A quest to tame technology-driven interruptions and distractions in my daily life.

South by So Tempting

Every year in the middle of March, something interesting happens that is going on right now. Amidst my life and work and attempts to balance tech and real life, the South by Southwest (SXSW) 10+ day mega conference happens. And in the middle of that, my birthday happens.

If you are unfamiliar or have not experienced it, SXSW is like somebody kicked a huge ant-hill in central Austin, bringing out nearly 100,000 industry-players, innovators, marketers, artists, developers, free-gans, and wannabes for a seemingly never-ending churn of panels, parties, lounges, showcases, screenings, impromptu cafes and markets, and lots of activity in general.

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Except three years in high school, I’ve lived in Austin since 1980. The city has changed in innumerable ways, and SXSW is no exception. In the 25+ years since it started it has grown from a indie music festival with unsigned, unknown acts to what it is today: [insert your personal opinion here]. A lot of people have deep-rooted opinions about SXSW, but I see it as inevitable as change itself.

For a few years, I played in SXSW then began to avoid it… that is before we started our agency and clients near and far started hiring us specifically to help them make the most of the conference. Then I had to participate and I started to get into it. It’s an important source of springtime revenue for us and there are lots of fun ways to flex our creative muscles as well. This year, we have 6 clients participating in SXSW in dozens of shows and panels and booths.

However, in the context of The Off Switch, it can be tricky. With events and announcements happening day and night all over the city, there’s no plausible way to just disconnect for my own personal sense of balance. So I tend to bend or break the rules to participate in the requisite tweeting and email work that needs doing.

The funny thing about this sort of tech binging is that it inevitably reminds me of what can be so stimulating and fun about the constant connectedness. The big media coverage proliferates for the clients, the social media mentions multiply, inquiries and issues are coming in day and night and it gives me “yummies” for a lack of a better term. And inevitably, I’ll have to consciously pry myself away, even in the weeks following.

I wouldn’t call it a relapse exactly. It’s not as though I quit technology or something. But it is a fruitful exercise to remember the slippery slope. Technology is always there, always beeping and flashing and ready to appease me.

Which brings me to today: my birthday. I always take most of the day off and just sort of go where the wind takes me. It’s in the middle of mayhem and is very impractical, but I do it anyway. It’s a good reminder of how when we step out of the noise, things don’t implode and neither do we. Even though jumping into the fray is so easy. So tempting…

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