News

How should we view 2016?

By Sean Fitzgerald, 24 Hrs

This wasn't the easiest year. For this story, we decided to reach out to a number of sources to discuss how 2016 was reflected in five different fields: psychology, journalism, pop culture, fashion and social media (credit: Getty Images).

This wasn't the easiest year. For this story, we decided to reach out to a number of sources to discuss how 2016 was reflected in five different fields: psychology, journalism, pop culture, fashion and social media (credit: Getty Images).

Is it over yet? 2016 emerged as one of the most depressing years in recent memory, as we witnessed terror attacks, police shootings, Brexit, Zika, the situation in Syria, the election of Donald Trump and the deaths of a number of high-profile names in pop culture. 

Perhaps we should have taken a hint from the first two weeks in January, which featured the deaths of music icon David Bowie, actor Alan Rickman, Eagles co-founder Glenn Frey and Celine Dion’s husband and brother. The foreshadowing was there, early on.

Was it the worst year of all time? Probably not, but it was still a lot to take.

24 Hours decided to reach out to a number of sources to discuss how 2016 was reflected in five different fields: psychology, journalism, pop culture, fashion and social media. Here’s what they told us about the year that we’re trying our hardest to forget.

PSYCHOLOGY: “This year, I’m hearing more of my patients saying, ‘I feel so helpless,’ because it seems like they have no control over what’s going on. I’m definitely seeing a lot of anxiety. People are seeing the Donald Trump election victory as a marking point of, ‘This is when things got ugly. This is truly when it became us versus them.’ Everyone feels like they’re in a group that’s being opposed to some other group – whether it’s race, sex, ideology or the economy. I’ve never seen it so salient.”

- Dr. Oren Amitay, Toronto-based registered psychologist

JOURNALISM: “Media organizations have done quite a good job in covering what’s been an incredibly intense and difficult news agenda over the last 12 months. But there is a certain amount of what’s called ‘compassion fatigue’ in the audience. There has been a pretty relentless stream, if not a tsunami, of both bad and important news. My sense is that the Internet has provided a kind of strange release valve for cat videos and other nonsense, which obviously has its appeal in a time of very difficult and complicated stories. So, my concern is not that the news media is over-covering the news, but that there is so much important news – and often bad news – that the audience will disengage, because they can’t take too much of it.”

- Jeffrey Dvorkin, director of journalism program at University of Toronto Scarborough

POP CULTURE: “Western democracies got a free ride. It was easy to be ‘representative’ when there was no real diversity of class, ethnic, gender or sexuality. Now there is, and we will see if we can still be democratic. I think we will manage but we have some work to do.”

- Grant McCracken, cultural anthropologist and author

FASHION: “Fashion has always been a great barometer of society. I remember after 9/11, everybody was saying, ‘Oh my God, what’s going to happen with fashion? It’s not going to mean anything anymore, in the wake of this disaster.’ But all of a sudden, during the next season on the runways, we saw a return to a kind of spirituality. A lot of white pieces started coming down the runway. A lot of this angelic, diaphanous stuff. It was almost as if people used fashion as a kind of escapism, a kind of romantic return to fashion. Lots of prints and florals. I remember that season quite well. Just because there are dark, dangerous times, it doesn’t mean that we’re going to dress dark and dangerously.”

- Jeanne Beker, TV personality and fashion designer

SOCIAL MEDIA: “2016 was the year of social media fatigue. The entire world was gripped by this gruelling election, and you couldn’t escape it on social media. We saw Donald Trump, who in addition to winning the election, actually emerged as the world’s greatest Twitter troll for 2016. So we saw this big cyberbully win the U.S. presidential election, and then obviously lots of troubling things happening overseas. Also, we saw the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement this year, which coincided with the launch of Facebook Live. And Facebook Live actually played a very important role in the Black Lives Matter movement, and through Facebook Live, we got to see lots of great stuff, but we also got to see a lot of sad, difficult-to-watch things. One of the things that stands out to me is some of the live recorded shootings that were captured through Facebook Live, which is I think is a testament to the power of social media.”

- Michelle Pinchev, founder and lead strategist at Pinch Social

You gotta keep perspective

Feeling burnt out from all of the negativity? We asked Dr. Oren Amitay, a Toronto-based registered psychologist, for the best way to deal with 2016’s gloominess on an emotional level. It turns out that it all comes down to the ‘p’ word.

“I tell all my patients, keep perspective,” he says. “That sounds so airy-fairy, and it’s kind of vague. But what I mean by that is, focus on things that you can deal with. So, if people think the world’s going to hell in a handbasket or whatever, it’s like: You can’t control that. You have nothing to do with that. And the fact is, most of that is probably not going to affect you.

“No matter what’s going on in the world, you can improve on yourself. You can take time to take care of yourself, regardless of the circumstances.”