Enter the Soft Rebrand. The key here is that you’re just decorating. Structurally everything is the same, and that sucks, but it’s also not your responsibility to fix the world or spearhead the revolution.

DISPASSION is a newsletter in which digital media researcher Evan Kleekamp practices emotional detachment.


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We all know that 2022 was an unkind year. Chaos, fatigue, and uncertainty were the norm. And though no one has had time to adequately heal from the still-raging Covid-19 pandemic, we’re supposed to resume all this nonsense again next year? I think not, babes. We’re going to need some refreshment.

Which is why I’m declaring 2023 the Year of the Soft Rebrand. The thing about the Soft Brand is that it’s the same bullshit. Literally none our demons — inflation, landlords, debt, white supremacy, the medical industry complex, etc. — have been subdued. And yet, having adapted to routine disappointment, cutting our losses before they become catastrophic is officially chill. Paradoxically, this makes it a great time to let your masochism work for you. It will definitely suck at first, but if you can, for example, put some extra energy into growing your savings account, you will quickly seize on what you can do with limited resources.

I’m a thoroughly defeated person and the self-appointed Foreclosure Queen. You won’t find me pedaling undue optimism, but as soon as shit gets apocalyptic, I suddenly feel able-bodied and energized. (Think Kirsten Dunst in Melancholia.) With so little to lose, detaching from past goals and ambitions because a smidgeon easier. And, conversely, with so little to gain, it becomes effortless to ignore traps falsely advertised as opportunities.

Enter the Soft Rebrand. The key here is that you’re just decorating. Structurally everything is the same, and that sucks, but it’s also not your responsibility to fix the world or spearhead the revolution — though liberating the university commons remains cool — you just have to learn how to make yourself happy with what you have. So, the most pressing criteria to be thinking about as we approach the New Year are the same as always: (1) Does this thing belong in my life? And (2) If not, can I discard it?

2023 is about transforming Ls into Ws and learning where your personal responsibility to yourself can contribute to cultural seachange. Whatever cohesive form that change takes will be built on rejecting the current status quo (otherwise we all die) and the idea that we must remain embattled in unnecessary suffering (otherwise we all suffer). The shift, however, will be thoughtless. And to follow its stream, you have to want but not will, to respond but remain inactive. Goofy, sure, but try it.  

Anyways, this is all a pretext so I could celebrate the EOY in the most media worker fashion possible: distributing unsolicited advice in the guise of a trends forecast. In case it’s unclear, most of my thoughts are about the attention economy, digital labor, creatives as a class of workers, art, and (against my wishes) news media. I tried to make sense, but also I am tired and do not care.


Sure, amorism usually pertains to lovemaking and romance, but you can’t really conduct a successful Soft Rebrand without a sense of what is pleasurable and feels good. We’ve all been deprived of affection, physical touch, and close community for a few years now, so I think the collective, unconscious response will have us exhibiting what we what and who we love doing it with — even if accidentally. If you need amorism as an excuse to be horny, cool. But it can also just mean keeping your people close and being invested in what motivates them, which is good because being differently-horny is about to go mainstream.

Memoir is at the root of the cultural decline, like not just out but a whole ass red flag. There are like eight book covers big publishing recycles. Editors are either pushing these books through without reading or getting paid — probably both. Respectfully, I say we chalk this one up to an L and let the whole industry go lo-fi between two polar extremes: small-batch, limited-print editions on one end and free online PDFs on the other. Meanwhile, I’m counting on my underground PDF-making homies — not the scammers, though — to shore up literature before those Zwirner-funded Feds reduce criticism to a nepo-parody of actual leftist intellectual movements. (Glad they’re actually paying people now, I guess.) In other good news, chapbooks remain sexy — a fact that will not be expounded upon here. Also, if you’re considering editorial work for clout instead of cash, how about you just say pass and set a personal boundary instead.

If you’re like me and managed to find overpriced-but-still-technically-affordable housing during the pandemic, you’re probably feeling stuck between the desire for more space and shelling out cash you really don’t have for something equally lackluster. Girl, we live here now. It’s time to decorate. Forget the safety deposit. Think about the psychological costs of looking at white walls. Go for subtle but reversible changes. Test out new looks. Plus, with Twitter dying slowly on Elon’s watch, you’re probably going to want to get you and your space Instagram-ready.

Longform will prevail because anyone who can muster up the capacity to engage, read, listen, etc. is going to want something that feels substantial. Also, if you’re creating content in chunks but it ends up in the same place, congratulations, you are doing longform. Sure, you’ll have to consistently think about how the various parts of your project fit together, but you’ll have a better chance of building a following because of that labor. The problem is getting people to pay attention in the first place, but once you get past that it’s soothing, endless production. But don’t forget to give people sign posts to navigate your Big Idea — the Soft Rebrand is about receiving direction. Conducting can be as simple as a compelling title or label that makes previously unrelated things adhere. A rule I like is that if you can’t unsee it, then it works.

If you haven’t already figured out that Discord has quietly won the social media war then I’m telling you now. The people who already set up active Discord communities know more than you know and are likely much cooler than you if you’re only getting this info now. Whoops!

Girl, embed the links. Hire the fact checker. Have someone else poke holes in your argument. Do whatever you have to do to keep yourself out of the hot seat. Your opinion does not matter, trust. If you put yourself out there and get checked by strangers, it’s bad news because respect and dignity are non-renewable resources in 2023. Forgiveness may be back in vogue, and forgetting retains its status as the coping mechanism of choice, but let me and my Gemini Moon remind you that it just takes a little reminder to drudge it all back up. You won’t even be canceled, people will just think you’re annoying and won’t want to talk to you.

Your job is for sure killing you no matter what. If you don’t have IRL friends at work, it might be a sign that you are the team’s pack mule. Spruce up that résumé and GTFO before other people lay claim to your energy and accomplishments.

It’s time to go full Guattari on your haters. Part of your rebrand should be looking back at the vault with a gentle but critical gaze and asking yourself what was repressed in the past that could possibly be resurfaced — this time with a different purpose and context. For me, this means working through my relationship with Felix Guattari, who might be the only healthy father figure available to us theory kids (pejorative). Either way, let your freak out. It’s a healthy, natural way to repel pretendians.

This is just me manifesting. Wishful thinking is in.

As an ADHD girlie, I know the power of incentives. I also know that many people are still stuck on punishment-based reward systems, which, like, the problem is spelled out in the name. Don’t get me wrong, I think competition is good. But the best kind of competition is one in which people are pushing toward a common goal and the contest itself is about overcoming internal obstacles. Shared incentives create space for collective, emotional growth. Cheesy, I know, but it works.

Permanency is out, babes. This is old news.

Content-wise, I think everything that gets published should aim to be teachable, not perfect. The more your work explains how and why you made it, the more likely people are to trust your expertise and vision. In the art-and-media world where I traffic, that means you will get hired more often and with less strings attached. Why? The reality is that most businesses looking to hire employees ($$$) aren’t aiming for talent (remember, jobs are out), they’re looking for evidence of compliance (which is why jobs are out). If compliance is not your strong suit, I hope you are talented because consulting is your assigned hell. You will have to prove your worth everyday. Allocate your time and resources accordingly.

We aren’t done with these yet.

It’s likely that some of your most meaningful relationships have reached their expiration date over the last few years. This might be discomforting at first, but make sure you spend more time seeking new connections than loathing over what was but can longer be. This applies to clients just as much as romantic relationships. Again, focus on the love, focus on the pleasure.

Newsletters — really any recurring project — are a great way to let feelings cohere and establish a regular practice. I’m a big proponent of what I call “newsletter methodology,” which is basically keep writing about that thing until you feel like you know it like the back of your hand. Anyone thinking about starting a newsletter should settle on a feeling that other people have but don’t know how to verbalize — then write it into the ground. Voice-driven narrative criticism sprinkled with reportage will be quietly popular. Also, though this isn’t limited to newsletters, I’m excited to see formerly one-person projects bring on assistants, contractors, and employees in the coming year. We unabashedly stan small business growth in this house!

The one media war I will permit this year is about the stakes of online audiences and communities. Yes, in optimal conditions, both will be organic — meaning that people choose to be there. But the real gripe is about what to call people — again, labels! — who incidentally choose to do the same thing even if they get there by different means, using dissimilar methods. (Think about how many apps you can use to read The New York Times, but also how you might be hate-reading on Pocket to get around the paywall while some liberal goon has to reckon with why yet another Swastika has appeared in his beloved crossword.) On the business end, I predict spending a lot of time with clients hashing out who their most loyal supporters might be and determining, too, if they might represent an untapped resource.

The thing about money and power and hierarchies is that they aren’t going anywhere. If you want to be taken seriously by your colleagues, make sure you are always sharing information and profits. (Also, please make sure that your colleagues are actually people you want to share information and profits with.) Cash is as evil as we permit it to be, so remember to give alms from time to time. If you’re not in a place to give $$$, you can always make yourself available through other means. Focus on your immediate community and in places where you can personally see the results of your gift. To be clear, this doesn’t mean you should control or lord over how the gift is used. You’re just there to witness the transformation that occurs when you give someone a gentle boost without expecting anything in return.

Careers are out. Now there are only workers and entrepreneurs. Sucks, I know. I didn’t make this rule.

If you’re not on this kick, we are not friends. Do not talk to me.

Start preparing your archive or vault, the primary purpose of which is to mirror how you use your time and energy. The person who loves and validates the fruits of your labor the most should be you.

Everyone needs to slow the fuck down.

A-B testing is such a useful way to sort people’s priorities. Maybe it’s unethical to gatekeep your product, but also preemptively determining who you do not jive with will save all parties involved from disagreement, conflict, and *ahem* resentment. It’s not your responsibility to make the perfect thing that satisfies everyone’s needs, but you should probably begin exploring what unspoken rules segment your audience into reciprocal halves. Knowing why Group A likes Version A and why Group B likes Version B will make you feel more sane, guaranteed.

We need to see some comeuppance in this bitch, but also if you’re trapped in a larger existential conflict with, like, an insecure white dude, remember that is a community problem. Ask for help. We want to support you, even if anonymously.

Feelings are in. Naming and organizing and fully experiencing those feelings is in. Creating space to make your feelings known for others is also in. It’s all altitude and depth for the coming year. Bonus: Labels that accommodate growth are a hot item!

We all have busted portfolio sites. Instead of adding new content, just simplify what you have and make sure it’s easy for people to find, contact, and pay you.

The Jonah Hill documentary on Netflix, Stutz, is really good and you should watch it. This doc might replace astrology as my go-to social skills tests. I’ll let Jonah and his extremely lovable therapist Phil (<3) explain Part X, but the big takeaway is that you need to confront the bully in your head if you want to make space for real compassion in your life and become less single.

The thing about good moderation is that if you set good examples, you typically don’t have to tell people what not to do or punish them. Focusing on whatever the delusional narcissistic types who ruin whatever they touch is a distraction. The most compelling conversations about our data and online lives won’t just be about logistical nightmares like privacy and security. It will be about creating experiences that people sincerely want to engage with. Read the room: no one is Excited To Participate these days, which means it’s actually a great time to investigate what might move them.

Twitter is a desperately needed example of why its good for things to die. Now, the rails are gone, and the clout-chasing around Musk is toxically high. The situation is so embarrassing that I will be keeping a paper list of people to block, mute, and avoid on whatever social media platform becomes the next destination for information addicts like me. In the meantime, I’m hoping we can all agree to abstain from returning to Facebook.