VanArts Radio

Private Instagram “Likes” Change The Game

May 03 by Adam Thorp

I’m not much of a social media guru. I use Facebook and Instagram and that’s about it. I post things that make me happy and share constructive messages I want to put out into the world. I try not to get caught up in the modern world of social media because I know it’s all just a performance. A lot of the time smiles are forced, sunsets are enhanced, and bodies are edited to unrealistic standards. I consciously try not to fall into this trap because I know it’s not healthy - especially for someone with an anxious mind such as myself.

But sometimes even I find myself staring at a photo (for way too long) wondering what other people will think… I edit and compare and delete and go back and forth between two almost identical pictures for longer than I’d like to admit… and then once I’ve posted my final decision, I continuously refresh my news feed hoping I get a bunch of "likes" that will somehow elevate my self esteem.

A lot of people spend a lot of time trying to get "likes" online. The society we live in today often suggests that an individual's self worth or success is based on that little number under their latest Insta post - and I honestly hate that idea.

But I have some potentially good news for ya, my friend.

At Facebook’s annual conference this year, it was announced that Instagram is trying a new experiment in Canada. The platform has introduced a feature called “private like counts”, which basically hides the amount of "likes" a picture or video has received from the general public. The user can privately see exactly how many "likes" their post gets, but nobody else can.

And as you can probably imagine, the internet had a lot to say about it.

Some people hate it and believe that it will put influencers at a huge disadvantage. They think that sponsors will be less likely to work with influencers and that online opportunities will decrease. Some also believe that the platform just won’t be the same without the visible “likes” and want others to be able to see how many people approve of their posts.

Other people love the idea and think that this is the best update Instagram has made in a very long time. They think it will encourage more genuine and unique content from users as it won’t be all about the amount of “likes” you get on a photo anymore - but rather about the quality of the content you’re putting out instead. They also feel that sponsors will be more likely to work with influencers that accurately represent their brand, instead of just picking someone based on the amount of “likes” they recieve.

Instagram was made for people to express their individual perspectives, and I personally think that the platform has completely veered away from their initial starting point. Nowadays it’s more about trying to fit in any way you can to accumulate the most amount of “likes” you can get - whether that be through posting a revealing photo or a picture of you in a car that you would never actually be able to afford. People are much more concerned about how the world perceives them and use social media as a way to compare themselves to others - most of the time to strangers with professionally edited photos. I think this update could make Insta a better and safer place for a lot of users. I think it could help a lot of people's self esteems and thus their mental health. I see this as a step in the right direction and applaud Facebook for even suggesting the experiment.

I hope the “private like counts” feature sticks and people see the potential behind an idea like this. I’d love to see more genuine posts and people feeling better about themselves online.

- A

Songwriting from the Heart

Mar 29 by Adam Thorp

I am constantly writing down my thoughts and feelings to try understand myself. I have over 1100 notes on my phone right now - most of which are ideas, perspectives and memories that strike at random times.

Sometimes I’m on the bus and an image pops into my mind.
Sometimes a friend says something and it happens to hit a nerve.
Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and scribble down random words that came to me in a dream.

I don’t use nearly all those words my brain strings together. Sometimes I just need to write them down to help myself in the moment. But those notes often end up being the seeds of the songs that I write. I plant them in my phone or on a piece of paper and water them with time. I let them grow and eventually they blossom into something more.

People always ask me how I write songs.
I never really know what to tell them.

I wrote my first song when I was 13. Myself, my mom, my dad and my younger brother had just moved to Dubai and left my older sister in South Africa. It was our first night in the hotel and I was extremely overwhelmed by the whole experience. I had never left South Africa before I boarded the plane to Dubai and honestly wasn’t sure if I ever would leave South Africa before I moved. I got a guitar for my birthday that year and remember sitting in the hotel room strumming the same chords over and over again. Music had always been incredibly important to me and got me through the day more often than not. I knew the very basics of guitar and had a lot going on inside that I felt like I needed to get out somehow. I kept strumming quietly while I looked at the moon from my window. I remember thinking that even though my sister and I were thousands of miles apart, at least when we looked at the sky we were looking at the same moon. That brought me comfort somehow, so I wrote a song about it.

Since then, songwriting has been a lifeline for me that I genuinely don’t think I could live without. It allows me to process my emotions and get in touch with things I don’t even know I’m thinking or feeling. I’m a very visual thinker and often need to see my thoughts written down to understand or work through them. If I can get a song out of an overwhelming feeling or situation, it feels like it was worth it to me and I’ll be okay.

I’m also a very sentimental person and always have been. I have an obsession with capturing memories and often struggle to let things go. I have a bunch of shoeboxes at home filled with memories from my life so far. Polaroid pictures, notes, movie tickets, medals, birthday cards, little toys, gifts, books, letters, albums, flyers, cool shoelaces, plane tickets - literally anything with a memory attached to it is in those boxes. I want to remember and appreciate all the things that have happened to me, and that’s a huge part of the reason I write.

Writing a song is like taking a picture of a feeling.
It’s a way to capture raw emotion.
A way to remember.

People always ask me how I write songs.
I never really know what to tell them.

Sometimes I start with chords.
Most of the time I start with lyrics.
Sometimes I pick up my guitar and a whole song pours out of me.
Other times it takes me weeks to figure out exactly what I want to do with one specific line.

I’ve heard songwriting be compared to open heart surgery before, and I fully understand why. It’s deep and vulnerable and intricate and really fucking hard sometimes. Many songs are made from extreme emotion and it’s hard to explain how one translates that intensity into art. Emotions are unpredictable - and thus so is songwriting.

This is kind of an abstract thought, and I’ve never heard anybody say anything like this - but I almost feel like I don’t write my own songs. I feel like they’re given to me in a way. Like someone put those ideas in my head somehow. I honestly don’t know where the ideas or melodies or lyrics come from. It just kind of happens.

There is no right or wrong way to write a song. Songwriting is about expression and you can do whatever the hell you want with your feelings. My advice is to be brutally honest, don’t be afraid to get deep and dark, keep experimenting and do it for YOU. I always hope my songs help other people, but I do it for me at the end of the day. I don’t share 90% of the songs I write because they’re not meant for other people. The songs that I do share are still extremely personal and are still meant for me - but that unflinching vulnerability is where I think a lot of the magic found in music comes from. Music is an extension of the soul and artists are brave to share that with the world.

People always ask me how I write songs.
I never really know what to tell them.

There is no right or wrong way to express yourself - as long as it’s coming from the heart.

- A

Drowning in my Gratitude (Journal)

Mar 15 by Adam Thorp

I’ve struggled with my mental health since I can remember. Sometimes it feels like anxiety takes my consciousness and runs away with it. My brain gets stuck spinning the same record over and over again. Some days “what if’s” and “maybe’s” consume me to the point that I can’t function. Simple responsibilities overwhelm me and before I know it I find myself questioning my self worth. I get frustrated with myself and feel like I’m not good enough. I feel like I should be doing better or I should be more successful or at least more functional on a basic level.

In some moments it seems so far out of my control that I end up feeling hopeless - and that is absolutely no way to live.

Negative thought patterns are an easy trap to fall into. I like to think about them as an old toxic relationship. They’re familiar and comfortable, and at least you have some company to get you through the night, but in the morning you end up feeling even more empty than before. Trying to rewire your brain is like throwing yourself in the deep end of a pool when you’ve never been taught how to swim. It’s terrifying and I’ve felt like I’ve had to fight for my life at some points - forcing myself to keep breathing even when I swore my lungs were filling up with water.

There are a lot of things you can do to help keep your head above the waves while you’re learning to swim though.

I take meds and go to therapy regularly. I try eat well and get enough sleep most nights. I talk about what I’m going through with people I trust and spend a lot of time writing and reflecting on myself and my thoughts. I am on an endless quest to understand why I am the way I am, because I believe empathy comes from understanding. All of these things are helpful and obviously important in their own rights, but I’ve started doing something recently that is so beyond simple I never thought it would or could ever work - but it really does.

I started keeping a gratitude journal.

(Cue dramatic eye roll)

Stay with me.

Next to my bed I have a tiny book with lined pages and the phrase “Today I am grateful for…” written at the top of each page. Every day I write the date and take some time to really think and reflect on what I am grateful for. Some days I can think of 10 things to say, other days it takes me 10 minutes to think of one thing to say. But no matter what it is I’m grateful for or how many blessings I am able to count, I write them all out. I write them out and look at the page and take a moment to absorb the words. I give myself reasons to get out of bed. I give myself reasons to keep going despite the water in my lungs. I take my hand and forcibly turn my face to the sun, because I know how dark it can get in my head if I don’t. The grass is greener where you water it, so I try water the flowers.

Redefining new thought patterns and making better neural pathways for your mind to wander down is hard. It’s probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do if I’m honest, but it is so worth it - especially when the new pathways are healthy and beautiful and filled with the flowers you deserve. Keeping a gratitude journal may seem useless and insignificant, I definitely thought it was... But it helps me keep my head above water some days, and I wanted to share my simple discovery in case it might help you too.

The road is long and sometimes it’s hard to get out of bed and carry on, but if I’ve learned anything so far, it’s that there is always something to be grateful for.

- A

Song of the Week - March 1st/2019

Mar 01 by Kalafia Montes


For those of you who have not heard this track, it can be found on Youtube:

Warning: This track has language that most individuals may define as “profane”, this post is not to critique or judge the choice of words used throughout the song, but to instead find the therapeutic value in its message.

What I find most interesting about this track is how open and honest the artist has allowed his listeners to view his understanding of the struggle to “fit in with the popular." Now this song, Ii believe expresses one major theme of recognizing one's limits. Obviously, the connection of limits to how much one drinks/uses is a given, but another more important limit is the limit on how we as humans allow our boundaries to be controlled by others. He expresses that his biggest issue was one of trying to fit in, so he was coerced (easily) to expand his limits as they relate to his ability to “hold his liquor”. The imagery of comparing drinking to swimming in a pool creates on one hand an image of lounging and relaxing while on the other one of drowning. This track ends with an interlude scene describing some of the acts these young men do when they are high/drunk, which in this instance leads to ones death by gunshot. Now it goes without saying that I do not blame drugs and alcohol more so our understanding of what these substances (the ones that are legal anyway) are really for. This song does a great job of setting up the images that many of us can relate to (trying to fit in) while contrasting it with a culture that also has its own set of rituals (gangs). The idea of doing anything to fit in can be deadly in many ways, but this track does an amazing job of illustrating just how it happens for thousands of young men and women living in the poorest of conditions this country has within it.

Song of The Week - February 22nd/2019

Feb 22 by Jordyn Bishop

Song of the week is Juice by Lizzo! This song was released at the start of this year and I can't tell you how much all of us at the station are feeling it! This song has an awesome 80’s funk to it, drawing in people of all tastes. But that's not the only hit by Lizzo! From what I've seen of Lizzo so far I can already tell she's going to be big and loved by many! Her tunes are catchy and her lyrics are pretty great too! Another song we have been talking ‘bout is her tune “Cuz I Love You”. Which I gotta admit, this genre isn't my typical cup of tea but man does Lizzo absolutely intrigue me! Her voice is astounding, and has kind of stolen my itty bitty heart. Now get on whatever music app you got whether it be spotify or apple music or something else I dont know about...and give her a little listen.

Lessons from a Nomad

Feb 05 by Adam Thorp

I lived on 3 continents and in 7 cities before I was 20 years old.

That’s something not a lot of people can say, especially at that age.

And while I’m beyond grateful for the opportunities that those experiences have given me, there are some bleaker sides of leading a nomadic life that not many people talk about. Maybe it’s because we always put our best foot forward on social media, maybe it’s because we don’t want to admit that we’re struggling, maybe it’s because we don’t want people to worry about us back home. I don’t know.

But what I do know is that globetrotting comes with some of the highest highs and lowest lows that I’ve experienced. Happiness that burns brighter than the Dubai sun and darkness that feels colder than a Canadian winter. It’s kind of a chaotic lifestyle to lead. But amidst all of that chaos, so many lessons are learned. So many lessons that I will never forget. And I wanted to share some of those with you.

So here are a few things that the nomad life has taught me.

South Africa
I was born in South Africa and lived there until I was about 13 years old. While I was there I moved around a bunch because of my dad’s work. We lived in Johannesburg, Durban, Queenstown and Cape Town. I was young at the time but still picked up a few things along the way.
I learned that family is important and that I always had people to fall back on no matter where we were. I also learned that the world is way bigger than I could ever imagine and that there was so much out there to see and experience. That definitely made me more comfortable with the idea of moving around. I liked the idea of being able to start again and again if you ever wanted to. Looking back now, maybe that subconsciously lead to me moving around as much as I did in the future. If so, I’m glad it did.

I moved to Dubai in the summer of 2012 where I spent all my high school years. Getting on that plane to move to Dubai was the first time I had ever left South Africa. I was excited and nervous and kind of terrified, but at least I had my family with me. I remember driving out of the airport and seeing huge signs written in Arabic and the reality of the situation setting in. I wasn’t in Africa anymore.
I learned that moving is not always as fun as it seems and that it takes a long time to settle in somewhere new sometimes. I think the blow of leaving everything behind was a bit harder than before because of the great distance between where I was in Dubai and the place I knew as home in South Africa. Not to mention the massive culture shock I experienced just being in the United Arab Emirates. I learned a lot about patience with both myself and my family. We all struggled in the beginning, but we got through it and started thriving in an environment so unfamiliar to us because of support we had from our friends and each other. I was also exposed to a lot of different cultures that I hadn’t been in contact with before. I loved learning about other people's stories and where they had come from and why. Dubai was a really bittersweet time for me, but it made me who I am. So I honestly wouldn’t change a thing.

After graduating high school, I went to York University in Toronto to pursue Theatre. I felt like I needed a new story and was really excited to start again with a fresh clean slate. I was ready to meet new people and dig deep to become the person I’d always wanted to be. I did experience culture shock during that move, but nothing compared to Dubai. I was anxious about moving by myself, especially because I was going to be literally continents away from my family, but I settled in (eventually) and started living life by my own rules. It was pretty liberating.
I learned so much about friendship and what it means to be there for someone you care about. Toronto was all about finding people who loved me for who I was, which kickstarted my wild ride to self acceptance. I had to spend holidays like Thanksgiving alone, which was obviously not much fun, but I figured that was the price I had to pay for being able to study abroad. I fell out of contact with most people from high school and was able to filter through the “lifelong” friends I thought I had made. I picked the weeds and kept the flowers. It was kind of devastating, but kind of beautiful too.

After my first year at York University and realizing that that was definitely not where I wanted to be, I hopped on another plane (as I tend to do) and headed West. I came to Vancouver! Moving here was the easiest move that I made, probably because I had already been in Canada for a year. I started studying general arts in university, but quickly realized that that was not what I wanted to do either. I was very lost and felt really fragile for a long time while finding my feet and deciding what I wanted to do and who I actually wanted to be. It was rough, but flowers grow in the rain. And boy, did I grow.
I learned that I have to live for me and do things that made me happy. I’m quite a selfless person and always have been, so putting myself first was hard! But I realized that I’m all I’ve really got in the end and I wanted to be happy with the person that I saw in the mirror. I’ve been working on myself nonstop since I got here and have met some of the most incredible people on the planet. They have helped me more than words can describe and I’m so grateful to be here.

And here we are! I’m still growing and still learning. I don’t have any big upcoming moves planned, but life works in mysterious ways. You never really know what’s around the corner until you bump into it. Things can change so quickly, so you just kind of have to hold on tight and ride the wave.

Thanks for reading about some of my adventures. I hope you learned something or related to something I’ve experienced. I hope it helped in some way and encouraged you to keep growing, even when things get a bit dark.

- A

5 Songs that changed my life

Feb 01 by Emma Grewar

We all have favourite songs, those that you listen to once and instantly want to hear again. It plays on repeat over and over again until you finally shut it off from hating it too many times. But then we have songs that never get old, because they made such an impact on our lives we will never hate it. It’s music that changed our lives.

Hair Torture

Jan 18 by Karishma Chera

You might have seen them around. The Invisibobble otherwise known as “The traceless hair ring.” They are a plastic rubber band that come in different colors, styles, and smells! When I saw them on social media and in stores I knew they existed but I had no desire to put them in my shopping cart. I already had a bunch of hair elastics at home so there was no reason to buy more of them.