By Stefanie Phillips, RSJ ’18 firstname.lastname@example.org
Noor Javed has built a tough skin in her 10 plus years as a reporter working in Toronto. From her experience dealing with hateful comments over the years, she now knows when to turn off the notifications on her phone or block emails, and when to speak up against the bigotry.
The Toronto Star reporter has developed resilience tactics over time through trial and error, exchanging stories with other reporters and talking to editors. But she admits the use of social media has made it more difficult to cope with the haters and trolls who engage with her.
“Keeping the online world in perspective is the best thing that you can do,” she said. “Social media is just one aspect of our world but you know what we can turn it off, and I think sometimes that’s the best thing we can do.”
Sitting in The Venn, listening to Javed speak to journalism students as part of the workshop, Entitled to Your Opinion: Resilience Training for Journalists in an Age of Online Trolls and Haters, was upsetting, but not shocking. It has become widely known that being the target of hateful and bigoted comments, is an everyday occurence for journalists, especially those who are women, people of colour, disabled or members of marginalized communities. But knowing how to be on the receiving end of the hate is not as widely understood.
Doctor Diana Brecher, a psychologist and scholar-in-residence at Ryerson’s Positive Psychology ThriveRU initiative took over the the second half of the event to do just that; she took students through the Five Factors Model of Resistance, designed to help people develop their own resilience tactics.
“You’re already incredibly resilient but maybe you’re not intentionally applying it in situations where it could be of help,” she said.
Bercher began by leading students through a three-minute meditation that focused on mindfulness, the first step in the resistance model.
As the minutes passed with each breath, Bercher reminded students to acknowledge any thoughts that came to them but quickly dismiss them in order to remain in the present.
She said mindfulness is all about staying in the present without thinking about the past or worrying about the future. Bercher said students can practice being mindful by meditating on a daily basis.
To demonstrate the second factor, gratitude, Bercher asked students to watch the Monkey Business Illusion video.
When the video finished, she explained how when people are in a bad mood they tend to only notice the negative things going on around them, and similarly, only notice the good things when they’re in a good mood.
Bercher said being grateful is about noticing the good things in life and savouring them, even if they’re as simple as the sun setting in the afternoon.
“Our mindset affects what we do in our lives,” she said. It’s not necessarily the big things that only contribute to our sense of wellbeing, it’s the accumulation of many small things if you have an open mind to it”
Using similar exercises and techniques, Bercher explained the remaining three factors of the model, optimism, self-compassion and grit. She taught students ways to think positively, be compassionate towards themselves and have the perseverance to accomplish long-term goals.
The workshop ended with a hands-on exercise that asked students to write down the barriers they face in doing a daily task they enjoy. For example, Bercher used swimming as her daily task with time, injury and availability as her barriers. From the exercise, students were able to draw their own resilience tactics which they can apply to more difficult barriers they face.