This post could also be confessions of an American in Toronto. I will start by saying it is very, very nice here in Canada. Toronto specifically is very similar in look and feel to Chicago and I felt right at home instantly. I am connecting with all of my friends from SXSW and meeting all kinds of new ones as well.
Yesterday, about mid-afternoon at the Mesh07 Conference, I became hyper-aware of how much I can embody a stereotypical American and became a bit down about it. In the day preceding, I had talked to many delightful Torontonians about dozens of things – politics (Canadian, American and international); health care, environmentalism; civic duty and a citizen’s responsibility to participate fervently in all of the above. My head was swimming with the conversations (I was also in my normal post-lunch thought coma, for full disclosure).
I was put over the edge by a panel of “youth” in the afternoon. They were to tell us what the youth were up to online. I have been to and even facilitated many of these panels before and almost thought I would bypass it for another talk, but I decided to pop in for a bit. The panel was made up of 6 late teen, early twenty-somethings, many with ties to a youth global action site, TakingITGlobal. As they introduced themselves and the amazing pedigrees they all already had, my embarassment of our US counterparts increased. 21ish and been an OCM or youth engagement coordinator for years? Currently thinking about corportate philospohy on philanthory or usability issues? Yikes, we are drooling neandrathals in the states comparably!
I seized the opportunity to finally ask a question to learned teens/young adults regarding tech and their lives and asked about how they engage with advertising. They gave contradictory answers, saying don’t use pop-ups (who does still?) because they are annoying, but then countering that the more annoying ads are sadly the ones they remember. Still, I ended up ducking out early to catch the last 10 minutes of another panel, yet thoroughly impressed with the young people of this country.
I was thankfully able to talk to some of my northern friends later that day and find out that the panel was a bit stacked. There was only one gal on the panel who was an average Canadian gal, and I remembered her online habits and comments conformed nicely with our youth. The others were just amazing do-gooder kids that, while they should be applauded and definitely paraded in front of people to show the capabilities youth can achieve, were in no way representative of canadian youth in general. Candaian kids are not bionic people. They are normal, cool, fun, silly, chill and only sometimes brainiac kids and teens, just like our kids. phew!
I chatted with one woman today from Ottawa, but now living in Toronto, about all of these thoughts I had yesterday and she thought that a possible that the kids from the more rural or small towns have more of a sense of duty and responsibilty to change the world (or their town) because the national “helping” mentality is more concentrated in those places. Canadaians are nice, but they are still privy to the go-get-em attitude that all bigger cities implant into their residents.
Thankfully my traffic on this site is not high enough to be terrfied of the flood of comments this post could possibly warrant. This is my disclaimer that I am enamoured with Toronto and all the people I have met so far from this city, and if my comments/thoughts are pedantic and general, I promise that I am fighting to change them as we speak.
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