Facing reality with FaceDate.

For someone who doesn’t date I am strangely fascinated by both matchmaking and dating apps. My latest focus of interest? FaceDate. The FaceDate app forgoes following in the footsteps of popular apps such as Tinder and social media platforms such as OKCupid. Instead of taking text profiles or socioeconomic categories into account, FaceDate matches people solely on the basis of physical attraction. In layman’s terms, you tell FaceDate the celebrities you find attractive and the app scours your location for potential mates who possess the same features you find alluring amongst your favorite starlets.

What intrigues me about FaceDate is that I believe that by shirking profiles and statistics to hone in on facial features the app will do a much better job battling the bigotry that plagues its competitors. There are no sliders to weed out individuals of a certain race, body type, class, or religion. One is judged strictly by one’s phenotype and skin care regimen.

“Friends who use Grindr complain there’s a lot of racist ‘whites only’ requests on there. Let’s say a guy only enters in photos of white men. Would he only be shown white men, or would FaceDate’s algorithms leave race behind?”Sophie Wilkinson

“It’s a good question. I think by default, it should leave the race behind, because I don’t think it’s that easy to say you can learn a race based on photos. Different people have different faces, it’s not like a race has the same model face. As a scientist I would need to test it, though.”Cristian Borcea

As a brown-skinned black woman I am all too familiar with statistics that label me persona non grata on various social media sites and dating apps—hence my swiftly removing myself from the dating scene. Many are quick to state their preference for a particular race, not realizing they are including countless individuals who aren’t their “type” and are excluding many they would find extremely attractive. A heterosexual man who is enamored by large eyes, full lips, and long streamlined noses would find himself drawn to both Rosario Dawson and Angelina Jolie. Yet should he adjust his settings to only search for white women, he would never discover a Dawson doppelgänger. Racism has its consequences even at the most superficial level!

FaceDate would force individuals to actually see the beauty (or plainness, to be fair) of an individual before assumptions based on race could sway one’s judgement. In the past I have discussed the breathtaking subversive beauty of Rihanna, who has allowed the world to appreciate full lips and broad noses by cloaking those attributes in the fair skin deemed acceptably feminine by the masses. I am amused to think of how the straight men using FaceDate will respond when those who have stated their admiration of Rihanna are met with a selection of brown-skinned women with beautifully broad noses and adorable bow-shaped lips. I believe many will have to face their own bigotry and decide how to come to terms with it going forward. I believe many more will be surprised to discover they have a “type”—one that includes a different assortment than they believed it would.


What’s in a name?

Kevin Zawacki’s recent article on Internet identity has fascinated me and has also forced me to take a closer look at my own online behavior. As the Internet has grown more personal and less mysterious, more people have taken to using their own name as their personal online handle. And yet I cling to Digital Femme as if a comfortable pair of shoes.

Why? Truthfully my last name is dull and fairly common. I’ve finally grown to enjoy my first name, Cheryl Lynn, no longer ditching the country compound in an attempt to appear sophisticated. Friends call me Cher though—because humans are lazy. And I answer to that name because Cher makes me think of Clueless and the ‘70s—and both of those things delight me. (Though I must admit I get a thrill from hearing strangers get my real name right and use it properly. Bonus points for Southern accents too!)

As for the Digital Femme handle, I’m not completely certain why I chose it. I knew I wanted people to be aware that I was a woman in geek circles. (Yet given the rate at which women within geek circles are harassed by men, that was probably an unwise decision.) I also wanted a handle that was my own since previously I had gone by the names of my favorite comic book characters—brands owned by large conglomerates.

And so DigitalFemme.com, hastily chosen because DigitalGirl.com was not available, was born. And I love it.

But I’m not the only Digital Femme! I share the online handle with the phenomenal Carmen Villadar. I’ve almost grown to view her as a digital sister of sorts, to the point where I will take the handle digital_femme on a social networking site, leaving digitalfemme for her if it is available. I also joke that we should fight crime together under the Digital Femme banner given the geek world’s propensity for interracial female crime-fighting duos.

It is amusing to me how digital_femme has supplanted my real name to the point where I grow irritated when the handle has been taken by another. Recently I opened an Origin account only to find that the digital_femme handle had been assumed. I was furious. How dare someone use my name?

But it is not my name, is it? But why would someone want to use a handle so strongly linked to two existing women? For example, the Digital_Femme account on Disqus belongs to neither me nor Carmen and is fairly recent. I’m intrigued!

Are you a Digital Femme? Hit me up.


‘Ello there!

We are all aware of Ello, yes?

Slowly my Twitter list has been making its way to the new social media outlet. Having opened an account last night, I’ve spent the better part of the morning poking through the accounts of friends, amusedly observing their interests and acquaintances. It’s nice to see Ello reinforce my belief that I’ve surrounded myself with a number of smart and sweet people.

But what of the site that contains said people? Compared to its competitors (Facebook and Google Plus), Ello appears unfinished. I’d like to see features such as verification, customization, and a stringent policy regarding harassment added. In fact, the lack of customization—the ability to alter my profile page to match my main website—has kept me from utilizing Facebook and Google Plus, and has soured me considerably on Twitter. If I can’t have my pink and purple? Well, I just don’t want to be there.

However, I’ve given Ello considerably more leeway simply because it contains the people I like. (This is also why I continue to cling to Twitter.) Ello is Facebook or Google Plus sans the conservative bent and microaggressions that are often found on the two more mainstream social media sites. Ello is new and experimental—which means there is little obligation to interact with every distant relative and former coworker or classmate. Communication is limited to those with whom one has something in common. Connections are fostered through respect and interest rather than rote recognition.

I am extremely cautious on Twitter (to be fair, I don’t trust many), limiting my interactions to those with an interest in talking to me (rather than the motive of wishing to use me as a resource). My Twitter list is miniscule, and guided by the answer to one simple question: would I invite this person to a dinner party in my home?

Yet Ello is clearly reminiscent of Facebook rather than Twitter, and allows for less personal connections. It is the public soirée to Twitter’s private discussions over cocktails. I’ve wrestled with the decision as to whether or not to interact with new people on Ello and have yet to make a commitment regarding how I will use the site. However, I am leaning towards being more open—sociable. After all, is that not what social media is for?


Ferguson.

I forced myself to go to sleep at a decent hour last night. I hadn’t gotten a good night’s sleep since Mike Brown’s lids had closed forever—every waking moment since his last spent refreshing screens and consuming information and caffeine in likely dangerous quantities. A complete abandonment of any kind of long-form writing occurred; my words, angry and erratic, were quickly shot off via Twitter and Tumblr.

I’m still angry—for the obvious reasons. I’m angry that black life is worthless to people who are not black in America (and to some who are). I’m angry that Americans believe that we deserve the inequality heaped upon us for the crime of simply being black. The murder. The harassment. The silencing. The erasure. The blackballing. The punishment. I’m mad that many Americans still view black people as solely an inexhaustible resource to exploit, leeching from black communities and black cultures while promoting anti-blackness and purporting to speak for while speaking over black people.

But for the first time in a very long time I am also grateful. Because for all the comparisons between Ferguson and Selma, Ferguson is very different. Technology has provided black people the ability to burrow past the mainstream media and allow for black people to have a voice. And that voice is strong and unfiltered on Twitter and on Tumblr and in personal journals. And yes, the voice contradicts itself because black people are not a monolith and have a beautiful and infuriating and brilliant array of ideas.

We have never had a situation where black voices could not be crushed or warped beyond their meaning before. The television stations are owned by white people. The movie studios are owned by white people. The newspapers are owned by white people. The music labels are owned by white people. The radio stations are owned by white people. The publishing houses are owned by white people. They are owned by those who have been taught that black life and black cultures are worthless. And their teachings show in their word choice. It shows in the promotion and overexposure of negative depictions of black people. It shows in the dearth of positive voices. It shows in the selection of only black employees and clients who will mimic the tropes regarding black people that they have come to hold dear—the big black buck, the Jezebel, the tragic mulatto, the Sapphire, the Mammy, the minstrel—or it shows in the selection of no black people at all.

And for a very long time? It worked, churning out anti-black propaganda for centuries like a well-oiled machine, with black people having little recourse to combat it because we owned next to nothing. We stood on soap boxes, screaming to anyone who would listen that we were human and of worth, while those who opposed us controlled screens and airwaves across the nation.

That is thankfully no longer the situation we find ourselves in. When the mainstream media erroneously claimed black looters had taken control of Ferguson last night, black people were able to effectively use modern technology—affordable to most Americans—to show young black people protecting stores, not looting them. Pictures of black men using their own bodies as barriers with police nowhere in sight or on site to provide assistance, popped up across Twitter, gaining power with each reblog, barreling into the public consciousness. While Fox News is able to alter reality for a segment of old, technology-averse people salivating for tales of the black savage, their children and grandchildren are pulling up apps to hear directly from black men themselves. That is new and so very necessary.

And it is not just the news that affordable technology has altered. Black art is now able to reach the masses in an unfiltered state via online organizations such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo, allowing black creators to obtain the funds necessary to compete with the output of major publishing houses and movie studios that shun or subvert them. Square allows creators to sell directly to the people. WordPress and Tumblr allow black writers to reach an international audience in seconds. The means of distribution are no longer solely owned by white people; black art cannot be papered over mere moments after its creation. The mainstream media will most certainly continue to attempt to drown out or alter black voices, but those voices have been amplified by technology and sharpened by fury and determination. The task won’t be nearly as easy.

And I’m glad.


Black and bled.

The “Blood on the Tracks: Where Are the New Black Comics Writers?” thread at Bleeding Cool, uniquely disturbing and depressing, hits all of the major beats: allusions to black inferiority as the reason for the absence of black writers (“I’d rather have quality writers,” “Perhaps there weren’t any black writers good enough”); demands for one to prove the comics industry has been impacted by institutionalized racism (“Name me one instance where a black writer has been blackballed,” “Numbers don’t mean anything,” “That’s anecdotal”); off-topic demands for African Americans to explain elements of American culture the poster finds distasteful (“Why do you call yourself African Americans? You’re the descendants of slaves!” “Why aren’t you fighting the lack of white people in rap music? Isn’t that racism?”); the admonishment of black writers for not continuing to try to find work at companies where they’ve historically had a radically limited presence; the declaration that there are no black writers available; and finally, claims that black people simply aren’t interested in the storytelling medium that is sequential art.

The mainstream comics community (consumers, creators, editors, and management) does not wish to see its status quo change—and I no longer see a reason to incite ire by forcing my way into a community to question why it will not. It is exhausting and pointless for me to do so. Nor do I see any reason for talented writers who share my race to wait by doors that will not open when there are crowdfunding sites and smaller independent companies available that are amenable to them. A black writer no longer has to leave the comics industry to find work. A consumer can develop her own discussion group upon finding herself unwelcome in the mainstream comics community—or she can join one of the existing comics communities not only hospitable to women, but dominated by them. Kickstarter has provided the opportunity for talented black women to share their stories and Twitter and Tumblr allow us all the opportunity to talk about it.

The mainstream comics community has not changed for black writers. But there are welcoming communities that have flourished around it—communities with editors that invite black writers to pitch, with sales representatives that promote the work of all their creators equally, and with enthusiastic fans who wish to hear stories from a wide variety of cultural viewpoints. (Hi! I am one of those fans!) To dismiss these arenas—arenas where talented black writers are sought after, appreciated, and are currently working—due to the lack of a recognizable logo is madness.

I do not wish to silence anyone fighting for major comic companies to consider black writers for employment. But I believe it is vital for black writers to know that there places outside the mainstream where they are wanted and would not be alone.


The meddling of middling mediums.

Facebook, WordPress, Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter, Vine and more—how did we gain so many accounts, so many methods to express ourselves, and yet lose our individuality? Eons away from the unique backgrounds and browsing tunes found in the heyday of MySpace and LiveJournal, almost every social media site has become a blend of muted blues. The only personalization to be found is in the blitzkrieg of advertisements bombarding users.

The homogenization is strange. Sites such as Facebook (and the newly revamped Twitter) have stripped the user of the chance to utilize design in building a brand across social media outlets. Instead, the sites dictate the uniform layout, color, and font to be used. I would accuse the instrument of wishing to outshine its wielder, but given the bland similarities between sites one certainly can’t argue that social media outlets are attempting to establish themselves via design.

Tumblr and WordPress, to the grateful relief of small businesses everywhere, are the odd men out. Both organizations have blithely handed users the keys to their respective castles, allowing the user to dictate not only the content published, but the container in which said content arrives.

Why is this important? Visual repetition is needed to build a brand and embed oneself within the collective consciousness. We immediately know what golden arches signify; we have connected hot pink and cursive font to a particular product. Most small companies do not have the power to build franchises across the nation or dominate aisles in retail stores. For these organizations the repetition of linking a particular design and product must occur digitally. When sites such as Twitter deny companies the ability to do this by limiting design features they prevent companies from achieving their full marketing potential.

Without a wholly unique design, one’s content or product must assume the responsibility of distinctiveness. And in these times? Distinctiveness is in extremely short supply.


Rinse and retweet.

The new Twitter design is ghastly and determined to stamp out a user’s unique design sensibilities. I hate it. Having forced its preferred blue color scheme on all users, I have to wonder how Twitter’s design will be welcomed by companies that have linked their popular products to particular colors—such as Mattel’s trademarked pink—especially when those colors quite clearly clash with Twitter’s chosen hues.

If an average Jane such as myself is annoyed at the loss of her preferred color scheme, I can only imagine how marketing reps overseeing carefully constructed brands must feel.


This or that?

After stuffing myself digitally, sampling each new email client or social media service to boldly make itself available, I am now attempting to put myself on a digital diet. What bests represents me? What best fits in with my online life?

Outlook vs. Gmail: Oh, this is a tough one. Gmail appeals to me. The ease of use is immense. It’s tucked right into my favorite search engine! However, I’m leaning more towards Outlook. The clean interface, the ability to access Twitter and LinkedIn updates, and the connection to the Microsoft brand are all alluring. Yes, with all the adoration that is heaped on Apple, I still remain a Microsoft chick. The reduced prices on software offered to students helped me cross the digital divide when I struggled financially. It cemented the idea of Microsoft as a brand “of the people” in my head. Heck, I still can’t afford the MacBook Air or iPhone that is seemingly standard for Apple enthusiasts. But I dream about the Surface, so no matter!

An interesting aside: I do not like the fact that logging into Gmail logs me into Youtube—and YouTube then tracks the videos I watch. I have no need for a viewing history. If I want to remember a clip, I’ll bookmark it. I am wary about why this information is being gathered and who it is being shared with.

Google Plus vs. Facebook: No matter which option is chosen, the result is terrible. The Plus interface is clunky and confusing. However, should one manage to get past initial set-up issues, the content found is generally superior to that found on Facebook and is geared more towards my specific interests. Facebook is NBC; Google Plus is Syfy. And just as everyone tunes into NBC, so is Facebook used by the masses. To connect with family members, coworkers, clients, and friends the network is required. However, the lack of control is infuriating! There remains no customization for profile pages, users can upload terrible photos of an individual and tag them for all to see, and one is subject to endless twinkling religious GIFs or bawdy jokes from relatives—all within view of one’s boss or potential date. I remain undecided. I suppose I’ll maintain an account with both and revisit the matter in a month.

LinkedIn: LinkedIn has no competition; I can think of no other organization that compares! Yes, there are other wonderful sites that help me gather news regarding the publishing industry, but LinkedIn allows me to learn from my peers. I check the site frequently. It’s great.

Tumblr vs. Pinterest: I’m surprised that Pinterest is so admired by women given what I find to be a complete lack of socialization. It’s no more than an organized bulletin board or Amazon wish list. I’m online to interact with others. And Pinterest does not provide me with that opportunity in the same manner as Tumblr. Though chaotic in regards to organization, the Tumblr design is much more open to online conversations, which I adore. And I can customize Tumblr in order to bring it in line with my own design sensibilities.

Tumblr is like flipping through television channels while at a boisterous party—a flood of images and comments at once. Pinterest is akin to flipping though a stack of magazines lent to you by friends. You see what interests them and can mark those pages, but there is little to no conversation taking place. Pinterest is media without the social. I’ll keep my Pinterest account in case changes are made over time, but Tumblr is where I will remain active. The popularity of Pinterest shows how we as a culture are dominated by the desire to consume and how we define ourselves by what we are able to obtain.

Twitter: There are those who use Twitter to promote themselves, but I use Twitter as a glorified chat room and wouldn’t have it any other way. I tried to alter the way I use Twitter by following companies and celebrities, but that grew tiresome quickly. Again, I want current topics and conversation, not ads. And unlike many, my Twitter account is set to private. I’d been followed by a great deal of people who chose not to interact with me at all; the voyeuristic aspect of it was off-putting. With a private account, I no longer feel as if I’m giving a speech or being used as a marketing tool with each tweet. Simply put, Twitter is the social networking service I use the most because the opportunity to socialize is the highest.

Nucleus vs. WordPress: Nucleus wins. Given that I have multiple blogs, there’s simply no other option! However, I’m fond of the fact that WordPress blogs can be linked to Klout. Impressive. Though my journal isn’t updated as frequently as my Tumblr or Twitter account, I still plan to use it to post in-depth comments on random topics—like this one, I suppose!