White Screen Christmas

What was the best part of your day? My little four-year-old friend considered the question. On a busy holiday Sunday, she had a lot to choose from: sitting on Santa’s lap, carolling in the pub, gymnastics, a birthday dinner… The winner? Playing on mom’s iPad.

Internet, social media, and our screen devices have revolutionized the way we live. From everyday bedtime reading to planning your latest gala, technology is the backseat driver on our fun. During the Christmas holidays, our tech makeover is more galling than ever. Screens run rampant live-broadcasting our social events, taking pictures of our holiday food, filling the rare silent moment, and offering us guilt-free last-minute Christmas shopping.

This is not a Holly, Jolly reality. It is more of a Nightmare Before Christmas. Our obsession with screens creates some real privacy concerns, makes us anti-social, and can be downright depressing. My iPad-loving four-year old friend is lucky to have a very attentive mom who actively limits her access to and use of screens. However, after 18, we are on our own to monitor against our own screen-obsession.

Let’s talk privacy. Our smart devices smack of Orwellian predictions about our future. We record, track and disseminate our private lives through social media. One SnapChat program provides a live-feed GPS to track your every movement. On Facebook, I can see the events my Facebook “friends” have attended, what they were wearing, and who they were with. The fitness apps track when we sleep, heart rates, what we ate, even our measurements. Right now, these private broadcasts may not seem like a big deal. However, our informational world is still evolving.

How would your Health Insurer feel about the MacDonald’s diet you have been faithfully reporting to your Fitness app? Would your stalker ex-boyfriend like to see your live GPS feed? Would you like your boss to have access to your twitter opinion on a controversial topics? Everything you put on your device is available to any user with the right technology. We need to stop confiding in our phones like they were our best friends and start treating them like the frenemies they are.

Speaking of friends, our smart devices have become the stage-five clinger in our lives. Screens drive us away from the important people in our lives, constantly demand our attention, and then pit us against the people in our real-life social networks. A recent study reveals that one third of people admit they communicate less with their parents, partners, children and friends because they can just “follow” them on social media. Our smart devices also create divides between people: 42% of people felt jealous toward their friends who received more “likes” than they did. The nerve!

Spending our lives on our devices watching the best-of reel of our acquaintances’ lives on social media can be downright depressing. We spend less time outside, we have less human interaction, and we can easily feel like we are trying to keep up with an unlimited number of The Jones’. The sad reality of screens and social media calls into question why we use them at all.

Unless you hide away in a camp out in the Wylie Road backwoods, we are all stuck with screens. We use them out of necessity. Screens and social media do, of course, have a helpful, informative, and entertaining side. They are a guilty pleasure we all revel in. All of us have undoubtedly heard of a friend who publicly boycotts the modern world of screen technology and social media. We have all equally bit our tongues when the same friend returns back into the screen world quietly a few weeks later.

The key to harnessing the best parts of screens and social media has got to be informed moderation, not abstinence. We cannot ignore the positive or negative reality of social media. Hiding from technology leaves the non-user ill-equipped to participate in our modern world. Our best defence against the phone is informing ourselves of the dangers and adjusting our use accordingly.

I simply cannot end a pre-Christmas Cup of Jo as a Grinch. To turn things around, I have written a little parody of what I believe to be the most entertaining part of social media: Deep River Yardsale Facebook Group. At the request of Katie Roblin, please enjoy this little Carol, set to the tune of “My Favourite Things”. Merry Christmas, Deep River!


One grass stained prom dress,

‘80s cassette player,

Used size-C brazier,

Four blades for your razor,

Kombucha Scoby,

Sad engagement ring:

These are some Deep Ri-ver Yard-sa-le Things!


Lulu Lemon Pants,

One actual rooster,

Old beat-up couches,

Broken baby booster.

What in the heck is a “Fingerling”?

These are some Deep Ri-ver Yard-sa-le Things!


Stolen road bike!

Gross homemade soup!

Shirt with a breast hole!
Once your friends buy your impractical things,

You, too, can mark them…



Mind The Gap!

One café in Melbourne Australia has started implementing a “Man Tax”. Male patrons are charged an 18% surcharge on their orders to account for the gender pay disparity.

The full additional funds raised by the surcharge are donated to a women’s service. The café is not making a profit- it is making a point. A gender surcharge seems unfair, discriminatory, and offensive, right? The point is that all of these adjectives are equally applicable to the gender pay gap. If our paycheques are 18% lower, should our bills not be 18% lower?

In short, no.

But… sort-of, yes. Let’s start with this ‘yes’ argument.

Women in Canada make 82% of what men do, according to the Statistics Canada census data just released. To break it down, women with a B.A. make an average of $68K versus $82K for men with the same degree. This is not just career choices. Fresh graduates in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, math) make $72K if they are male but only $59K if they are female. Even in female-dominated fields like nursing, men are making slightly more than their female counterparts.

Think of your daughter and son. If they both go to school and get the same degree, your son could take home the same pay, and then buy a new car every other year. Yes, exceptions exist. I am sure you can name one lady colleague who is as dense as a rock and currently out-earning your genius male friend. It is, however, an exception. The statistically proven rule in Canada is that women must pay the gender wage deduction.

Gender Pay Gap Deniers can be like Flat Earthers. Evidence of the gender pay gap and a spherical earth is indirect, can be complex, and requires a higher level of thinking. Some people need to see something in the simplest, most direct terms to accept it. This is particularly true when the concept does not line-up with their specific view of the world. Rapper B.O.B., for example, believes the earth is flat because the horizon always looks the same. Stephen Miller, senior advisor to Donald Trump, mansplains that women are paid less because women make the choice to have children, and have less demanding jobs.

We know (I hope!) that B.O.B.’s observation is right, but his conclusion is wrong. Similarly, Stephen Miller is partially right in his observations, but wrong in his conclusions on baby-making and job choice.

Women and men both make the choice to have children: two people are required. For every pregnant woman, there is an impregnator. On the other hand, one baby daddy may have several baby moms. By this logic, we can infer there must be more working fathers than working mothers. When the decision to create a child is made (on purpose or accidentally) by two, it makes no sense to say that only the female baby-maker should be punished in their final salary.

The gender pay gap is not softened or explained by the “women have less demanding jobs”, either. Looking at the per-hour wage, men make about $3 more than their female counterparts. It is troubling that career paths that hire more women tend to be compensated at a lower rate. But even at those jobs, women earn less than the men doing the same job. Even self-employed lady entrepreneurs make less than men! Harvard Business School academics explained that men and women are promoted in different ways once an employee has the job. Men are promoted for what they might do, whereas women are only promoted once they have successfully done it. Think about that for a second: who is going to advance in the ranks to a high-paying job faster?

Do not feel you have to believe me. Check it out for yourself! Have a look at the cold, hard numbers. I recommend Statistics Canada and Canadian Public Policy publications. We have known about the gender gap for well over a decade. These sources just confirm it is alive and well.

So what do we do about it?

Here is the ‘no’ argument on Man Tax. A simple slap-on solution for a historical and complex problem is not going to be the answer. We are a complex society. The solution needs to be equally complex, encompassing, and well-researched. We need to change our public institutions, our educational values, and our laws. This takes time and effort. Charging an inequality surcharge obviously presents a bunch of obvious problems: who do we charge it to? What about other, more marginalized groups? What about taxes? How about the kid behind the till who is trying to calculate this? The result of the man tax, of course, would be ridiculous and comical. I do not believe that the Australian café intended to make a public Man Tax policy. It was making a point. A great one.

Flat-Earthers and Wage Gap Deniers alike may need hard, concrete evidence of the feeling of absurdity, of arbitrary discrimination and of unfairness to feel the impact of the cost of gender. Slamming an extra $1-$2 drives a point home in a fun and viral way. For Canadian boys, instead of paying an extra $1 for your mancuccino, take a moment of your potentially overpaid time to consider the problem of the gender pay gap. If you’ve got a solid solution to eliminate the pay gap, you may have justified your own 18% yearly bonus.