I remember the moment I first joined social media. Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook back in 2004 to make new friends. It was limited to Harvard students only and you needed a school email to sign up. Then it expanded to other schools.
The University of Toronto, where I was enrolled at the time, was an early entrant. I was in a dorm room with a classmate of mine – a girl – and she showed me this Facebook thing I’d never heard of before. It looked kind of silly and she only had 10 friends. She told me to join right then and there and I didn’t really want to but when you’re in a dorm room alone with a girl and she tells you to do something you do it.
Fifteen years later, I’m still on the damn thing. I hardly check it and I don’t really understand how it works anymore. But I just can’t say goodbye.
For the first few months after enrolling, I didn’t use Facebook at all. Then more people joined and it soon became the place to receive invitations to house parties. That’s when the activity really increased. You could see who was invited to the party, who was going and who was a maybe.
Every guy around my age knows that magic moment when a girl you’d been talking to earlier in the night later says to you “Find me on Facebook” as she passes you on her way out the door. And the great part about it is you could and you did. No number exchange required.
Back then, social media was pure fun. It was social. It started to grow and so did our uses for it.
People in the arts scene promoted their plays and gigs and fundraisers. We all came out. It brought people together.
For a brief period of time I was a club night promoter – 80s music theme nights, of course – and we packed a few places in Kensington Market and the Annex. The best of times. It was all through Facebook and word of mouth.
Then Facebook changed in ways we weren’t all crazy about. The rules opened up and our parents’ generation joined and all of a sudden it was like someone had burst in on our party. We all thought they’d ruined it by doing non-ironic old people things like reconnecting with friends and posting pictures of their kids. The ironic part being that those are the things my age group uses it for now.
It also no longer felt like a cozy little corner. Facebook became global – a giant public space where there was no privacy. I was tagged in a couple of pictures that, to make a long story short, were not flattering. That was when I began to ghost away from it all and realized earlier than some others that social media could be a force for bad as much as for good.
Speaking of bad: Enter Twitter. My timeline tells me I joined in 2010. It’s hard to believe it’s been a decade. Ten years of people hurling single-sentence mean-spirited abuse at each other. Why do we subject ourselves to it?
To be fair, there are those rare moments when we all pause to watch a cute animal video or a beautiful clip of a child with a disability triumphing against the odds. Those are the exceptions though, glimpses through frosted glass of the social media world humans could have had but apparently don’t deserve due to some flaw in our nature.
The 2000s were the decade we first experimented with social media. Looking back now, it all seems very quaint. A sort of “before the fall” era.
Then the 2010s came along and that was the decade that saw social media devolve into social mania. Online mobs gang up to get public figures and even regular people shamed and fired for their imperfect remarks. Terrorists and extremists easily connect with thousands of willing recruits.
That Zuckerberg guy who just wanted friends? He’s now a billionaire behind a big tech behemoth that governments try and fail to contain. That girl who signed me up? I couldn’t find her just now when I searched her out. Maybe she unfriended me. I hope she’s doing well.
Social media could get even crazier in the next decade. Or perhaps we’ll all give our heads a shake and rein it in.
The first column I wrote in 2019 was about putting down the devices and taking a break from the online world. I’d spent a couple of weeks in rural Ontario without high speed internet. It was days offline and I was happy and content.
I received the most earnest and heartfelt reader emails from that column that I’ve ever had in my career. Turns out I wasn’t the only one who felt something wasn’t quite right about the way we live now.
While writing this it dawned on me that I don’t think I went to a single 80s party night throughout all of the 2010s. Some cruel punishment. If you hear of one coming up, please flip me the link.
CBC Radio had been a constant companion for Colm Cobb Howes during quiet, bitter-cold commutes to work as a teacher in Indigenous communities in northern Canada. Little did he know he would one day be working to tell those stories he enjoyed listening to since he was a child.
Cobb Howes is among Western students graduating this fall and will join 328,000 Western alumni from more than 160 countries during virtual Convocation celebrations on Oct 25.
“It’s the reason I came to MMJC, to get into CBC and share the stories of the people I met during my time working in Indigenous communities,” said Cobb Howes.
Although Cobb Howes joined the Faculty of Information and Media Studies at the start of the pandemic in 2020 and missed many of the in-person learning experiences, he was able to participate in a six-week internship that opened the door for him to work at the CBC – first as an intern and eventually as a full-time associate producer.
“I never assumed or thought that I would be able to work at CBC Toronto, right out of school,” he said. “I thought that perhaps I would get a good reference (from the CBC internship) and then it would help me get in somewhere like in a smaller market. And so I feel incredibly lucky to have that opportunity right now.”
Cobb Howes worked with Indigenous youth in the Cree Nation of Eeyou Istchee in Northern Quebec. (Submitted photo)
Before joining Western’s MMJC program, Cobb Howes worked for an educational not-for-profit organization as a teacher for Indigenous students, mostly in the Cree Nation of Eeyou Istchee in Northern Quebec. His work entailed travelling through nine Cree communities as well as the KuujuarapikInuit community on Hudson Bay in Quebec. He also had the opportunity to work in a Maliseet Community in New Brunswick, and in an Anishinabek Community in Northern Ontario.
It was during this two-year stint that Cobb Howes developed an interest in storytelling that led him to pursue a postgraduate program in journalism.
“I did teach high school science and math, but at the same time, we also ran programming that was delivered outside of schools. One of the programs is called the cultural mapping program, that’s done in partnership with the community, where it’s like an internship for youth in the community.
This program offered several workshops for the interns on things like camera operation and storytelling.
“I really enjoyed being able to help facilitate it, being out in the community and talking to people and telling stories,” said Cobb Howes. “It was amazing to see how it empowered these kids as they realized they were doing all of this work. And so that’s partly why I wanted to go into storytelling.”
Writing is not a new-found passion for Cobb Howes, however, who completed his undergraduate degree in English literature at the University of Guelph. When considering his postgraduate program in journalism, Western was the only choice for him.
“I really wanted to choose something I would enjoy and not just do it for the sake of getting a degree. I knew this is where I wanted to be. And that was how I chose Western,” said Cobb Howes, whose brother also attended Western for his undergraduate studies.
Work of storytelling
Working as an associate producer for CBC Toronto gives Cobb Howes the opportunity to talk to different people and share their “amazing stories.”
“We had someone on who was an astrophysicistand he was getting ready to retire,” he recalled. “We were asking him things like, ‘Is the universe going to be swallowed by a black hole? What do we need to be worried about? Or,should we be worried about, you know, asteroid hitting earth?’ And it was incredible that I, as a citizen, get to interact with this person who is a leading academic in their field, and have these kinds of conversations. I find it amazing that I get to do that every day for work.”
Asked if he was given the opportunity to choose one story, any story, that can make an impact on listeners, what would it be – and his answer took him back to his experience working with Indigenous communities.
“There’s a lot of stories that happen in the north, that people don’t know about, and oftentimes, they get segmented into categories… and it gets put in the Indigenous category of the news desk,” he said. “It’s unfortunate that those stories don’t just get told because they’re valid. Sometimes, something will happen in the north, and it doesn’t get told in Toronto, because it didn’t happen in Toronto. But people in Toronto need to know about that.
“If we’re serious about making meaningful change in the way that we tell stories, then we need to start thinking outside of the box, because so often stories like that go under reportedbecausethey don’t fit into the way that we think they should appear in the news.”
Virtual Convocation details:
Virtual fall convocation will be available to stream beginning at 7p.m. EST on Friday, October 22.
There will be three ceremonies, which will be pre-recorded and posted online by navigating through the uwo.cahomepage, allowing graduates and their families and loved ones to choose the ceremony they wish to see when they want to see it.
Each ceremony will include celebratory music by Convocation Brass, with administration and faculty on stage and with remarks by honorary degree recipients.
Receiving honorary degrees are: lawyer and community philanthropist Janet Stewart; writer/visual artist Shani Mootoo; historian Natalie Zemon Davis; and medical researcher Tak Mak.
An orator will read out each graduating student’s name, which will also be featured on individually displayed slides during the ceremony.
Executives with United Parcel Service Inc, Walt Disney Co and other companies met with White House officials on Tuesday to discuss President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine requirement plan for private-sector workers, amid concerns it could worsen labor shortages and supply chain woes.
The mandate would apply to businesses with 100 or more employees, and would affect about 80 million workers nationwide.
Several industry sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the rulemaking process was moving with urgency and they expect the mandate to be formally announced as early as this week. It was not clear how much time employers will have to implement it.
The White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has been meeting with several influential business lobbying groups, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) and the Business Roundtable as part of its rulemaking process. The meetings were requested by the trade groups and companies and is part of the regular rulemaking process.
Tuesday’s meetings were disclosed in filings with the White House. Disney did not respond to requests for comment. A UPS spokesperson confirmed the meeting and said it is reviewing what a vaccine mandate means for the company and its employees.
Many of the industry groups have raised concerns such as labor shortages and how regulation by the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) could worsen existing supply-chain problems facing U.S. companies ahead of the holiday shopping season. Other topics, such as testing requirements and who will bear the cost, also were raised.
Evan Armstrong, RILA vice president for workforce, said it will be tough for the retail industry to implement the rule in the middle of the U.S. holiday season and that pushing it to January would help. He said the group raised the topic with the White House during their meeting.
“The implementation period needs to push this out past the holiday season because obviously for retail that is the biggest time for us,” he said. RILA’s members include large U.S. employers such as Walmart Inc and the industry supports over 50 million U.S. jobs.
Biden’s plan has drawn a mixed reaction from industry trade groups and companies.
Several big employers including Procter & Gamble Co and 3M Co, along with airlines such as American Airlines and JetBlue Airways Corp, have imposed vaccination mandates since Biden’s announcement last month. Others such as IBM have said they will require all U.S. employees to be fully vaccinated by Dec. 8, no matter how often they come into the office.
Some other large U.S. employers, such as Walmart, have yet to issue broad requirements.
The vaccine order has spurred pushback from many Republican governors, including Florida’s Ron DeSantis and Greg Abbott of Texas, who issued an executive order banning businesses in his state from requiring vaccinations for employees. Although some, such as American Airlines, have said they plan to proceed with vaccination rules.
The mandate will be implemented under a federal rule-making mechanism known as an emergency temporary standard.
(Reporting by Nandita Bose in Washington; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Bill Berkrot)
Elections Alberta says it has launched a formal review into activities on its social media accounts after someone who was managing its Twitter profile on election day got into a snarky argument with users over sharing photos of a ballot online.
In a statement Tuesday, acting deputy chief electoral officer Pamela Renwick said the review is being conducted internally by Election Alberta’s compliance and enforcement unit, which is the same unit that investigates complaints as directed by the election commissioner.
“ The review will look at the conduct of our personnel on our social media platforms and the policies and processes that are to be followed for social media engagement and message approval,” she said.
“As the review includes personnel matters, those results will not be made public. Following the review, however, we will determine if there are results that we can share publicly without breaching confidentiality. “
The spat started on Monday when former conservative MLA Derek Fildebrandt posted a photo of his ballot voting in favour of the referendum on removing the principle of equalization from the Constitution.
Users pointed out that posting a photo of a ballot is illegal, referencing a 2019 tweet from the Elections Alberta account that warned posting photos is an offence.
“Who would’ve expected a two-year-old tweet would apply the same to this event?” the Elections Alberta account replied.
In a further exchange, this time with University of Alberta economist Andrew Leach, who accused Elections Alberta of given false information on Twitter, someone behind the account appeared to suggest that it wasn’t Elections Alberta’s responsibility to enforce the rules of a municipal election.
“I’m sure you’re well aware of the federalist state, the three levels of government, and how extra veres (sic) and intra veres (sic) powers are assigned, just as much as an old tweet holds no value versus an up-to-date one. Move on, Andrew,” the account tweeted.
Renwick confirmed that provincial elections, like the one in 2019, and municipal elections like Monday’s, are covered under different pieces of legislation but both make it illegal to publicly post photos of ballots.
In the case of municipal elections, she said, the responsibility of enforcing the rule falls to the local authority.
Elections Alberta, an independent, non-partisan office of the legislative assembly, initially apologized for the tweets, posting on Twitter that “Albertans have the right to expect Elections Alberta to always remain unbiased and respectful in the election process” and said that the staff member in question had been removed from its social media accounts. The staff member was not named.
The tweets in question have since been deleted.
“Elections Alberta is committed to rebuilding the trust of Albertans in the integrity of our office,” Elections Alberta tweeted.
Renwick said Elections Alberta doesn’t have a timeframe for when the review will be completed but that it has already started.
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