Branding is for Cows

Photo by Kait Vosswinkel

Photo by Kait Vosswinkel

I’m all about new media. I’ve studied and worked as a photographer for eight years, now, and my favorite aspect of online news is the ability that we have, as journalists, to combine multiple media elements that create beautiful, inspiring and interactive stories.

That being said, I’m also wary of the dehumanization that new media can cause.

Twitter, for example, can be useful as a professional tool, but as a purely social medium, it’s seems unhealthy for the human psyche – a time-glut and a way to socially disconnect during awkward parties or bus rides.

When I’m not using Twitter to follow an event or a group, I find some of the content witty and entertaining, but most is sadly narcissistic. The structure of Twitter creates a constant demand for attention, and fosters a cultural A.D.D. that is only exacerbated by all of the other social media networks out there today. I’m most often shrugged off as a grouchy stick-in-the-mud when I share my concerns, but thankfully, Ezra Klein and Nick Beaudrot have taken up the argument as well, and their complaints over content quality have gained traction.

I’m also wary of “branding.” It upsets me to hear about “branding yourself” like it upsets me to hear that Howard Shultz wrote Starbucks its own biography, describing the company’s “fight for its life.”

This anthropomorphic use of branding worries me because, in this million-mile-an-hour digital rat race, we are losing some aspects of our humanity. Starbucks is not a “he” or a “she,” and I am not a product. I’m not selling myself. I’m a human being with certain strengths and flaws, and if you want to understand that, take some time to get to know me. Read my work. Check out my photography.

It’s difficult to argue this point in such a digital age, and I do believe in the strengths of digital and visual communication. I understand that your websites, resumes and tweets affect your image in an increasingly competitive job market. I know that an image counts, however, I approach the idea with caution. I don’t believe that we have to sacrifice our humanity in order to create a “brand” for ourselves.

In journalism, as I grow and learn, my work will evolve and improve. I have a website and a blog, and I try to keep them well-structured and streamlined, but I refuse to go out of my way to create a sleek digitalized version of myself. I’m hoping that my work will speak for itself, and that my “brand” is simply a genuine replica of myself.

I am saddened to think that our lives are being flattened and simplified into a series of digital code and catch phrases that attract the right clients or readers. I’m hoping that future employers care more about the quality of my work and character than about the aura I create for myself virtually. The beauty of humanity is it’s honesty and diversity, and I worry that branding aims, at its core, to eliminate some of that.

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