Going Off the Grid at SxSW

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Image by saidemily

Welcome to SxSW, the heart of online nihilism. Whether you are at the event or unfortunate enough to tune in via Facebook, Twitter and other social media, you will witness one of the greatest spectacles of popular pageantry. The art of seeing and being seen is taken to its highest form by the faux famous. All the more reason to indulge in the desirous luxury of going off the grid at SxSW.

Is this anti for the sake of being anti? Is it insanity given all the focus on tools like Plancast, Foursquare (3.0, and not much new), and Gowalla? No, it’s not.

Here is a list of five reasons to abstain from the all important geolocation/public network status updates at SxSW (dedicated to Jay Dolan):

1) Business: The true value of SxSW is to meet other people and network. Real business can be done at this event. That means attending parties, private events and maybe even a panel or two to talk to people eye-to-eye… As opposed to peering into a phone entering a not-so witty status update or gawking at what everyone else is doing online (instead of in front of you). Plus, it is enjoyable to get off the computer and actually talk with people. That’s the best part!

2) Listen and Observe: Given the vast amount of technology news and blogging at SxSW, there is little that another stream of updates and posts can add to the picture. However, many trends do get their start at SxSW. Watching, listening and observing allows one to research events and breaking trends as they unfold.

3) The Circle Jerk Distraction: Entourages, attitudes, leader boards, etc. are all part of the seen and be seen game, sadly much of it online via status updates. Playing this popularity game distracts you from one and two, which in turn causes you to spend a lot of money, develop a hell of a hangover, and garner no return on investment. Worse, it can bite back. The rumor mill about acts that occur fact and fiction at SxSW are astounding, and sometimes quite hurtful. Don’t feed the beast!

4) Work Beckons: ADD, the luster of the moment, the excitement of successive party after party from noon until 2 in the morning day-after-day. But there’s a job to be done back at home. There are conferences to attend next week, clients who have major deliverables due, and coming back burned out won’t make it any better.

5) Stalkers Suck: Sorry, it happens, and it is uncomfortable. Getting stalked at an event via geo check-in or status update is surreal at best, and absurd at worst… Especially given that none of us would be recognized in our hometowns at the grocery market. Maybe it’s time to get real. Oh, sorry, wrong event for that.

Does that mean complete abstinence from network updates? To each their own. It does mean abstaining from the hooplah to maintain presence for the people physically at SxSW, and mindfully observing those who await a locked-in participant back home.

What’s your game plan for SxSW?

28 thoughts on “Going Off the Grid at SxSW

  1. I’m a people person and that’s one of the reasons I enjoyed SXSW last year. I got to meet up with people in person that I truly had friendships with and have a good time. One instance stood out to me on the very first day I arrived at the Convention Center. I came to a table where a young lady was sitting at her laptop. I couldn’t find an open outlet to charge my own computer and she kindly showed me her own portable charging station. At that point we exchanged names, she said I had a French name, she was from France and we talked about tech, culture and good food. It kind of set the tone for me for the next few days.

    The connections/networking aspect is a very fun part of it for me. However, after reading Wisdom 2.0, I’m hoping to adopt more of the “listen/observe” aspect rather than constantly looking at my phone to see who is tweeting me. Otherwise you don’t learn anything and you spent an ish-load of money for nothing.

    On top of that, I’m gonna be checking out film stuff a bit more this time which will hopefully give me a little reprieve from some of the interactive distractions.

    • Andre, you are one of the most cerebral people I know. You would never accept a vain experience like Sx as it is billed. Good on you for going deeper, and you may catch me at the film festival. I plan on perusing as well.

  2. My plan exactly, GL. Off the Grid!!! But, of course, I’ll be stalking your ass. I mean, seriously. Did you expect anything less?



    • I rented a motorcycle to get away! LOL. See you in person, my friend. Looking forward to it.

  3. As I said on Facebook, my plan is to live vicariously through the posts and updates of you and my other friends who are attending this year (read that with whiny self pitying tone). Hoping that someone stays connected enough to share some portion of the pageantry with those of us who are #notatSXSWthisyear. Enjoy, network, build that business and have fun! Safe travels, Geoff. (Great post, btw)

    • Allen: Thanks. You know me, I’m a kvetch. If it was good, I’ll do a follow-up post,but only if it can add to the conversation.

  4. I plan on unfollowing everyone there. Kidding. Actually, I am going to focus on promoting quality content I see from people who are not there, during sxsw. I know it’s a small token, and yes, it’s something I used to do routinely, but for those five days I’ll do my best to do the thing that got me interested in social in the first place. before my ego took hold. before i became a great writer and promoter of my own words.

    • My feeling is to use my social channels the same way I normally do. A good deal of the social web is not in attendance… So why should they have to suffer endless “I just ate a chiken burrito at the official #SxSW pizza truck” updates? Looking forward to your updates.

  5. I plan on unfollowing everyone there. Kidding. Actually, I am going to focus on promoting quality content I see from people who are not there, during sxsw. I know it’s a small token, and yes, it’s something I used to do routinely, but for those five days I’ll do my best to do the thing that got me interested in social in the first place. before my ego took hold. before i became a great writer and promoter of my own words.

  6. But..my klout score might go down! And…I need more hashcred!

    Nah screw leaderboards, who cares. This is such an important reminder to be present and be human. Thanks Geoff. And Shelly won’t be the only one stalking you.

  7. I really liked your article, and agree with your opinion that this is an opportunity to “listen and observe”. However this is my first time to conference so I’m going to work diligently to balance checking periodically to share my SxSW newbie impressions, with being social and fully taking in the experience.

  8. It’s my first year attending and I appreciate your post. I’m a little nervous about some of the hoopla you’ve mentioned (and the party-only reputation of the event itself) – I don’t need to revisit high school – but am encouraged in your attitude that real business can be done. That’s what I’m shooting for – new connections, partnerships and clients, as well as friends. Hopefully no stalkers ;)

    Thanks for the post – great one.

    Christine Perkett

    • Mmmm. Your eyes will look at everything differently. Interested to hear your experiences post event.

      • SXSW is ungapatcha – (yiddish phrase for “over done”) I’m barely recovered from Beirut and the thought bumping into 10,000 geeks partying away makes my head explode. Getting sleep and catching up on a couple of good books that have just come out are my some of evening priorities.

  9. Off the grid totally huh? Ha. What I’m planning on doing is not Tweeting every freaking minute of my life and not sweating badges and etc with check-ins.

    I’m more interested in networking – for new relationships, and to expand on existing ones. Love sharing conversation over drinks, dinner, or kicking back while others work. Ha.

    Still no paying gig getting me down to Austin, so I’m treating this as a vacation with benefits. Love going to something like this and not:
    1) trying to sell a book idea
    2) asking someone for a job
    3) hoping to draw in new clients

    Now a tattoo. Nah, someone already did that. Ha.

    See you there.
    Bottoms up!

    • I will be pimping my new book. Can’t help it. It’s coming in May, but I also look forward to not being a pimp about it, if you know what I mean!



  10. Hoping to get my Klout score into Charlie Sheen range. That would be #winning for me.

    On a serious note, it’s my first time going. I’m guessing you could go, never attend one session, find time to meet, chat with some of the great people there and take away a lot. All about networking IMO. Although I will have to find a TV to keep up on college bball :).

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