Honesty, Algorithms, and Your “Brand Values”
newest Twitter follower is a Spanish-language leftist whose bio ends with #revolucíon.
Seeing that in my browser, grasping blindly at the literal universe of bits and bytes bringing me into contact with this valenciano Student Union foot-soldier, I couldn't not think about the other, myriad, gossamer threads; self-woven around me, you, each of us in this century of ours.
I was born in the ‘80s, and in the broadest strokes, think for something approaching a living. I, thus, live a great portion of my life online, leaving an everlasting snail-trail of my movements, purchases, thoughts, and feelings.
Sometime after college, in a fit of youthful rebellion, I deleted the Facebook account that had my actual face on it, but the necessities of freelancing (and the fact that it’s essentially replaced the physical address book) pulled me back in.
“But this time,” I said to myself, “I'll do it on my terms. No face on Facebook, no location on Twitter, keep the Tumblr anonymous, and no smart phone means none of that ‘checking in’ bullshit. You, Michael, can have the web and eat it too.”
Maybe it’s all LinkedIn’s fault. After years of steadfastly refusing to join, enough professors and colleagues — themselves surely worn down by the unrelenting invitation emails from sophomore year roommates and decade-old flings — networked me into its Borg-like embrace.
Has it gotten me a single job? Has that mountain of recommendations at the bottom of my profile convinced one single client that I am not, in fact,
a steaming pile of moron? No. But it has connected my face and my real name to the online pseudonym-cum-company name/doing-business-as
that is WorkingMichael.
Which would be fine
if I wasn't, as Baldwin would say,
“a Negro in this country and
For a while, with my nom-de-guerre and my little logo, I thought I could separate Michael-the-person-who-cares-about-things from WorkingMichael. But I can’t. I am not separate from my work. Maybe white people get to do that, and maybe Black people are expected to try, but I am not, regardless
of my original intention.
What do I mean? A while back, I wrote a little article about Black graphic designers. To my surprise, it was reposted by a few influential people,
and before I knew it, I had a (marginally) viral article on my hands. I was (am) glad for the attention, and proud of the piece: it’s measured in tone, constructive and generally positive and speaks to some things I’m passionate about.
But what the Internet giveth, the Internet taketh away. Medium’s algorithms, in their infinite wisdom, have placed another piece of mine
in the ‘Suggested Reading’ section at the bottom of the article.
It’s a little stream-of-consciousness rage-poem I wrote during the protests in Ferguson called
And while it’s not my most subtle moment, I won’t take it back. It was how
I felt and often still feel (and now, how my brand feels) about the gross valuing of property over Black life in this country. But I can't help but wonder about its impact on my professional life since taking up residence two clicks away from my second-highest Google search result.
I mean, what hiring manager/freelance wrangler would bother with the outspoken guy whose portfolio they may like when they could have someone who’s maybe a little less capable but certainly less likely to try to unionize their white-collar employees or scold them about their sombrero and fake moustache on the 5th of May?
And in a sense, those folks are right.
I may shave off my beard to interview with you, but the head that grew it comes with me.
Which brings me back to my newest Twitter follower.
Somewhere along the line, I RT’d a zinger from some Basque nationalist
or liked a photo set from a Baiano favela organizer and now someone who reads about Allende’s socialist proto-internet will probably find me in their Who to Follow sooner or later.
Somewhere else along the (time)line, I surely lost a gig to a designer who the algorhythms don’t see questioning the labor ethics of ‘The Sharing Economy’, or posting articles tagged #YaMeCanse …