now. So keep crackin’ them mushy skulls.

6. “Midnight City” – M83

Warm Bodies anyone? It’s nighttime now, and you’re perusing the dangerous and barely-lit streets, the sounds of screaming can be heard over your music. You walk cautiously.

7. “The Funeral” – Band of Horses

It’s dark, cold and you’re alone. You’ve been separated from all your friends and family as well as your cat, who was bitten and you’re pretty sure is responsible for most of the epidemic. You knew Misfits was educational. You’re close to giving up.

8. “Death and All of His Friends” – Coldplay

No. You’re not a quitter. Get up, you idiot. You’re a kick-ass zombie fighter. Buffy, Sam and Dean- they got nothing on you and the supernatural. You’re determined to get your life back. You “don’t want to follow death and all of his friends.”

9. “The Rapture” – Echoes

You walked into the wrong part of town. You’re completely surrounded. You see your aunt Janie, your best friend Morgan, and your mom — she’s holding Mr. Pickles, your zombie feline. They are coming in from all angles, you cannot escape. You’re out of ammo. This is it.

10. “L’Absente” – Yann Tiersen

You’ve been bitten. You tried your best and there was nothing you could do. You were impossibly surrounded and now you must wait to see what happens. Life is slowly being taken away from you as you join the crowd of moaning, groaning, and decaying flesh. Your life flashes before your eyes and you listen to this song, its ups & downs, the highs and lows.

Now get the hell out of the shower, you just spent an hour imagining a zombie apocalypse while listening to music and you’re late for your class. Your cat is acting really strange though…


From our kitchen: Broken Glass Jell-O — zombie edition!

Photo by Casandra De Masi

Here is what you need:

 – 4 packs of Jell-O or any other fruit gelatin brand (colours are up to you, for zombie I would use green, red, orange.)

– 2 packs of clear unflavoured gelatin

– 1 can eagle brand condensed milk

– A 9×13 inch pan (I use a clear casserole, as it goes in the fridge)

– 4 plastic contains, medium sized (for your Jell-o)


1. Make your four packs of Jell-O, and when done, separate the colours into four containers. Let them chill in fridge.

2. Once the Jell-O is set, cut it up into medium sized cubes. Dump the cubes into your pan.

3. In a separate bowl, mix together two packets of clear unflavoured gelatin and half a cup of cold water.

4. In the same bowl, add in about 2 cups of hot water. Stir.

5. Once stirred, add your can of condensed milk and mix together. Let it cool in the fridge for a while. I usually leave it for about 30 minutes.

6. Once cooled, take your milk and gelatin mix and slowly pour it over the Jell-O cubes in your pan. Put the pan in the fridge and let it cool overnight.

In the morning, you’ll be able to cut your gelatin treat into cubes or any shape you want. You can even break it up unevenly and say it is zombie brains/guts! YUM!



An italian tale of tradition and identity, told over dinner

Italian family dinners are never short of a spectacle. It is no surprise Canadian playwright Steve Galluccio chose to have all the action in the Centaur Theatre for The St. Léonard Chronicles, which takes place within the confinements of a young Italian couple’s kitchen in their staple St. Léonard duplex.

You better think twice before you move out of St. Léonard. Press photo

Family, pride, heritage and identity are some of the main themes explored through the characters and dialogue.

Directed by Roy Surette, the play explores the Italian community’s need to stick to their roots. Young couple, Terry (Christina Broccolini) and Robert (Guido Cocomello) struggle to break the news to their families that they will be selling their St. Léonard duplex to move into a cottage in Beaconsfield.

Sick of their mundane life in St. Léonard, including the vegetable gardens and the noisy tenant in their duplex, the couple doesn’t want to follow in their parents’ footsteps.

As Robert says, “In St. Leo, it’s all about who has the nicest pavé uni and stocking up on Javel when it goes on special.”

The story turns to the reactions of parents Gina (Dorothee Berryman), Carmine (Michel Perron), Dante (Vittorio Rossi) and Elisa (Ellen David). They are outraged.

“What are you going to feed yourself with in Beaconsfield, Tim Horton’s Lasagna?” Dante asked his son.

In true Italian fashion, one controversial topic brought up at the dinner table spirals into a full-fledged war, and shots are fired from all corners. Love affairs and lies are outed and thrown into the mix. It comes as a bit of a surprise, and while it makes sense, it also feels at times that the plot is moving a little too quickly.

Nonna Dora (Jocelyne Zucco) is the anchor of the ensemble. Coined by her daughter Elisa as having “a touch of dementia,” she delivers the cringe worthy stories and wisdom that Italian grandmothers always have up their sleeves, providing for many humorous moments.

However, her stories of forbidden love back in her hometown of Italy, and her unhappiness in her relationship with her late husband paint a picture of an issue often swept under the rug in Italian families.

The set decor is minimal, with the window to “outside” facing the audience providing a clear view of a St. Léonard duplex. The Italian-English dialogue is not ignored, with an array of Italian swear words being thrown here and there from one cast member to the other, and the use of many common grammatical errors made by Italian-Canadians.

The play relies heavily on many stereotypes, and while it is not overdone, it does dance on the fine line between realistic characters and caricature. However, dialogue about fears of immigrants and racism, the wasting of food, and the respect one must have for a man’s homemade wine blends well within the story.

The play begins with a family dinner, yet it ends with a funeral, all the while taking place in the same kitchen. Tears are shed as the story takes a turn for a more serious second half. The actors show great depth, switching from comedic lines to more heavy material quickly. It would have been nice to see them fleshed out a little more, especially with such a great cast.

Still, Galluccio does a good job at portraying the colorful, loud, resilient and proud (sometimes too proud) nature of the Italian-Montreal community.

The spectacle comes together providing laughter, tears, and self-reflection. One is left thinking about the short time they’ve been given on this planet, and how to surround oneself with love, happiness and family.

The St. Léonard Chronicles will be playing at the Centaur Theatre until Dec. 1. For tickets and more information visit:



Open letter to Malala Yousafzai

Dear Malala,

Courageous, inspiring, dedicated…these words, among others, are not strong enough to adequately describe your spirit.

I have never known what it feels like to be denied an education. Never known the feeling of fear caused by those who do not want me to succeed because I am a woman. I will admit that the value of education has sometimes been lost on me. The amount of times I have uttered the words “When am I ever going to use this?” or “This is pointless.”

After watching you actively fight for the rights of your fellow women to receive what I have always had, it is suffice to say that I am ashamed.

I woke up last Friday morning to a dark sky. I was exhausted, and the commute to school did not seem appeasing to me in the slightest. However, Friday was International Day of the Girl, and it was also the day that the Nobel Peace Prize winner was to be announced. The night before, I had watched your interview with Jon Stewart. Your passion, dedication and absolute resilience radiated through my computer screen. One thing was certain, I had absolutely no complaints about making it to my early morning university class the next day.

While I was rooting for you to win the Nobel Peace Prize, I am not as upset as I thought I would be that you did not win. People reading this will probably raise their eyebrows at that statement, but the reason I say this is because I believe you don’t need a prize to draw attention to your message. Your courage, intelligence and wisdom beyond your years has been heard and seen loud and clear. This will not be the only time you are nominated.

The sight of women and young girls being denied the most powerful weapon one could possess—an education—makes me furious. I find myself seething with anger. I’ve had conversations with people about the horrible thoughts we’ve had about how to punish those who rob these rights and freedoms, and I would expect you to be the angriest of them all. These men actively tried to silence you and deprive the world of your intelligence.

But then, I see that you are not angry. Your words on the Daily Show are stuck in my mind, and they have kept playing over and over for the past few days. When asked how you would react to an attack by the Taliban, you said you would explain your message to them, and would not fight. “You must not treat others with that much cruelty and that much harshly […] you must fight others, but through peace and through dialogue and through education.”

That left me speechless.

You are the kind of wise, forward thinking young woman the world needs right now. The amount of pressure you must feel is something I cannot even begin to imagine.

We stand with you Malala. Your work has just begun, and I am so excited to see what you have in store as you grow older, continue your activism, and continue to empower women. The most I can do right now is make sure to let everyone know of the work that you do, and most of all of the message you are fighting to share. You are a true inspiration, and I strongly believe your words and actions will spark change in our world.

As Jon Stewart said during your interview with him, “I don’t know where you came from, but I sure am glad you’re here.”


Opinions: Batman versus the evil netizens

Graphic by Jennifer Kwan

The fickle nature of Hollywood makes it a dangerous playground. Those lucky enough to make it past the bullies and claim their spot on the swings of fame must deal with harsh criticism.

More often than not, these self-proclaimed critics overreact and are much too quick to judge. It seems that these days all it takes to be an expert is a Twitter account, a computer and a contract with a local Internet service provider.

When big casting decisions and announcements go down in Hollywood, everyone suddenly knows what works – and what doesn’t – in the business. They haven’t seen the script, they haven’t even seen a promotional trailer but they already dismiss the choice of actor.

It’s one thing to disagree with a casting choice and call it a day, it’s another thing to start a petition to get an actor fired. This is exactly what happened with Ben Affleck after it was announced last week that he would be taking on the role of Batman in the upcoming Man of Steel sequel, Batman vs. Superman.

The Internet exploded, and #BetterBatmanThanBenAffleck was trending in North America, with people saying that Kanye West and Kim Kardashian’s newborn, North West, would have been a better choice to play the masked vigilante.

A petition was started in order to unmask Affleck and it currently has almost 70,000 signatures. Someone even started a petition and wrote to the White House and the Obama Administration, asking them to make it illegal for the Oscar-winner to play the superhero. The petition was removed, probably because it was asinine.

The casting was a bit of a shock, however it is important to actually give the actor a chance. Affleck played Daredevil back in 2003. The movie as a whole was fairly horrendous, not just his acting. It takes a solid script as well. As Joss Whedon tweeted: “Affleck’ll crush it. He’s got the chops, he’s got the chin – just needs the material. Affleck & Cavill toe to toe — I’m in.”

Affleck has matured and garnered a lot of experience off camera (directing The Town and Argo). Also, those claiming the movie will bomb at the box office because of him are completely unreasonable. First off, it’s a blockbuster superhero movie; it’ll do well money-wise regardless. Also, Ben Affleck’s movies have always done well. In 16 years, the movies in which he has been the lead have made a combined $2.7 billion, according to an article published by Forbes, Aug. 24.

The same backlash occurred when Heath Ledger was cast as the Joker in 2008’s The Dark Knight. People took to the Internet to vent, saying that he was no Jack Nicholson. Ledger went on to give an outstanding performance, for which he garnered a posthumous Academy Award.

Movie executives are damned if they do and dammed if they don’t. Audiences often call for fresh and new ideas in film because they feel like movies are being regurgitated.

However, when these new ideas arrive, fanboys and fangirls come out in angry droves. It’s another way of proving that people are afraid of what they aren’t familiar with.

Social media is just a game of who screams the loudest, it’s a distorted reality of popular opinion. Their slogan should be “Make sure to keep your seething, irrational hate for something you haven’t seen yet under 140 characters.”

With the news of Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston being cast as Lex Luthor, fans have a lot to look forward to. People shouldn’t be too quick to judge. With an interesting cast, and a smart man like Affleck taking on one of the main roles, this project has a lot of potential. Don’t worry, Boston’s got this one.


Opinions: Generation SMAD

The tweeting, liking and filtering of photos has created a new type of anxiety, one coined Social Media Anxiety (SMAD). Graphic by Jennifer Kwan

Aziz Ansari’s character on the popular NBC sitcom Parks and Recreation has a similar routine to mine and many of my acquaintances. “Everyday, I start by hitting up Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram.” Add email to that and he basically described my morning.

Social media has become a vital part of many lives. Thoughts, feelings, achievements and “selfies” are posted up online for all to see. Users crave the response they get from friends and followers. It’s like the modern day version of standing on a soapbox, flailing ones arms and screaming out “look at me, look at me!”

The tweeting, liking and filtering of photos has created a new type of anxiety, one coined Social Media Anxiety (SMAD).  Author Julie Spira, who wrote a book on netiquette, outlined the signs of SMAD in a Huffington Post article. They include: constant texting and checking of social media, even in social situations, turning into an anxious mess when people do not receive an immediate response to tweets, and having a smartphone surgically attached to ones hands.

There aren’t many figures, but according to the Telegraph, a study performed last year by Anxiety UK on 298 people at the University of Salford showed that “55 per cent of people felt “worried or uncomfortable” when they could not access their Facebook or email accounts.” A whopping 53 per cent said they saw a change in their behaviour, 51 per cent of them said it was a negative change.

Another common stress is the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO). People may experience this feeling when viewing photos on Facebook or Instagram. Users see what other people are experiencing, and feel like they are missing out on social events and interactions.

FOMO is actually something that is being studied. A research team from the University of Rochester, University of California-Los Angeles and University of Essex published their study in July 2013’s issue of Computers in Human Behavior, according to USA Today. The study showed that FOMO was highest in those who are under 30.

It may be funny for some to joke about it, or dismiss the psychological issue. However, with time this problem may become more prominent, especially with teens growing up in a world where social media is the norm.

It leaks into real life situations too, and could possibly hurt relationships with friends and family. A recent study from the United Kingdom, which polled and gathered the reaction of 508 participants, showed that people who post too many “selfies” and who are constantly updating their social media pages actually come off as less likeable, according to the Huffington Post.

Social media feeds into the natural human need to feel a sense of belonging. However, it is important to take a step back and realize something. People post what they want others to see. It’s a controlled reality. That doesn’t mean it has to control you. Computers and phones come with off buttons for a reason, right?

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