.How great is it to live in a time when we each have our own virtual platform?
We can use our social media to stay in closer contact with friends, tweet at celebrities, and age our faces 60 years and compare them to Bob Barker in an Instagram split frame. But we can also take to our channels to propagate false information, strip someone of their reputation, and signal the crap out of our own made-up virtue.
Here is a problem with social media: it can make us feel like we belong.
Here is a problem with people: we will do a lot of weird shit to belong.
Like, making decisions about what we post based on how many likes we might get.
Our drive for likes probably motivates cancel culture, political polarity on Twitter, and those anonymous crappers who troll Oldster on Trackie. It can do bad.
And it makes sense. We love a dopamine hit, a little red notification circle, a vibration of approval that doesn’t come from one of our aunts. So much so that, sometimes, we post frivolously. And there is no better day to garner likes than #BellLetsTalk day.
Now, I get the mechanism behind #BellLetsTalk – for every use of the hashtag, Bell donates money to mental health research. So yeah, tweet away tomorrow. Press buttons until Bell blows through their budget, or whatever – it’s a good cause. Sometimes we dismiss the movement as insincere and glib, but that's only true if we butcher its purpose. How do we butcher it? By forgetting to be there for those in need on January 29 and beyond because we are too busy refreshing and scrolling.
#BellLetsTalk can be useful if it reminds us to truly connect - I don’t think our job is simply to retweet as much shit as we can, or to make the post that gets the highest number of likes.
It’s asking someone how things are going.
It’s telling someone you admire them for something.
It’s inviting someone lonely to your place to watch the Leafs game.
It’s consoling them after Tyler Seguin scores five hole on Andersen, twice.
It’s connecting with someone beyond a notification.
It's telling someone you're available to talk, and hope that when it's your turn they'll reciprocate.
It's carrying out these behaviours for long after the middle of February.
We’ve increased our means of communication so much in the last decade that it’s so easy to forget that our likes and shares don’t carry as much weight as a text message, a phone call, a visit. I hope that tomorrow reminds us of our responsibility to offer real contact to the people close to us.
And let's not dismiss the power of real contact. Because nothing de-stigmatizes mental illness better than going to its house, staring it in its face, putting the phones away, and playing dominoes with it.
If anybody on this earth remembers how to play dominoes.
Alex Cyr is a competitive runner, Master's candidate, freelance writer, and author of Runners of the Nish.