Confessions of a 20-something #16

It happened again today. I ran into a friend I hadn’t seen in a while, and the first thing they asked me was, of course, if there were any new guys in my life.

Graphic Jenny Kwan

“Well, no,” I start. But before I have a chance to mention how I’m doing well in school, planning an exciting trip or working a new job, I have already received the “Oh, that’s too bad. Someone will come around soon enough, you’ll see” response.

This is becoming a common occurrence: the “good things come to those wait” spiel, as if this bit of unsolicited advice will cure me from the hopelessness I am supposedly feeling from being stuck in singledom.

Well, that is not the case. I am perfectly happy being single. In fact, at this point in time, I think I would rather be single. I’m trying to understand why other people look at it like it’s a problem. They seem to look at “singleness” as if there is something missing — if you are single, you are incomplete. A relationship is the journey, and singleness is perceived as just a minor setback. It’s seen as the temporary stage until you reach the ultimate goal of finding someone to be with, which is followed by an all around better, happier, more fulfilling state — or something like that.

That is not how I see it. I have always been a girl’s girl. It has always been important to me to have friends I can rely on and people who I know will be there for the long haul. How does that Kelly Clarkson lyric go? “Doesn’t mean I’m lonely when I’m alone?” She’s exactly right.

I’m 20-years-old, and I have the opportunity to focus on myself. I have the rest of my life to spend it with someone else. I definitely understand the joy and value that comes from relationships, and I’m happy for anyone who experiences that. What I’m saying is that I don’t define myself by my relationship status. I know of girls (and guys as well) that hop from relationship to fling and back again because they feel their worst and their loneliest when they are single. Singleness has taught me to base my self-worth on myself, rather than in another person.

Valentine’s Day just passed; the day us single girls are supposed to loathe, while we wallow in self-pity with a pint of Häagen-Dazs.

Does being single mean I automatically have to despise Valentine’s Day and roll my eyes at every bouquet and box of chocolates on my Instagram feed? Because honestly, I don’t. No hashtagging “forever alone” over here.

I don’t look at relationships with bitterness or jealousy; I look at them as something I don’t feel I need right now. So, no, I don’t want your pity, I don’t want your pep talks, and I definitely don’t want your set-ups and blind dates. I’m fine. Not the “I’m not actually fine I’m crying inside” fine, but seriously fine.

It’s not like I plan on being single forever, but I like to take things one day at a time. I think singleness has taught me a lot, and I’m still learning from it. Sure, maybe ignorance is bliss, and maybe I don’t know what I’m missing. But what I do know is in this moment, I’m perfectly happy with the way things are.

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Concordia: what are your winter anthems?

Here we are, mid-January, and the weather has been unbearably cold for the last couple of weeks. It has been too cold to spend a substantial amount of time outside, so students have been spending as much time as they can avoiding leaving their homes. Netflix marathons, anyone?

Photo by Keith Race

The Concordian asked students what kind of music they are listening to this time of year: their go-to songs for the snowy, cold days, or even songs that remind them of sitting by the fire, curled up with some hot chocolate.

Most students did not have a straight answer right away, or answered with “Christmas music,” despite it being January. We suggested to these students that they go through their iPods and look at what they have been playing lately. Many of the songs were acoustic, slow, low-key, and quite somber to a certain degree. Arian Zarrinkoub summed up her choice of “River” by Joni Mitchell as “very wintery and very sad.”

Sadness seemed to be an emotion most students associated with the colder months. One student said he has been listening to Women’s Public Strain album.

“There’s a snowstorm on the album cover, and the album is overall very dark and bleak,” he said. “There is not a happy song on this album.”

The theme of cold and sadness is also on Alison Papazois’ playlist, who chose “Mr. Winter” by The Maine.

“Well first, the title reminds me of winter and in the song it talks about this guy Mr. Winter who leaves the girl for three months,” said Papazois. “He was cold and bitter enough to leave her, just as the winter season is cold and bitter.”

Other students said they listen to acoustic songs by artists like The Lumineers and Ed Sheeran.

Natalie Coffen also chose a song that goes the acoustic route, “The Crane Wife 1&2” by The Decemberists.

“The beginning is exactly how I feel when I’m walking down my street in the winter,” said Coffen. “The song has a really warm feeling despite the lyrics being about the cold.”

Another popular answer was “Sweater Weather” by The Neighbourhood.

“It has a warm feeling when you listen to it and it literally makes me want to curl up in a sweater,” said Laura Canter.

Marco Saveriano said that he has been loving the Frozen soundtrack lately, particularly the song, “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?”

“Does the Hockey Night In Canada theme song count?” asked Justin Share. “It reminds me of playing the sport, both indoors at an arena, or outside in the cold at an outdoor rink.”

Some students chose songs that were linked to specific winter memories. Alex Bissonnette chose “Les Étoiles Filantes” by Les Cowboys Fringants.

“I always listened to them when I was a kid with my parents by the fire.”

“”Montreal” by Raine Maida or “Albatross” by Big Wreck,” said Andrew Bernstein. “I used to listen to “Albatross” when I would drive home in the dead of winter, so it reminds me of the cold.”

A wide variety of songs were chosen by students, but most were slower, darker, gloomier songs than the loud party songs of summer and the upbeat, spirited songs of Christmas. These songs sum up our post-holiday feelings of bracing the cold, while we are counting down the days until spring break.

Student Life

Some privacy please! Our information is being used to sell us things

What do you do when you want to get to know someone? You check their Facebook page, of course. What are they studying? Where do they work? What bands do they like? This kind of information that was once only disclosed through conversation is now available to all. If you think your friends — well, your Facebook friends — are the only ones accessing this information, think again.

As the popularity of social media continues to grow, the focus on privacy protection. Graphic by Jennifer Kwan

Facebook has been the target of many privacy complaints in the past. Most recently, Bell Canada announced their new policy that will collect data on customers’ television, web and phone patterns to create targeted ads. Which entails having ads specific to you and your interests. This “relevant marketing” policy will come into effect on Nov. 16.  According to Bell Canada’s privacy policy on their website, Bell will be able to access all customers’ network usage information, which includes web pages visited, search terms, location, app and device feature usage, television viewing, and calling patterns.

Facebook also has targeted ads, and uses all the information you provide: your location, your age, your job, and your interests. The social media site tracks all of your “likes” as well, and you can end up seeing ads for something you personally liked or even for something your friend liked.

Journalism professor and social media expert, Lisa Lynch, says people aren’t that aware of privacy settings and with the constant updating of social media, it’s hard to stay on top of everything.

There is not much use in getting worked up over the fact that Facebook — and now Bell — is using the information available on our profiles to their advantage. It is the price we pay for engaging in free social media that has us interacting in the open.

“We are not their customers,” says Lynch. “We’re the product, what they are selling.”

The best way to avoid becoming the product is by getting informed on how better to protect the information we put online, update our privacy settings and maybe even be more selective with the kind of information we share.

However, Bell Canada has made it possible to opt out of their access to your network usage. You can choose to receive “relevant, targeted ads” or “unfiltered, random ads,” the latter being the opt-out option.

Lynch believes targeted ads are the future of advertising, and gives the example of Hulu, an American online television-streaming website. On Hulu, they have an “Ad Tailor” feature, which means they ask whether or not an ad is relevant to you. For ad customization, they also have a feature called “Ad Swap,” where you can choose which ads you see.

“It is the next evolution in user choice and control,” specifies Hulu’s support page.

In terms of ad blocks, there is an online service called Social Fixer, which allows you to customize your Facebook settings and remove annoyances. There used to be a setting to hide advertisements, however this feature has recently been disabled due to legal threats from Facebook.

More companies are becoming proactive in shutting down websites that try to block their ads. “Advertising is getting much smarter everywhere,” Lynch explains. “The expectation of being able to get around these things will lower [and] we will gradually accept them.”

It is easy to forget that part of our lives are lived online. Sharing who we are and what we do has become a part of how we identify ourselves and how we socialize. Companies using personal information for targeted ads may seem like nothing to worry about however it is important that we become more conscious of our online activity, what we share and who has access to it.


Student Life

If you’re happy and you know it, say thank you

What makes you happy? Spending a full day in bed watching Netflix? Going out with your friends? It is an intriguing question to ask yourself. Here is another: when was the last time you thanked someone? Not for merely opening the door for you or giving you a loose-leaf paper, but truly expressed your gratitude and appreciation for how they have impacted you.

Graphic Jenny Kwan

This is the question psychologists asked themselves when conducting a study on the emergence of positive psychology. The study, “Positive Psychology Progress: Empirical Validation of Interventions,” gave participants several “happiness exercises” and questionnaires in an attempt to increase their levels of happiness and decrease their depressive symptoms.

One of the exercises was called “Three good things in life,” where participants were asked to write down three things that went well every day for a week. Another was “You at your best,” where participants were asked to write about a particular time when they were at their best and were told to review their story daily for a week. According to the study, the exercise that showed the largest positive changes was “Gratitude visit,” where participants were given one week to write and then deliver a letter of gratitude in person to someone who had impacted them positively, but were never properly thanked.

The concept of expressing your gratitude directly increasing your happiness is what inspired the viral YouTube video, “The Science of Happiness” by SoulPancake, who decided to put this study to the test.

The video starts off by giving volunteers a short test to get an idea of their current level of happiness. They were told to close their eyes and think of someone who was influential in their lives. They wrote down everything about that person and why they were important to them. They were then told to call that person and read what they wrote about them. The subjects called friends, family members, and one even spoke of a college accounting instructor.

After they expressed their gratitude via telephone to their chosen influential person, they were given one more happiness test. It was essentially the same test the participants had taken at the beginning of the experiment, but the questions were mixed up and re-phrased. According to the results, the participants who personally picked up the phone and expressed their gratitude were significantly happier. The host, Julian Huguet, noted that the person who came in the least happy had the biggest jump in happiness.

The concept is so simple, but at the same time, not something that crosses our minds very often. I sent the video around and asked people what their thoughts and reactions were.

“I think it is indicative of our society as a whole, where we just take things for granted, happiness included, and never look at why or how we got their in the first place,” said McGill student Robert Laurella. “Being grateful forces you to think about why you have a reason to be happy in the first place, and that gets lost a lot.”

John Abbott College student Carine Chan agrees: “That was so cute, I started tearing up,” she said. “We often don’t express our gratitude towards others not because we don’t feel it, but we just don’t think of doing it. It clearly does bring happiness in so many ways.”

SoulPancake has since conducted other experiments such as the correlation between happiness and success, looking on the bright side, and being kind. They continue to add videos to The Science of Happiness series and post their findings on YouTube, while encouraging others to test them out for themselves.

The Science of Happiness



Weekly Mixtape: A Change of Seasons

 School is back in session which is not particularly popular amongst most students. However, there are some good things about the weather getting colder and the days getting shorter: the leaves are falling, you can wear your oversized sweaters, and pumpkin spice lattes are back at Starbucks. If you’re ready to embrace autumn, enjoy Side A while you’re cozying up with a cup of tea.

If you’re not over the pool days, campfires, and road trips, check out Side B. You can listen to this while scrolling through your summer Instagram photos or as you come to terms with the fact that the school year is here to stay. These songs will bring you a little sunshine when you need it.

SIDE A: Sweater Weather

 Passenger – “Staring At the Stars” – All The Little Lights

Ed Sheeran – “Autumn Leaves” – +

The Neighbourhood – “Sweater Weather” – I Love You

Bon Iver – “re: Stacks” – For Emma, Forever Ago

High Highs – “Open Season”  – Open Season

Gabrielle Aplin – “November” – English Rain

Milo Greene – “Autumn Tree” – Milo Greene

The 1975 – “Chocolate” – The 1975

Katie Herzig – “Lost and Found” – The Waking Sleep

Arctic Monkeys – “The Bakery” – Fluorescent Adolescent


SIDE B: Swimsuits are better

Satellite Stories – “Campfire” – Pine Trails

Family of the Year – “St. Croix” – Loma Vista

John Mayer -“ Wildfire” – Paradise Valley

Yellowcard – “Always Summer” – Southern Air

Jadea Kelly – “Hour North” – Clover

Local Natives – “Ceilings” – Hummingbird

K.S. Rhoads – “Harvest” – The Wilderness

Imagine Dragons – “On Top of the World” – Night Visions

The Fray – “48 to Go” – Scars and Stories

OneRepublic – “I Lived” – Native


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