Category Archives: Fall 2017 Featured

Letters from the editors

I’ve quickly discovered that writing a letter from the editor is hard. It’s challenging to sum up countless hours of editing, email-sending, and coffee-drinking into a mere couple hundred words. Nonetheless, here’s my two cents on the Futures Issue.

We’re living in an interesting time. We’re experiencing a shifting political climate, evolving social norms, and unprecedented technological innovation. Global customs are being questioned, and seemingly stable institutions are increasingly scrutinized. Our future is murky.

Alongside this, we as students are living in an interesting time. While school is comfortable, what happens post-grad can be foggy – I, for one, don’t know what I’ll be doing five years from now.

When creating this magazine, my goal was to showcase various representations of this uncertainty while simultaneously highlighting the exciting nature of the unknown.

The contributors of this magazine do just that. Teodora Pasca explores how our society is responding to technological advancements, Rachel Chen shares the stories of five students whose mental health struggles make it difficult to move forward, Nathan Chan photographs students and asks them to imagine what their future will entail, and Etiquette Squirrel (from the future) tells us the future of humankind.

Undoubtedly, the future comes in different shapes and sizes. When reading, I encourage you to  ponder the unknown and question what comes next. I know I certainly did.

—Kaitlyn Simpson

I wish I were funny enough to write an interesting letter.  I also wish I could have seen into the future about seven months ago to mentally prepare myself for the process of directing this magazine.

The designs featured through these pages are in response to their respective articles, much like how the future is shaped by the actions taken in the past. For instance, Sonali Gill’s piece on citizenship and immigration incorporates the implied borders of the topic with illustrations dividing the text, while Tom Yun’s article plays on the chance, uncertainty, and fragility that I’m sure many people feel is in store for the expensive fruit of our labour: the illustrious U of T degree.

The amalgamation of the magazine’s articles shape up the cover’s visual, which juxtaposes the journey of the missing key found in Rachel Chen’s piece on seeking help through hardship, except with some directional support provided by the inside pages.

If you were to ask me, the missing key looks like it’s got a great journey ahead.  Who knows? The future is up in the air, after all.

—Elham Numan

Tomorrow’s Toronto

[dropcap]M[/dropcap]uch of my life has been spent living in Caledon on the outskirts of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). Consequently, my experiences have largely been relegated to that of a semi-rural town. I grew up with large housing and open spaces — a stark contrast to the city I now live and learn in.

Until recently, I did not find the downtown core welcoming. I was so intimidated by it that I was firmly opposed to attending the University of Toronto. I remember looking around at the tall, intimidating buildings during my first campus tour, feeling a sense of vertigo and questioning why anyone would ever want to live here.

Over time, that sentiment slowly started to change. I would tour the campus by myself, taking the time to explore the small shops and the friendly environment and exploring where the tour guides did not. Eventually, I fell in love with the city.

In the next decade, most current U of T undergraduates will graduate and establish careers. Many of us will choose to stay in Toronto. In anticipation of our futures, we should consider now what our city will hold for us.

What steps can we take in this moment to ensure the best possible future for our city? I interviewed three U of T faculty members to get insight.

Diversity: our strength

Toronto is the largest city in Canada and is well known for its multiculturalism. This diversity will only grow in the years to come, and Toronto needs to be proactive in learning how to evolve with its changing demographics. The research of Urban Studies Program Assistant Professor David Roberts — the first person I interviewed about this subject — focuses on “geographies of race and racialization, urban infrastructure planning, and the politics of public participation in urban knowledge production and policymaking.” His views on the future of Toronto focus on how, as residents and members of civil society, we will deal with oncoming population growth. “Toronto has people from every corner of the globe here, and is one of the most, if not the most, diverse cities in the world,” he told me.

When asked about the future of Toronto for people of colour and other marginalized groups, Roberts stated that “that kind of promise of multiculturalism is built into our motto: ‘diversity is our strength.’” Roberts urges conversations surrounding issues of racial inequality to be had sooner rather than later for Torontonians to improve our relationships with one another.

He praised grassroots groups such as Black Lives Matter TO for addressing topics of systemic racism and racial inequality in an influential manner in the city. However, he criticized city leaders for a lack of action, and stressed that “addressing the systemic forms of racial inequality that exist in the city” requires a greater commitment by City Council to deal with future problems that may emerge. He mentioned the uprisings on Yonge Street in 1992 after the Rodney King verdict — where four Los Angeles police officers were acquitted of using excessive force in beating King, a Black man — and said that although race relations are not currently at that level of tension, it should not deteriorate to this for people to pursue urban social justice.

The current state of Toronto is, admittedly, manageable. Toronto has a relatively low crime rate compared to other Canadian cities. While we do have plenty of issues of our own, relatively speaking, Toronto is safer than many other North American cities. This, ironically, is a problem of a different sort: it breeds a complacency that presupposes that any emergent issues will be somebody else’s problem.

“I think there’s a real role for young people, too, who may be a bit less complacent about the state of affairs in the city, and so will continue to have an increasingly large voice in the city,” Roberts said.

Moving forward, the role that young people will play in bringing issues to the forefront requires us all to realize that our obligation in helping one another involves a system of reciprocity — promote the equal treatment of all and, in return, the potential of all will benefit the city. People learning from one another without restriction increases dialogue and will drastically improve relationships. In a city that is increasingly unaffordable to live in, we need as many people working together as possible.

Fighting social inequality

Matti Siemiatycki, an associate professor in the Department of Geography and Planning, argues that the city needs to begin addressing current problems now should it continue to grow.

“It’s an exciting time. I see the city becoming even more lively, even more diverse, being a bigger player on the global stage. But I think if we’re going to get this right we need to start now, putting in place the foundations for the next 50 years.”

Siemiatycki  described other areas of the GTA, such as Milton and King City, as sites of rapid development in low-rise, single-use residential districts, which he said “is posing challenges on our infrastructure.”

He added that the congestion on our major highways in the region “is a drag on the economy.” While housing costs outside the downtown core are undeniably cheaper in comparison, the lifestyle can be taxing on commuters and especially taxing on the environment. If the cost is pollution and environmental degradation, are the percieved financial benefits truly worth it?

With regard to the role of young people in the future planning of the city, Siemiatycki has advocated for new, evidence-based planning strategies in outlets like the Toronto Star. He argues that “universities and our student organizations play a really important role in advocating for measures that are going to help youth.” Much of this advocacy work derives from our innate, perennial need to be social and centralized.

“It turns out that humans are a species that want to be around other people, that the idea of extreme isolation or being separated from others creates feelings of dislocation, and in some cases, can undermine efficiency.” The future of Toronto relies on the voices of those who will live with these changes the longest.

The problem of housing

It’s clear that the future of housing will be a problem for years to come; it’s already a serious problem we deal with today. Because of this, many people are focusing on planning and policy changes required for more affordable city living.

Shauna Brail, the Director of Urban Studies Program and the Presidential Advisor on Urban Engagement at U of T, recommends people adjust their expectations about living in Toronto in the future, particularly with the increasing unaffordability of single-family homes. She believes there will be more career opportunities than residence options for young people in the city. Brail emphasized the meaningful prospects that will emerge in the future will allow Toronto to continue as a hub of activity.

Concerning how we ought to adjust to increased growth in the city, Brail points to how Toronto could respond to it: “We know that we’ve approved tens of thousands of new residential units… [what] do we need in terms of ensuring that we have not just a city of people living in it, but a city of people who have access to jobs?”

Though some seek to address the issue of housing through increased redistribution, others question how to address the scarcity itself. Brail refuted the idea of opening the Greenbelt — a permanently protected area surrounding parts of the GTA — to housing development.

“There are many benefits to maintaining that Greenbelt as it is, and most of the recommendations suggest maintaining the Greenbelt… [because] it’s really important for people’s wellbeing, it’s important for air quality reasons, it’s important for reasons related to managing urban form, and trying to encourage higher density living.” Brail called the propositions of degrading the surrounding environment a “false trade-off” that would decrease air quality and increase health and congestion costs instead.

Nonetheless, the concerns of environmental advocates are that future policymakers might reverse the protections granted to the Greenbelt. The life of the Greenbelt relies upon advocates and academics like Brail.

Sustainability and urban planning in the future should rely upon the creation of jobs and the promotion of meaningful jobs outside of the city core. This would help reduce congestion and help with affordability issues, as well as increasing sustainability.

Planning for the future

Brail also recommended learning from other global cities to learn from their successes and determine how we can evaluate them. This includes projects like bike lanes, street vending, and other ways of creating more dynamic, lively cities.

According to Brail, the future of planning in Toronto “will be increasingly connected to partnerships… Our city is changing in ways… that really connect with people, with other organizations. The city can’t do everything themselves, the urban planners can’t do everything themselves. They really require partnerships and relationships.”

It seems evident that the problems and solutions of tomorrow begin today. Today’s issues are inextricably linked to what we will deal with, for better or worse, in the future. This includes how we treat our fellow residents, countering complacency, and interacting with our concrete and natural environments. We need to be more pragmatic about where we choose to live in the future and how we choose to learn from our global neighbours. Rallying young people in support of evidence-based policy measures is a start — since those policies will affect us more than any other demographic — however, we need to emphasize that even if we are not directly affected by these issues, our communities need to be defended by every incursion against our livelihood. If we refuse to prepare now, what will the future hold for the people of Toronto?

Change by design

[dropcap]A[/dropcap]s much as I love my parents, I cannot fathom why they continue to pay for cable. Coming from a generation whose pop culture preferences were at least partially facilitated by the rise and fall of LimeWire, I grew up surrounded by kids who knew how to torrent without incurring so much as a pop-up.

As of 2016, Netflix had accumulated more than 5.2 million consumers in Canada and was well on its way to infiltrating 50 per cent of households in the country. Today, alternative streaming services like HBO NOW and Amazon Prime continue to compete with Netflix on the Canadian market. Meanwhile, I don’t have a TV, and my father continues to step outside after thunderstorms to adjust the satellite on the roof.

Technology is fascinatingly context-sensitive. What one person might consider useful, like paying $8.99 per month to watch Stranger Things on a smartphone, could be totally lost in the eyes of another. There are clear generational and cultural divisions between my preferred medium for consuming entertainment and the way my family is used to doing things. And it’s not difficult to imagine someone 10 years younger saying something similar about me.

More importantly, the ways in which people respond to technological innovation matter a great deal. While some might jump at the chance to test-drive the latest products, others are reluctant to embrace new innovation into their daily lives. Often, that reluctance is wholly justified in light of the associated risks.

On October 17, it was announced that Sidewalk Labs, a sister company to Google, would launch a project to completely redesign the eastern part of Toronto’s waterfront. This project will intertwine digital technologies with urban development to the point where the community will be considered a “city of the future.”

Simultaneously, tech hopefuls are banking on the belief that Toronto will soon become an artificial intelligence hub for Canada, leading the country toward greener pastures. The University of Toronto’s research expertise will no doubt play a role in this process, meaning any developments that come about will likely affect students and staff as well as the community at large.

In light of the planned changes for the city, I wanted to explore the institutional frameworks and processes that facilitate technological developments, as well as the social responses associated with the emergence of new innovations.

The innovation landscape

U of T is renowned for its contributions to the technology industry in Canada and its excellence in this area of pedagogy. Aside from the impressive credentials associated with its various tech-focused faculties, numerous laboratories for technological innovation are located right on campus and contribute to spurring technological change in the city and beyond.

One such hub is the Entrepreneurship Hatchery, or ‘the Hatchery’ for short. Hosted in the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering, the centre provides teams of students with tools and resources geared toward helping them establish successful startups. I went to 222 College Street to speak with Joseph Orozco, Co-founder and Executive Director; Mimi Hao, Operations Lead; and Naveed Ahmed, Community Engagement Officer.

“The Hatchery is solely agnostic,” explains Orozco. “We believe that the tools we provide are needed by any type of startup that wants to [get into] business.”

The Hatchery caters to teams of three to four students, with at least one student required to have an understanding of technology or engineering. Examples of projects that have come out of the Hatchery include TeleHex, the world’s lightest Allen key set for bicycles; PhysioPhriend, an app built to provide accessible physiotherapy data; and Kepler Communications, a satellite communications company.

Over the years, while engaging in community outreach, the number of entrepreneurship applications to the Hatchery has surged. The Hatchery has hosted a “Young Innovator Boot Camp” at Scarlett Heights Entrepreneurial Academy, where high school students were tasked with developing ideas for products to solve problems a thousand years into the future. The winning idea in 2015 was a ‘permanent doctor’ — a microchip that, when inserted into the patient’s body, could monitor their physical health, detect evidence of illness, and administer appropriate medicine.

Conversely, some other educational settings at U of T have opted to steer clear of digital technologies altogether. A number of instructors have imposed technology bans in classroom settings, often based on studies positing that students learn better without the distractions posed by computers; the bans have prompted some students to voice concerns about accessibility in the classroom.

Thomas Gendron, a second-year Criminology and Ethics, Society and Law student, and Estée Katz, a third-year Ethics, Society and Law and Bioethics student, have both experienced tech bans in classrooms.

“I’ve had a couple profs that have tried to prevent the use of laptops or technology entirely,” Gendron tells me, “which is pretty laughable in situations like Convocation Hall, where class is like 1,500 [students] and they’re trying to implement a full cell phone ban.”

When instructors attempted to implement an electronics ban in Gendron’s first-year politics course, for example, students largely ignored it. Gendron refers to the policy as “extremely backwards,” alluding to the fact that many people could otherwise have made good use of the technology for educational purposes.

In one of Katz’s classes, students using laptops were asked to sit on a specific side of the class so as not to distract others. Though Katz believes this was a better solution than a full-on ban, she also feels there is a strange logic associated with attempting to regulate students’ behaviour in this way.

“At that point, I feel like you’re an adult, so if you feel like you’re going to learn better using your computer, then use your computer,” says Katz. “You should know how you learn best and if you’re going to spend the class online shopping, then that’s your deal.”

Gendron has been frustrated with slow rates of digitization in educational settings since he was younger. As a child who grew up with computing technologies, his experience apparently surpassed that of all the staff members at his elementary school.

“The moment anything went wrong they would call me, the sixth grader, in to try and fix the issue,” says Gendron. I laugh uneasily when he tells me that adopting this de facto IT role meant being granted access to a wide range of sensitive information, from students’ grades to a teacher’s PayPal account.

It would be absurd to compare U of T to Gendron’s elementary school. The university is home to one of the most reputable computer science departments in the world, and students have access to a wide range of technological resources. Libraries are well equipped with computer labs and rentable laptops. Gerstein Library even has a 3D printer and scanner.

At the same time, the persistence of tech bans reveals a tension between the traditional and the digital, which is unsurprising in light of its context. History and pop culture are rife with images of institutions like U of T as places steeped in institutional memory, full of gothic architecture and curmudgeonly instructors.

In light of advancements in computing technologies and mathematical softwares, the chalkboard theorems in films like Good Will Hunting and A Beautiful Mind might now be perceived as anachronistic within certain modern educational settings.

It won’t be long before today’s ways of learning fall out of favour; anticipating what will take their place, and what rules will arise to regulate them, is easier said than done.

Changes on the books

Giuseppina D’Agostino is a professor at Osgoode Hall Law School and Founder and Director of IP Osgoode, the school’s intellectual property and technology program. Evocative of the situation at U of T, D’Agostino refers to technology both as a “disruptor” and as a driver of change.

“The law always, immemorial, has reacted to new technologies: from the typewriter to the printing press before that,” says D’Agostino. “Every time there’s new technologies, there are disruptions in the market, new ways of dealing with change, and the law has to change.”

Part of this involves crafting the legal infrastructure in a way that accommodates technological innovations, which involves looking to areas of law such as copyright and patent. Much of the protection available for new inventions, D’Agostino tells me, depends on access to justice, which can be highly limited for parties like creators and law students.

“I can tell you that the innovators on the ground, the students, don’t have those resources,” says D’Agostino. One of the reasons why D’Agostino founded IP Osgoode was because students had ideas for change but lacked the resources with which to see them through.

Slowly but surely, the legal profession has undergone substantial changes in the way of technological advancement. Legal research databases such as LexisNexis and Westlaw, as well as various forms of legal software, are automating work formerly completed through more traditional means.

Completely new innovations have also emerged. Avi Brudner is the Head of Strategy & Operations at Blue J Legal, a Toronto-based company that employs artificial intelligence strategies to predict legal outcomes. “We predict case outcomes by using data from previous cases, leveraging machine learning to do that accurately,” says Brudner.

Having officially gone to market as of January 2017, Blue J Legal’s venture into the world of predictive legal technology began with tax law.

At the same time, the persistence of tech bans reveals a tension between the traditional and the digital, which is unsurprising in light of its context. History and pop culture are rife with images of institutions like U of T as places steeped in institutional memory, full of gothic architecture and curmudgeonly instructors.

The company’s first product, Tax Foresight, is designed to maximize the quality of legal advice professionals provide to their clients by making use of technology that can detect patterns in case databases.

“It’s just not realistic for a tax professional to go back and read all 500 cases in a given area of law, understand how all the factors in those 500 cases are related to each other, and then use that information to make a prediction about a new case,” explains Brudner. In his view, Blue J Legal is granting tax professionals that very ability, allowing them to gain insights that would otherwise be impossible to reach.

The “superpowers” that come with products like Tax Foresight, as Brudner puts it, exemplify some of the benefits associated with innovation. Moves toward digitization and incorporation of machine learning can free up time and cut costs for clients — something that could be especially useful in a profession often considered notoriously resistant to technological change.

D’Agostino refers to the legal profession as “one of the dinosaurs” in tech-related conversations. “The Copyright Board is now dealing with tariffs about technology that is probably 10 years old,” says D’Agostino. “They’re going to come up with decisions that are dated already and that really have no resonance to current market practices and user behaviour.”

I see her point. Trials and appeals can take exorbitant amounts of time to resolve, and court systems in Ontario remain largely paper-based. More fundamentally, the law in Canada is grounded in the rule of precedent, which requires the outcomes of future decisions to be consistent with those in previous cases so long as their circumstances are sufficiently similar. That inherent reliance on the past could throw a wrench into things when rapidly evolving technologies are at stake.

The impression I get from Brudner, however, is that Blue J Legal hasn’t suffered. He tells me that once professionals see the product, they appreciate how it can be integrated into their own practices. “We’ve been really excited by the uptake from the legal profession,” says Brudner. Maybe there is hope.

Given that technologically innovative strategies can be harnessed to address a wide variety of social issues, it is arguably in our best interest to not only figure out how to facilitate these solutions, but also how to do so responsibly.

Reason for restraint

When discussing the feasibility of innovations, it is crucial to consider the ways in which they might be received by the society that adopts them. Dr. Rebecca Woods is an assistant professor in the Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology at U of T and a cultural historian of technology. She considers any type of technology “to be deeply embedded in the society and culture in which it operates.”

Accordingly, Woods believes that what might be perceived as “resistance to an innovation” may actually have to do with how compatible it is with a society’s culture. She uses the example of Uber, which, despite having become a ubiquitous method of transportation in cities like Toronto, has come up short when trying to appeal to consumers in other regions. Residents in Frankfurt, Germany, for instance, perceived Uber’s tactics as aggressive instead of innovative. The company eventually withdrew from the city after 18 months of operation.

I ask Woods to comment on attitudes toward technological innovation in the present day. “What I notice is a lot of hubris, frankly,” she replies. “A lot of rhetoric out there is public discourse that assumes that technological change is inherently for the good, that it is progressive in the sense that it is bringing us closer and closer to some sort of better society, better future.”

Part of the problem, of course, is that innovations almost always have unintended consequences. Despite it being launched as a peer-to-peer housing share system, for instance, much of the market on Airbnb has been taken over by third-party actors in the hospitality industry. A report from the Urban Politics and Governance Lab at McGill University found that Airbnb has now removed 14,000 rental units from housing markets in Montréal, Toronto, and Vancouver. Housing prices in the latter two cities have continued to rise, much to the alarm of tenants.

“A technological solution… might solve the immediate problem,” says Woods, “but it’s almost always bound to produce new problems of its own.”

Not everyone I speak to shares Woods’ concerns. When I ask about drawbacks associated with Blue J Legal’s technology, Brudner says they have found none. In response to a similar question about the projects that come out of the Hatchery, Hao states it is important “to have the mindset of moving forward and not being afraid of all the complications things may cause.”

While Orozco acknowledges the importance of evaluating solutions for potential harm to others and to the environment, he feels technological innovation is fundamentally a good thing — something in our evolutionary nature that “we owe to ourselves” to continue pursuing.

Yet, as I speak with Woods, I find myself struggling to repress memories of various tech-related horror stories. Social media sites like Facebook and Instagram have been linked to deteriorating mental health states in teens and young adults, which have included multiple reports of suicides. Further, hackers routinely find ways to use their skills for sexually exploitative purposes; one of the most infamous naked photo leaks occurred in 2014, when nudes of over 100 A-list celebrities were distributed online.

Recently, in a turn of events I expect will be parodied in the upcoming season of Black Mirror, a Wisconsin tech corporation threw a party for employees willing to have company-owned microchips implanted in their hands. The technology is made possible through the Swedish corporation Biohax International, which is scheduled to take a ‘chipping tour’ throughout Sweden in the near future. Thinking back to the ‘permanent doctor’ at Scarlett Heights, this makes me uneasy.

“There may be something to a little bit of hesitance or restraint when it comes to adopting innovations merely because they’re innovations,” advises Woods. It’s easy to understand where she’s coming from. Innovations like Uber and the smartphone have radically changed the societies that have adopted them, and many of their consequences have yet to be seen. How could we possibly anticipate them all?

One might also wonder how things will play out with what D’Agostino identifies as the next big “disruptor” — artificial intelligence (AI). AI technologies often seek to modify how we conceptualize human capital, or even to replace it altogether. As such, its increasing prevalence in society will have colossal effects for the nature of the workforce.

McKinsey Global Institute estimates that about half of all the activities that people are currently paid to do will be automated by 2055. Even more dramatically, Taiwanese venture capitalist and technology executive Kai-Fu Lee believes AI will replace half of all jobs within the next decade.

According to D’Agostino, repetitive jobs will be the first to go. Speaking to the legal profession, she says, “If you’re just drafting contracts, drafting patents, then you may have to change your skillset, diversify because just doing one thing is going to make you dispensable through technology.” Given the current economic climate, students and recent graduates of all disciplines might be forced to stomach that advice.

“A technological solution… might solve the immediate problem,” says Woods, “but it’s almost always bound to produce new problems of its own.”

And if technology is a social phenomenon, it undoubtedly affects how we interact with one another. The smartphone, for instance, has fundamentally changed the way we communicate with others. Woods points out that we now text in advance to make sure people are available for phone conversations, which is substantially different from just calling someone up to chew the fat.

In general, communications technologies have facilitated radical shifts in the ways people relate to one another. The last time I had a conversation without referencing an internet meme was probably around the time LimeWire called it quits.

“Even if you feel like something is an innovation, you feel the loss of what it’s replacing,” says Woods.

Preparing for the next big thing

I ask D’Agostino whether there is an issue in the legal profession today that could be alleviated through the use of new technology. She responds that the answer will be the next legal tech startup — the next big thing. “That’s what we ask our students,” she says. “Where’s the problem, what’s the problem?… And that’s a company.”

I also ask representatives at the Hatchery to speak to problems in the community they would personally want to prioritize in future projects. Orozco suggested that entrepreneurship tools could be used to address ‘us-and-them’ political divides currently taking place in countries around the world, including to a certain extent in Canada.

Ahmed wants to tackle the gender gap that exists in the world of entrepreneurship, especially with respect to small businesses and startups. The first- and second-place teams at this year’s Hatchery pitch competition were both led by women, and it would certainly be encouraging to see similar representation in the future.

Given that technologically innovative strategies can be harnessed to address a wide variety of social issues, it is arguably in our best interest to not only figure out how to facilitate these solutions, but also how to do so responsibly.

More importantly, the ways in which people respond to technological innovation matter a great deal. 

In this vein, D’Agostino identifies the need for long-term commitment to resource investment. “If we want Canada to be an innovative country and want to innovate our industries, then we need to be able to support them,” she says. That includes paying attention to what she refers to as the “bedrock” components: namely, ensuring that our internet infrastructures are stable and secure.

At the same time, keeping in mind the situations currently unfolding within courtrooms, D’Agostino says it can be a good thing that the law is moving at its own pace. Harkening to the way she teaches her curriculum at Osgoode, “You also have to ensure you don’t jump, because you want to make sure everybody’s with you as you’re doing it so you can carry people along.”

Recalling Woods’ words of caution, part of that strategy should require sensitivity to how technological innovation will change us. As we’ve seen, anticipating these consequences can be analogous to trying to predict the future — absurdly difficult and sorely necessary at once.

“There’s a quote that we always overestimate the change in two years and underestimate the change in 10,” says Brudner. In light of the rate of change, he can’t tell me what law firms or legal technologies will look like years into the future, however he appears confident that whatever tools are developed will continue to improve.

I am confident too. It pays to be forward-thinking, so long as we are also careful to heed the lessons of the past. As students at the university, as members of a generation in which digital technologies shape our presents and our futures, it is easy to be frightened of the uncertainty that lies in wait. More exciting than fear, however, are the opportunities that might come hand in hand with the unknown.

The web: a museum of our everyday lives

[dropcap]W[/dropcap]henever I make a post on social media, I wonder who it will reach — not just in the present, but in the future. Hundreds of years from now, will a researcher studying a hashtag on Instagram labelled ‘dog’ meticulously analyze the editing choices I made for a photo of my dog? Will historians piecing together the lives of millennial university students investigate my tweets? Will my social media accounts exist at all?

I learned while writing this piece that my curiosity might not be as weird or narcissistic as it sounds: archives of our generation’s social media and web pages are currently being compiled, investigated, and utilized across U of T and the world.

Like cave paintings in France or clay tablets from Mesopotamia, our social media posts are artifacts that will offer future historians insights into our daily lives, our society, and our politics. Our social media accounts are museums of our everyday lives, self-curated time capsules for future researchers. Such a large — and constantly expanding — collection of the thoughts and behaviours of ordinary people has never been available to researchers before. While this wealth of data will be invaluable to future researchers and historians, it also presents unique problems that don’t have conclusive solutions. 

Preserving our digital data

Last December, volunteers gathered at U of T to archive climate change and environmental data that was at “high risk” of being deleted or of being made unavailable to the public under Donald Trump’s then-incoming presidency.

This “Guerrilla Archiving” event was done in collaboration with the Internet Archive’s “End of Term 2016” project. The Internet Archive is an online non-profit library that has recorded around 279 billion web pages for future historians to use. Its Canadian headquarters are located on the seventh floor of Robarts Library at UTSG. 

Matt Price, a sessional lecturer at U of T’s Department of History, was one of the organizers of the event. Price explained it was important to copy these pages not just for historical reasons, but for the sake of documenting the truth: our understanding of climate and its relation to human health comes from these long stretches of data, which is why it’s imperative for them to stay publicly accessible.

Sam-chin Li is the Reference/Government Publications Librarian at Robarts Library who assisted volunteers at the archiving event. According to Li and Nich Worby, a Government Information and Statistics Librarian at Robarts Library, government information is now only available digitally and only on government websites. Without strong enforcement, this digital content could be at risk of being edited or deleted.

“That is why preserving government websites is not only essential for researchers, historians and scientists to do their work in the future, it is also critical for the opposition and public to keep government accountable,” wrote Li and Worby in an email.

According to Li and Worby, future historians and researchers can use archived web content to grasp a better understanding of our “history and heritage.” Platforms like Twitter reveal valuable information about the lives of ordinary people and contains relevant interactions between governments and citizens.

Wendy Duff, a professor and dean in the Faculty of Information at U of T, thinks our social media archives will be “incredibly valuable” to future researchers trying to understand our societies, and that they will be able to exclusively provide information about certain demographics. Primary sources from the past, like letters and diaries, came from a small, specific group of people: those who were literate and had the free time to write. Now, tons of different groups have access to the internet — and the ability to inadvertently share glimpses of their daily lives with future historians.

Piecing together our lives

Back in April 2010, the Library of Congress announced that it would preserve all public tweets — excluding private account information or deleted tweets, as well as pictures and links — for future generations and historians. In addition to tweets, the Library of Congress is also collecting online information about American and select international election candidates, select Facebook pages and news sites, and websites related to important historical events.

Price underscored that an archive of the lives of ordinary people has never been available to historians before. Historians of earlier centuries have a “scarcity of sources,” while historians of the early 21st century will be overwhelmed by sources. “Their problem is going to be that there’s so many documents that it’s going to be very difficult to sort them,” said Price.

“There will be a massive amount of records, and you will not be able to read them all,” agreed Duff.

For example, a researcher studying a president from the 1800s might have the ability to read every letter sent from the president’s office, but a researcher studying a president from the 21st century almost certainly could not read all the relevant emails and tweets sent out, Duff explained.

“So you will have to have electronic tools to be able to understand certain patterns.”

To sort through these sources, historians of the early 21st century will need to use computational methods — such as searching for keywords or more complex queries — as well as physical analyses of outside texts or sources, explained Price. For some media, like tweets, statistical analysis is the only way to interact with them. One tweet doesn’t reveal enough; historians would have to examine an aggregation of tweets and consult relevant Twitter threads in order to gauge enough context.

‘Fake news’ and self-curation

Our social media accounts are near-shrines of our idealized versions of ourselves: we only post edited photos, we only tweet our wittiest thoughts, and we only share our most ‘likeable’ life events.

A more insidious issue is the spread of misinformation — popularly known as ‘fake news’ — on platforms like Facebook and Twitter. The proliferation of false news stories and even fake first-hand accounts has been a pressing concern, especially over the past year. How will researchers hundreds of years from now be able to navigate our social media posts, all of which have varying degrees of reliability and bias?

Fiorella Foscarini, an associate professor and Director of Concurrent Registration Option at U of T’s Faculty of Information, says that fake news, forged records, and unreliable information has always been around, especially in the personal sphere or other environments with little outside control.

“What we are experiencing with social media, with the current proliferation of partial accounts or completely fabricated facts, is an interesting cultural phenomenon,” said Foscarini. “But it is also worrisome, because many people do not seem to have the critical instruments necessary to evaluate their sources.”

Archivists can prevent the spread of unreliable information by verifying the identity of the data at hand, providing resources for cross-examination, and monitoring the use of information to detect any modifications, Foscarini explained. However, outside of official archival spaces, these best practices might not be implemented.

Price explained that, regardless of genre, every source historians deal with has an “agenda,” and that historians have to learn to “read between the lines” of people’s self-presentations. 

“Social media today are different in genre from the kinds of texts produced 100 or 200 years ago, in part because they offer a very strange hybrid of public and private with highly curated visions of oneself,” said Price.

Instead of looking for answers about what people were “really like,” future researchers should turn to social media to see how people curated themselves and the conventions for this self-curation — or, in Price’s words, what “kind of cultural representations were dominant in a particular moment.”

Price also said it would be a good idea to use tweets as ways to learn about how events or ideas “travelled and became meaningful to the historical actors,” rather than to learn what was really happening during an event or crisis.

Archiving social media

While trying to capture tweets about the Hong Kong Umbrella Movement as part of a school project, Alexander Herd and his fellow group members ran into a problem: some of these Twitter accounts were being blocked or shut down by authorities trying to censor the information and ideas being shared.

In order to prevent these deleted tweets from being lost forever, Herd — who completed a master’s degree in Library and Information Science at U of T in 2016 — and his group members placed them in a “dark archive.” Dark archives usually contain “sensitive information” about an ongoing event and can hold political tweets for 25–50 years.

Copyright was another issue for Herd’s group. Despite tweets being public record, “many users are not comfortable with their tweets being archived for eternity.”

“By extension, there has been discussion over who owns copyright of a tweet,” said Herd. According to Herd, there isn’t a clear resolution yet, but dark archiving tweets for a long period of time is a possible solution.

Herd and his group also consulted U of T librarians for their project, including Li and Worby.

According to Li and Worby, permanently sharing archived tweets is currently prohibited according to Twitter’s Developer Agreement. Researchers can only share ‘Tweet IDs’ with the public. Tweet IDs are unique, unsigned integers that contain a timestamp, worker number, and sequence number to help researchers gain the full content of tweets. However, deleted tweets are not available, which spurs yet another ethical issue when it comes to public figures and their ability to delete their tweets.

A ‘digital dark age’

In grad school, Price was part of a digital preservation effort at Stanford University that involved lucrative restriction enzyme patents. The archives at the library were given a collection of all the emails sent between the researchers working on this project in the 1970s.

However, the data was on eight-inch floppy disks. Price watched as the researchers moved the data to 5.25-inch floppy disks, and then to 3.5-inch floppy disks, and then to disk drives, and then to small hard drives before printing out the emails.

It’s inevitable that researchers hundreds of years from now will run into the same technological problems. It’s possible that the technology of the future may not be able to support our current technology or read our files — and leave future researchers in a ‘digital dark age.’

Duff said it would be a “huge detriment” if we were to lose all records of our digital data. Data loss is already happening every time someone accidentally deletes a file or breaks a phone full of pictures, Duff pointed out.

Price said that there could be some “massive social upheavals” in the future, especially in the wake of global climate change, which might compromise digital sources — which are currently stored in large buildings that depend on electricity to stay online.

“We know that paper can survive, sometimes for thousands of years, but there’s no evidence that digital data can survive in that way,” said Price.

Preserving digital data

Unlike books, web pages change “unpredictably and continuously,” explained Price, which means that archivists need to frequently make copies of these pages in order to truly capture our history.

“Archiving dynamic, interactive, ubiquitous digital information is much more challenging than archiving stable, almost unchanging analog records,” said Foscarini.

Despite the difficulties posed by technological obsolescence, Foscarini said that preserving websites and social media is no longer perceived as completely “unsurmountable.” The problem lies in ensuring these digital materials will still “make sense” hundreds of years from now.

“What kind of metadata do we need to retain, or to add, in order to provide enough context that would allow future generations to understand what that tweet or that meme meant to communicate?” said Foscarini.

Emily Maemura is a fourth-year PhD candidate at U of T’s Faculty of Information whose research centres on archiving and preserving the web.

“Long-term preservation of digital media is perhaps less like letters or newspapers, and more like audio-visual collections, which requires monitoring and attention since software and hardware become obsolete over time,” said Maemura.

Maemura is researching another challenge web archivers must face: deciding which social media posts to actually keep, since archiving the web takes time, money, and resources.

“I think there’s an assumption that it’s possible to capture ‘everything’ that’s out there,” said Maemura.

Maemura explained that this is an “impossible goal” because there is a finite amount of data that can be sustained and because technological limits make it difficult to capture certain kinds of dynamic data.

“So it’s important to be aware of, and be critical of, the kinds of selection processes that happen, who decides what is preserved, and who is responsible for the ongoing access and maintenance,” said Maemura.

So, next time you retweet a viral meme or make an online post, consider the possibility of researchers and archivists centuries from now studying it. What will it say about who we are today?

Good days,
Bad days

“I don’t think I should do this.”

“I don’t know if I should do this, but I’m stuck now.”

“Now I can’t do anything.”

“Maybe I’m just nervous.”

In Ryerson University’s journalism program, Nadia Ozzorluoglu used to wake up crying. Journalism was her purpose, her parents had helped pay for school, and everyone was counting on her. Once in the program, however, the idea of interviewwing strangers, writing about it, handing her work in, and doing it again and again terrified her.

“Now that I was facing the reality of what I should not be doing, I just couldn’t accept that,” said Ozzorluoglu. “The fact that my purpose was completely obliterated in the matter of a day really kind of freaked me out.”

Today, Ozzorluoglu is in her third year at UTM, double-majoring in English and Theatre, Drama and Performance Studies. After taking a gap year to relax and re-explore her interests, she has found her niche in theatre.

Whether it is stress, mental illness, or any other number of extraneous situations, what keeps people going when living feels impossible? When dealing with today is difficult, envisioning the future — from getting up tomorrow morning to post-graduate planning — becomes even harder.

The concept of resiliency, or the ability to bounce back when life gets tough, comes to mind. As Ozzorluoglu said, a “sink or swim” mentality takes over. Stanley Zhou, a U of T PhD student studying cancer biology, called it ‘bend or break.’

But it is not always easy to swim or to bend.

Recognizing when something is wrong

Yin Kot is a fourth-year student at UTSG, about to finish a double major in Criminology and Ethics, Society, and Law and a minor in Philosophy. A bit of a perfectionist, Kot realized she had anxiety in her third year.

“It ended up being where I was just lying in bed and like, petrified of starting to the point where I would miss something,” said Kot. “I’d get out of bed but it’s like in a very begrudging way and beating myself up over this thing that I didn’t accomplish that I said I would. I sort of would carry that energy with me the whole day.”

Ozzorluoglu knew she had social anxiety and depression before she went to Ryerson, but it had been manageable. As she became worse and worse, she knew she needed help but didn’t know how to ask.

“I was crying all day, I was constantly wrapped in a blanket… I was constantly drinking tea, I was constantly around my mom and I was holding her hand… I reverted into childhood,” she said. “I couldn’t function and I was constantly having panic attacks. I knew I needed help because that was not normal and that’s not how I used to be.”

“I thought I couldn’t take the year off and think about what I wanted to do and talk and get help,” said Ozzorluoglu. “I thought this was the end. I’m going to get stuck doing something I hate for four years, and I don’t know how I’m going to get through it.”

Currently in her final year at U of T studying International Relations and Economics, Sarah Jevnikar was “unnaturally anxious,” according to her sister. Like Kot, she had difficulty getting out of bed in the morning. She sought help when depression came later.

“If I started with thinking about the work I had to do, even if I enjoyed it, I’d get too overwhelmed and wouldn’t be able to move from the panic and depression,” said Jevnikar.

Jevnikar has blindness, and she pointed out that people rarely discuss the intersection of mental illness and disability.

“My first psychiatrist attributed every problem I had to my blindness. This wasn’t accurate for me — it comes with a package of issues: social isolation, misunderstandings, inaccessible course materials that take longer to produce and use, extra pressure to excel despite all of these things… But I know it in itself wasn’t the cause of my anxiety and depression,” said Jevnikar.

Emerson Daniele, a fourth-year student specializing in Neuroscience and minoring in Psychology, was diagnosed with social anxiety and depression in grade 11. Psychology is important, he said, because mental illness often makes thinking about the future difficult. 

“One of the byproducts of anxiety is that you ruminate on things that are currently happening, or have happened in the past, but… the issue about social anxiety is that you also worry about things in the future, but they’re not realistic things,” explained Daniele. “I’m worried about things that would probably never happen, but I’m not actually thinking about my future in a productive way.”

He addressed the ability to think of a future as “dealing with whatever mess is the now.”

“When I was diagnosed, or even in the period of time leading up to my diagnosis, I couldn’t think about a future because my mental state was taking over,” said Daniele. “I couldn’t move past that.”

PSYCHOLOGY AND COGNITIVE BEHAVIOURAL THEORY

Daniele brought up a concept of cognitive behavioural theory called ‘schemas,’ generalized knowledge structures that shape a person’s expectations for and perceptions of their environment. The theory goes that when a person has an experience, they filter it through schemas.

When a schema is “dysfunctional,” people can get stuck in a negative mindset because they are more likely to accept whatever is “schema consistent.” This means that people are more likely to ignore something if it is inconsistent with the schema, regardless of if it is realistic. 

“My example would be my depression, right? And social anxiety,” said Daniele. He would think, “People don’t like me. They are saying yes to hanging out with me because they feel bad. So anytime someone would say yes to me, I would be like, ‘Okay, they feel bad.’ But if they said no, I’m like, ‘Okay, they don’t like me.’”

In cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), which Daniele both attended and later learned about in his university courses, the main concept is that thoughts, emotions, and behaviour all affect each other in a sort of circle. 

“The thought is that… if you intervene at the thought level or the behavioural level, you can change the emotional response and the cycle would continue on more positively,” said Daniele.

Daniele did not consider himself a naturally resilient person, but he found CBT fascinating because it gave him the skills to basically be his own therapist.

“Being able and learning the techniques to step back and kind of evaluate when you’re having one of those dysfunctional thoughts was the sources of my resiliency going forward,” said Daniele. “At cognitive behavioural therapy, they really do teach you techniques on how to evaluate your thought processes and challenge them as they are happening. Which is really difficult to do in the moment because a lot of the times your thoughts are so automatic, they’re just gut reactions, right?”

Of course, while the ideas behind CBT make a lot of sense, Daniele made sure to point out that it does not work for everyone. For Jevnikar, those tools help, but she said that CBT is not a “catch-all.”

“Everyone should try to take care of their mental health just as they would maintain their physical health, whether they have a mental illness or not.”

“I still struggle with being open with those around me. I’d like to think I’m a bit better at coping with things because I recognize them — I know if I start to get a certain feeling that I need to get help before it worsens. I think the pre-therapy Sarah wouldn’t have known or thought to do that,” said Jevnikar.

Catching when that feeling happens is a major key to maintaining mental health, which Daniele emphasized is different from mental illness. Everyone should try to take care of their mental health just as they would maintain their physical health, whether they have a mental illness or not.

FINDING AND CREATING SUPPORT NETWORKS

While therapy is often useful, its resources and the discussions surrounding it are not always accessible to all.

Kot, for instance, was hesitant to reach out for help herself, despite working on an initiative called Healthy Minds U of T and telling her students from mentorship program First in the Family to use all the resources available to them.

“I grew up in Hong Kong,” said Kot. “This isn’t a thing that you talk about. Even in my family especially, it was very much a ‘chin up buttercup, keep going.’ I remember even when I was a kid, if I was upset about something and crying about something, it was very much a ‘why are you displaying your emotions so much?… don’t do that.’” 

With her parents in Hong Kong, Kot didn’t want to worry them. She researched words to translate her anxiety into Chinese, but the only ones she could find ended in which means ‘sickness’ or ‘disease.’ The word felt too permanent and too strong for her to breach the topic.

“You have to put up a brave face,” said Kot. “I remember they would Skype in every week, and even when it was at the worst of it I just would be like, ‘Yeah, everything is great’… It was like they sacrificed so much to send me here, so how could I tell them that I am unhappy? My mum never went to university, so I am literally living her dream, I feel. How could I tell them that I am not loving it here?”

Zhou, who has studied at U of T since beginning his undergrad in 2011, understands Kot’s situation all too well. Born in Guangzhou, he was his father’s sixth child under China’s one-child policy. For about five to six years, he lived without an official identity until his parents borrowed enough money from distant family members to be able to give him one.

Eventually, Zhou and his parents moved to Canada for his education, which his father had to sacrifice retirement to do. These experiences and hardships helped him truly appreciate the value of education and grow to enjoy learning for the sake of learning. 

“Because we were not that well-off… we literally were trying to get money to put on the table — and my dad did the same thing in his younger days; during the Cultural Revolution, he would have to beg for food,” said Zhou. “So when I grew up with the childhood of having to go through such difficulties that are basic human necessities, why would I be stressed out — which I still am — why would I go crazy over a grade?”

Although Zhou was passionate about school, he and a friend realized that incoming students could use a little help and began mentoring students through the ‘Accepted U of T’ Facebook pages.

“What I’m very proud of here is that when I started mentoring the kids that I mentored — they’re not kids really, they’re 22, 23 — are now mentoring others, and the people they mentored are now mentoring other people,” said Zhou. “That also has to do with mental health as well — if you know there is someone there to help you, you feel much better about your chances to do stuff.”

One year, he took this a step further and wrote a post offering an ear to anyone who needed one, telling them to message him their stories. “I got issues that are way more unfortunate than what I went through as a child and I was inspired by those stories,” said Zhou. “I realized everybody has their own chapter and you just have to sort of push on through… Try to be good to people, try to be nice to people.”

People cannot do life alone, Zhou pointed out. He pressed on the importance of social interactions, encouraging students to indulge in simple activities like having a coffee with someone or going outside. Without interaction, he said, “you get more depressed than what you started with.”

Kot and Jevnikar echoed the necessity of networks and community. Kot thinks that much of the ability to cope comes from unpacking experiences and talking to someone: “I just feel like a lot of people helped me get to where I am,” said Kot. “Like, this was a group project, not an individual thing. So I think resilience comes from networks… I don’t think anyone can really be resilient on their own because no one can be ‘on’ all the time.”

For times when finding community is difficult, however, Jevnikar brought up the many other resources available to students, such as Counseline, an in-person and online student counselling service.

“Having people to visit me or talk to me socially [is] critical, and that was tough when I was by myself so much while at U of T,” said Jevnikar. “In my lowest moments I made use of Good2Talk, a phone service for all Ontario post-secondary students, which was essential in keeping me together during the loneliest times.”

Asking for help

Perhaps most importantly, all the students implied that no one is ever as stuck as they might feel. Even with schoolwork, there is more help and flexibility than students realize.

“[Your] registrar isn’t an automaton who will throw [you] out of university if [you’re] not doing well. I don’t mean to be flippant, but I was terrified of talking to my registrar, so [I] was always playing catch-up during a crisis and almost always made a fool of myself by being over-emotional — which they completely understood for the most part,” said Jevnikar.

“You are not the first student to have these problems, which isn’t to diminish your own experience as just ‘run-of-the-mill,’ but I say that to indicate that there are many people who have heard similar stories and who want to and can help. U of T can appear isolating, but I promise it doesn’t have to,” she added.

Similarly, following yet another all-nighter near the end of her third year, Kot realized that she could not function like that anymore, even though her essay was due the next day. The realization, she said, “terrified” her.

Kot reached out to the Dean’s office at her college, which referred her to her registrar and the Health and Wellness Centre. Today, her approach has changed such that she does not have to reach a breaking point before taking action.

“I’ve been sitting down and having frank and open conversations with my professors, with my bosses, with everyone… who wants to talk about [my anxiety],” said Kot. “That really helps me because I think I was sort of terrified of failing… They’re like, ‘You know what? That happens to me too.’ And they totally get it and they talk me through it. It sort of helps me understand that even if I do mess up, it’s okay. It’s not like it is undoable or anything.”

Whether it is stress, mental illness, or any other number of extraneous situations, what keeps people going when living feels impossible?

Ozzorluoglu was fortunate her parents took mental illness seriously and assisted her in finding the help she needed. “I used to go to a therapist, and my mom forced me to go on antidepressants and anxiety medication, which is like the best thing my mom has ever done,” said Ozzorluoglu. “I went to therapy twice a week, started off twice a week, then once a week, eventually once a month. Now I don’t really see her anymore.” At times, Ozzorluoglu admits that she reverts to her old ways of coping, but even without regular therapy now, what she gained from it still helped greatly.

“I’m better at knowing myself,” said Ozzorluoglu. “I know my creative outlets. I have resources now.”

Finding a passion

When life becomes more manageable, or when we escape a negative mindset, it is interesting how much our perspectives can change. Daniele, for example, still cares about how and what other people think but approaches it from a completely different outlook.

“That used to be such a negative thing for me because I was worried about their negative feelings towards me, but I guess a big moment for me was realizing I could control those negative feelings towards me if they had them or if not,” said Daniele. “But I was worried about how they were feeling about themselves because I was just thinking about how crap I felt. That still gets me up in the morning — thinking that I can study psychiatric disorder.

“It’s funny because the thing that used to like, make me dread waking up in the morning was why I started to wake up in the morning, which I find is kind of oddly profound.”

Zhou pointed out that in university, undergraduates are caught up in the assignment-midterm-exam cycle, which prevents them from deciding whether they actually love what they do. His advice is to take time off and think.

“What I found was that a lot of my friends who did not get a job or whatever after fourth year and took an extra year, or took fewer courses, and they finally had that time to think about what they want — that year, they found out that what they wanted was in contrast with what they thought they wanted in undergrad. Now they are much happier for it,” said Zhou.

For Ozzorluoglu, Zhou’s advice could not be truer. Realizing she was not trapped into one plan for the future changed her direction entirely. However, she added that there is no rush to accomplish anything, or even to heal.

“I understand how some people are just too scared to do anything, which is totally fine,” said Ozzorluoglu. “Take as much time as you need to recover before diving into something if that is what you need. However, if that thing that you need is part of your recovery, then find the aspect of it that suits you the most and try to flourish from that.”

Passion, gratitude, and perseverance — these are key, said Zhou.

“The world is a tough place. It’s not going to stop being tough. It only gets harder. Your responsibility as a student is to enjoy what you learn, try to do well at what you do, and try to grow an interest and passion in something you do.”

Zhou added that mental illness can hinder people from moving forward. In those cases, he asks people to seek help sooner rather than later.

“But in terms of just feeling lazy or uninspired, you cannot expect people to motivate you every day,” said Zhou. “You have to find that inner drive, that inner inspiration to say, ‘This is what I want to achieve today. Even if it is a bad day, this is what I want to achieve tomorrow.’ And so on and so on. Find the reason that you want to do that.”

TAKING CARE OF YOURSELF

Regardless of how each of these students pulled themselves out of tough situations, Zhou tells the unfortunate truth: life can always get harder. However, there are ways to maintain our mental health so that when the inevitable future comes, we are more equipped to handle the unpredictable.

Ozzorluoglu’s therapist recommended she do things like taking a photo or writing a song. “[Those are] things that you don’t really want to do when you’re depressed, and you don’t think about it because you don’t want to do anything,” said Ozzorluoglu. “It sounds so obvious — I want to say when you’re neurotypical — to say ‘Why don’t you do this? Why don’t you do that?’ But when you are in that situation, you don’t want to think about anything, you don’t want to do anything.”

Similarly, Daniele noticed that he was withdrawing from people he cared about when he felt depressed, he urged keeping a good support network in those situations.

“It sounds a bit over-said, but it is important to take time for yourself and take stock of your mental health,” said Daniele. “If you don’t take the time to take stock of your own mental health, that’s when things start to go downhill and that could take you to the mental illness kind of area.”

Kot now makes sure to take the time to jot down notes so she can look back and evaluate her day for connections that otherwise would not have occurred to her.

“There are connections that you can’t really draw when you’re in the moment, but now at the end of the day I take a moment, like, ‘How did I feel today? What did I do today? How did I do last week?’” said Kot. “In hindsight, I’ve connected like, ‘Okay. When I drink coffee, I feel ridiculously anxious for the rest of the day. I love my coffee, but this is not a thing that I can keep doing.’”

The students made sure to emphasize that their experiences will not necessarily apply to everyone else. Some of them brought up their privileged stances in society, while others recognized they might just be more inherently resilient.

“It’s really tough because everyone is different,” said Ozzorluoglu. “You don’t want to influence someone if it is going to harm them but help you. It’s kind of touchy… My way of healing is different than yours.”

“Listen to your body,” she said. “How does your body feel? Just try to do whatever your body wants you to do. Make your body become your friend again and figure out what your body wants.”

The imperative for resiliency, for moving forward through the very worst, seems not to be the ability to merely keep trudging onward through difficulty, but the ability to take a step back, understand ourselves, change our negative schemas, and ask for help when we need it.

As Jevnikar said, “I don’t think of [resiliency] as ‘brushing the dirt off and carrying on’ but rather taking all that dirt with you to make better and more compassionate decisions for yourself and others.”