Michael James Schneider 

Age: 45

What does he make? Memes making fun of memes.

Michael James Schneider didn't expect his engagement to go viral, though he probably should have.

After all, when your betrothed is an anthropomorphized pile of wine boxes, the internet is going to take notice. At the time, though, when Schneider decided to satirize his dating life—or lack thereof—by build-ing a boyfriend out of cardboard and documenting the relationship on social media, it was just another idea thrown against the wall of his Instagram page, along with his cat videos, balloon messages and semi-autobiographical web series starring a puppet version of himself.

It was meant, like most of his work, to poke fun at online culture, and the modern compulsion to turn romance into content. After it caught fire—getting passed around on Twitter and written up by the Huffington Post, BuzzFeed and even Food & Wine magazine—Schneider admits it sort of embarrassed him. But the increased profile hasn't changed the way he operates.

"I can't second guess or edit myself," says Schnei-der, an operations manager at Louis Vuitton by day. "If anything, I think maybe it's just given me the freedom to be a jackass."

Self-deprecation aside, not all of Schneider's output is frivolous culture jamming. Scroll through his Instagram—his main creative platform, which he began filling during a yearlong "artistic sabbatical" in which he quit his retail management job in Los Angeles, moved up to Portland and started indulging whatever ideas popped into his head—and you'll find everything from an instructional guide on how to gift wrap a cat to typographical art denouncing white supremacy. Another project, in which he uses colorful balloons typically seen in gender reveal videos to relay inspirational quotes and blunt messages like "F#ck Nazis," brought Schneider more attention this year, when a post featuring him posed next to the phrase "Donald Trump Is a Ra_ist" as he decides whether to fill the blank with a "c" or "p" also blew up.

(adapted from artwork by Adam Ellis, assisted by Andrew Jankowski)
(adapted from artwork by Adam Ellis, assisted by Andrew Jankowski)

As much as he insists he's just a "jackass with a phone camera," Schneider knows that with virality comes great responsibility, and he wants to use his heightened platform to say things that need to be said—and, perhaps, give others the encouragement to say them, too.

"I do think it makes people feel less alone," he says. "It's not just me and my friends and my like-minded leftists in Portland seeing these messages."

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