Passion, work, and digital culture

I’m in Savannah now and it’s been awesome. 65 degrees and it’s “cold” Noshing on oysters and drinking great local beer, checking out the great houses and soaking in history. I love southern cities like Savannah and New Orleans. Chicago has a lot of great attributes but it can be a hard city to be happy in, unless you want to be happy in a very specific kind of way. But that’s another blog post for another day. I have had an opportunity to be away from a work focused mindset for a little bit, which allows me to think about … work … but in an abstract, high-level way.

I read this post from software developer Avdi Grimm about the rhetoric of passion and work a couple of weeks ago and it really stuck with me. He’s a coder specifically, but the idea of being “passionate” about the work that you do is something that’s you’ll constantly hear in digital overall. Read a job description and you’ll see “must live and breathe digital” a lot. and in social media specifically, you’ll see many job descriptions that seem to require an obsessive level of devotion to all things social media, to the point where you’ll choose it over family and friends. While there are a number of people who have that level of enthusiasm for the work that they do – and I’ll admit, earlier in my career, so did I. you could not get me to stop yapping about social media – it’s troubling to see passion as a job requirement, for the reasons Grimm explain below:

But sometimes I worry that it’s code for we want to exploit your lack of boundaries. Maybe it’s fanciful on my part, but there’s a faintly Orwellian whiff to the language of these job ads: excuse me comrade, I couldn’t help noticing that man over there is not writing his joining-the-team blog post with sincere revolutionary conviction.

When am I in the zone and working on an awesome project or with a great team it’s a singular thrill, but for many of us, most of us, “passion” is reserved for our loved ones, or friends, or our faith, or our community. And I think that’s more than acceptable. I understand the importance of building emotional capital within a workplace or field, but I am very ready to distance the idea of “passion” from the work of digital, so that we can give the best of ourselves at work but also to those we care about.


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