My grandmother.

The influences in my life that are humans are as follows (in no particular order):

Bo Burnham, Kaelin Isserlin, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Miley Cyrus, Linda Garneau, Evan Peters, Julie Andrews, Lady GaGa, and my grandmother.

I will attempt to explain my reasons for why these people have a greater influence on me than others. Hope it functions properly.

A super-heroine butterfly who cooks like a BOSS.

My grandma has every right to brag about herself. Her culinary skills could swipe the whole competition. She has the most caring heart for everyone around her and always puts her family first. Funny thing is, she has NEVER been one to talk highly of herself. All of the goodness and love that encompasses her presence never seems to turn into greediness nor hate. I have come to be so inspired by her and I am still wondering how I got so lucky to have her as my grandmother.

I never met my Nonna—my Italian grandmother on my mother’s side—and I often imagine if she was as amazing. My dream is to live my senior years in Italy somewhere so I can be buried close to my heritage. I think it would be so ideal if the bright, white lights of heaven’s gate appeared in front of me and right there is my Nonna, making pasta. Pretty nice. While it is amusing to craft a dreamy picture of what you think your family would act like, I am humbled by the fact I can personally witness my grandmother’s life while she is alive. I feel attached to her successes and discoveries and hope that she stays on the Earth for a long time.

Her absolute selflessness reminds me that every human has so much kindness to share. We are all wrapped up in our individual lives and that can turn quickly into arrogance. My grandma remains so giving with her heart, and I know she will continue to have an unlimited amount of positive energy. Whenever she smiles, I just have to join her.

I want to give back to her all the fresh cookies, clean sheets, clever jokes and warm hugs that she has provided me with for the past 20 years. Spending time with her is one thing but it’s not enough. She deserves the world and the moon. I try to visit my grandparents once a month or so to ask them about life, the future and theatre (they brought me to my first musical). Their knowledge and overall patience with my horrible ignorance helps me to reset and ground myself. I have vivid memories of our family cottage in my childhood and both my grandmother and grandfather shaped my experience in such a profound way. I think the most memorable would be the times when my grandmother would let me set up the “cookie plate” for dessert. She knew it would be so exciting for a big-eyed girl like me to organize and display treats for my family, and I’ll never forget that.

I have to mention the fact that my grandparents have been married for over 50 years. Through thick and thin, they have stayed by each other’s sides and still, to this day, are the only representation of real love that I have seen. Since we are talking about my grandmother as an individual, her unmitigated love for my grandfather gives me hope that it is possible to unconditionally love another person. Of course, I love my grandpa too, but I think he would agree that my grandma is an angel who makes everyone a better person.

Grandma, I love you and admire you to no ends. I hope one day to be as incredibly strong as you are.

Re: The Stories We Tell by Jack Harries

I’ve been following (also in love with) Jack Harries since he started posting Youtube videos seven years ago. At first, I saw him as the ideal Brit with a fantastic accent and funny views on living. His twin brother Finn also caught my eye and from then on, these brothers were the British Zack and Cody for me. However, as I grew up, as they grew up, and as their video content started to change, I found different qualities in them that I respected. It wasn’t just that they were easy to look at, but they had real talent and intelligence about the world. I stayed close.

I’m going to only talk about Jack for right now, because he is the one who continues the channel. Finn, I see you. I see you.

When Jack posted the video I linked above that discusses the up and downs of his life, I immediately connected with his honesty. His perspective on social media and mental health inspired me to reflect on why our internet appearance can ruin our real-life experience. Key-word is “can” here, because I don’t think this happens to every person with an Instagram account; it only applies to the group of users that have trouble functioning with the on-going rise of online interactions. I think I am a part of this group.

Jack speaks in the video about how when we click that post button, we are telling a story. Not necessarily the most truthful story but a story nonetheless. He recognizes that as each of us build an online profile for the public to analyze, our perception of close friends, family members or other people we interact with changes. They are not separate worlds. Our reality in society and the reality on the internet have direct links to one another now that so many people use social media. I often feel weirdly grateful for the times that I meet someone who I haven’t yet met on Instagram. It’s almost as if that never happens anymore. If I didn’t rely on social media for research on other people’s lives, how different would my friends group be? Would I know less information about them? Shouldn’t that scare me? My brain is combining all the stories from the accounts I follow with the encounters I’ve had in real-life to construct opinions on other people. So, we’ve added a second variable to the equation of how I perceive a person. While this could potentially augment our personal relationships, I am weary of the fact that it could also destroy the potential of a strong relationship. Stories can now be told through posts and updates rather than sitting down and hearing/reading a story.

Another incredible point to Jack’s talk is that he opens up about his mental health and how working too much on our online appearance can be exhausting. He admits to needing to take time off of his YouTube channel and neighbouring film company. While this is of course very honest of him, I can’t help but wonder why something you love to do can tire you out. I can see that Jack is passionate about capturing stories and visiting places that are new to him and so, I find it so sad that he felt overwhelmed by it all. The pressure of constantly creating is terrifying. Perhaps we all need a break, even from activities we find most enjoyable. Perhaps there could be a happy medium. This is something every human has to figure out during their life.

Another thought that popped into my head after watching this video was that maybe the like button is the villain rather than social media itself. We press a button and our judgement is publicized. Anyone can see the posts you like and the ones that didn’t get your approval. And I think it’s true that when you don’t redden the heart on a post, people will think you don’t actually like the post. This small action of pushing a heart creates another story within itself. I’m curious about why there is no dislike button on Instagram but there is on YouTube, Facebook (the mad and sad emoji’s are very similar to disliking a post), and Reddit. Are we not allowed to dislike something? Does everyone need to love and be loved? Twitter has an interesting take on the dislike button by making your downvote a private matter. It won’t directly show up that you don’t like a tweet but it will cater your timeline to what it thinks you would like instead. That way, it is your business if you want to see something pop up on your timeline. I think this is very smart. You go, Twitter.

Jack’s creativity continues to inspire me and encourage me to tell stories. Whether that be through a picture of my cottage or filming myself exploring dance, my social presence will create another version of me. Let’s see in the next 10 years where it goes from there. There is so much more to discuss about social media’s influence on our everyday lives and so I want to extend my gratitude to Jack for filming this chat he gave as a part of Mental Health Awareness Week.

Thank you, Jack!