See ya at SXSW! (Only I probably won’t.)

So I'm going to SXSW.

And so are you.

And probably so is your neighbor, your best friend, your client, and your employer. And maaaayyybeee even that cute guy that you see every now and again at one of those oh-so-cool startup parties they have here in San Francisco/NYC/WhereverYourTechSceneIs. Because, haven't you heard? This is *THE* year for SXSW. And, goshdarn it, I just *KNOW* you're as excited as I am!!!

Except, frankly, I'm not. Well, at least not for what you think. Let me explain.

This post was going to be many things before it's iterated into this one; a handy packing guide (don't forget your sunscreen and your Mophie iPhone power case!), a reminiscent look back on SXSWs past (you know, the good ol' days), or even a detailed exclamation of all the awesome things I'm working on for Facebook as we prepare for SXSW. (Which, frankly, you'll hear more about later today, and don't let this post take away from that. Seriously, it's awesome.) But what I am NOT looking forward to – in fact, the word 'dreading' could be used here with some accuracy – is the overpacked, overeager clusterf&*k that is sure to ensue in three short days when twenty thousand people descend upon Austin. (Yes, 20,000. Just for Interactive. Refilling my Xanax now.) I'm all for entrepreneurship and innovation and reconnecting with like-minded people near and far, but seriously, companies who are betting the farm to be the next Twitter or Foursquare or whatever last year's breakout was are – in my opinion – going to be sadly disappointed.

Because SXSW has strayed far from what it used to be. (Here comes the "I miss the good ol' days" part of this post, I suppose.) When you arrived and immediately went to go Break Bread with Brad, and the room was full with forty people. When karaoke happened spontaneously with twenty people in some dank basement, and you went to one of two or three bars and drank beers (that you paid for!) and braved the pop-up rain showers and talked to people you hadn't seen in a year and met some new friends and made these connections because you wanted to, not because you thought it was going to further your business model. Like culture at a startup, SXSW's vibe was organic in nature, people hanging out and playing kickball and going to panels (oh yeah, did you know there's actual PANELS at the CONVENTION CENTER in between the meetups and Tweetups and 'tech influencer' gatherings and overhyped corporate parties?) and, well, just having a fun week without ulterior motives. 

And I miss that.

That's not to say that this doesn't happen – it does, but in an understated, natural way that I would bet doesn't take place at some overcrowded party where getting a drink is harder than getting funding. It's on those days where you 'take off', where you grab your friend and hide out on the back lawn of the Four Seasons and drink overpriced drinks – that you pay for yourself! – because if you have to hear one more "we're the next…", you may change your flight and go home that afternoon. It's when you call your friend in Austin who you haven't seen in a while and beg them to take you boot shopping out of town, and play hooky that afternoon. It's when you text a handful of people – and yes, I suppose you CAN use Beluga or FastSociety or even GroupMe if you have to – and go watch a movie. (There *IS* a film conference going on concurrently, you know.) Basically, it's putting the person back in personal connection, and giving yourself that time to do so.

So leave the two-hundred-person apartment complexterf*&k you rented with four other people in your room and go for a run by Lady Bird Lake. (The weather is supposed to be lovely, btw.) Go find a patch of grass, grab a bottle of rosé  from Whole Foods, some friends and 'waste' away your afternoon. Skip the 'hottest' party with the line around the corner and catch up on your sleep. And don't be surprised if I don't see most of you at SXSW; I'll be buying my own drink at an undisclosed location. And loving every minute of it.


3 thoughts on “See ya at SXSW! (Only I probably won’t.)

  1. Working in music tech, and at one point licensing music to film, this is my 11th sxsw and ive been there for all three purposes, usually staying for the entire 10 day conference. while music has always been magically crowded and intimate all at once; i remember when interactive was quiet and magical.
    SXSW Music has always been magic; the venues are crowded but the shows are so intimate and frequent it doesn’t much matter. But the industry has waxed on over the years about how SXSW used to be a place to sign bands like the flaming lips – now it’s more about showcasing. Ok, fine by me. Yet the old timers still wax nostalgic.
    For years, when interactive was a burgeoning yet navigable event, I spent days on end during music explaining to my music brethren that they needed to go to interactive. I told them to try twitter in ’07, they made fun of me for saying the word out loud. This year, many will be there.
    Now during interactive, i spend days convincing tech people to stay for music (they don’t.)
    Either way, no matter what, I always take a day off to go to the vintage stores on S Congress. And every year i come back with a new shirt as a result.
    xo. don’t worry. it will be fine. just don’t pass out at the airport wearing the company shirt like i did in 2006.

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