No. I refuse to consider it. I’m not old, I’m in my prime.
(my 13 year old tells me that 42 is not a prime number)
I’m actually not too old for SXSWi. I don’t buy into the numbers game of age anyway. But I looked around and realized that I was older than most of the presenters and that was a little jarring. Onward.
I was called “M’aam” a lot this week. But I checked that off to being in Texas where people call each other m’aam and sir all the time out of habit. That’s not a sign.
The moment that forced me to question my age appropriate-ness of the week was this: I found myself standing in a circle of colleagues and friends (yes, most of them are younger than I am) and realized that we were all standing in a circle, TEXTING each other. No one was talking but it wasn’t silent. We were laughing in unison at jokes and photos that other members of the group were sharing via text message. Honestly, it was creepy once I woke up and looked around and realized that I was standing within a few feet of everyone, and we were not talking to each other! Some of these people are my favorite people in the world to talk to and I haven’t seen them in months and it was my big chance to catch up. What the?
When did we lose our human-ness to our phones? When did people talking to each other become passe? I feel like a female Rip Van Winkle who just woke up and is walking around Austin trying to figure out what the hell happened. So many people walking with their cell phones taking their attention that cars cannot drive on the streets. Throngs of texting humans clogging the roads, not even aware that there are cars trying to pass. It’s rude, but it’s also stupid.
At one point, a co-worker of mine who is really plugged in (in a good way) took my phone and added me to something called “mygroup” – it’s a new app that lets you create a group of people who can text each other all at once, and I can see the value of this. None of my griping here has anything to do with the app. But my husband happened to be standing in the same circle with all of us… and he wasn’t in the texting group, so our silence was rude, but not as rude as our collective giggles at inside jokes made via text.
On the way home, we secretly renamed the mygroup app “iClique”. Again, no fault to the great app that would help me greatly if I had a group of teens at an amusement park and needed to reach all of them instantly. It’s agreat app.
There was a great episode on Bewitched when I was a little kid where Ben Franklin came forward in time and looked around at the world we had made and the goofy hijinx of the show was all about washing machines and dish washers and modern gadgets that he couldn’t have imagined. And he was impressed. … I can’t shake the feeling that Ben Franklin would not be impressed with people who stand together in a room and send text messages instead of talking.
Say it aint so, Ben.
I don’t actually think I’m too old for interactive. I don’t think age has anything to do with what I experienced. But I do think it’s important to realize that interactive is a word we throw around when we talk about video games and ATM machines and self-check-in at the airport but what the word really refers to, especially in the context of business and marketing, is HUMAN interaction. You to me, me to you.
Tools that make one-to-many communication easier are wonderful. Please believe me. I LOVE technology. But when people take the tools to a level that remove the human experience, we’ve lost a piece of what made them valuable in the first place. Efficiency is great. Cost savings – I’m on board. Mass email? Clearly people, I’m a fan. But those work better when we put ourSELVES into the communication. Relay our emotions and thoughts as people and pull back the curtain to show people who we really are.
As small business owners and nonprofits, the responsibility for all of this rests on you. You must find a way to jump through the screen. Do this by writing in conversational copy – which just means that you write the way you speak. Use photos of yourself to make up for not sitting face-to-face and be honest. Above all, just be you.
People will respond and your business or your organization will grow.
This is the real secret to good social media marketing and engagement. Be yourself and interact.
SXSW Music week starts tomorrow and none too soon — I’m sure the panelists will stil be younger than me, for the most part. (I am on a panel on the 16th! ) But I also am planning to have a better time driving downtown. Musicians often look up because they are trying to see who that smokin’ guitar player is, sitting on the corner with a case on the ground taking change.
I love Austin. Long live SXSW.
ps – I will be speaking with Martin Atkins at Momo’s tonight, at PartySmart hosted by the Austin Music Foundation.
Free to the public! Free MmMpanadas. Come see us!