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The Irony of SXSW Interactive

As I’m wrapping up my SXSW trip I can’t help but think of the major irony of it all. Here we are, soaking in all this new technology and innovation that ultimately is meant to simplify the process of keeping us connected, building relationships, conducting business, communicating, and so on. From a business angle, it’s about using these new tools or ideas to humanize your brand.

I definitely agree with that. But then as I looked around at everyone immersed in their technology I realized the irony of the entire situation: we’re not being very human at all.

Don’t get me wrong, I find the technology fascinating and was one of the crowd walking while tweeting, checking in, etc….but when I was doing that I wasn’t paying attention to anything around me.

Are we so stuck in our technology bubbles that we don’t know how to be social and present without a screen in front of us? Are we capable of eliminating the middleman (aka our smartphone/laptop/tablet)?

One thing that ties into this is video. I had conversations about the benefits of businesses using video with numerous people at SXSW. It was a topic of conversation for a while in the live stream of #BlogChat hosted by Becky McCray and C.C. Chapman on the roof of the Social Media Clubhouse. Everyone was in favor of video blogging, although some admitted that it might not be the best idea to get just anyone in front of the camera.

The reason that everyone is pro video blogging is because it’s, well, human. You have a chance to take in all the nuances that provide context to the conversation. It’s also very relatable.

The best example I have of this came from another new acquaintance, Teresa Cantwell. She told me how the company she works for tested video recommendations/reviews vs. written ones such as Yelp, and guess which ones were received better and deemed more useful? Video.

Why? Here’s where Teresa’s example comes in: Wouldn’t you trust what someone’s saying if you can actually see and hear them say it? If they’re someone who seems similar to you—age, preferences, geographic location, etc.—aren’t you more willing to put stock in what they say?

Of course you are. It’s bringing two like-minded individuals together. I’m sure a middle-aged man living in rural America is going to have a very different view of say, technology, than I am. And that’s ok. But I wouldn’t know that about him from a written review, so I might research a product I want to buy, come across his review, and then second-guess if I want to purchase the product.

This instance shows how you can connect a brand/product/service to an actual person to make it human. That’s why we like to see CEOs with a personality as a company spokesperson. It’s the same reason why social media is successful as a business tool…

If human beings didn’t have an inherent need to be social and connect with one another, this whole idea of “social media” wouldn’t exist. And it sure wouldn’t have taken off the way it did. The same thing goes for technology. We wouldn’t all be on our smartphones constantly if it wasn’t human nature to want to build relationships with one another.

Yet here we are at SXSW, preaching about social media, showing off the latest technology and becoming completely absorbed in a digital universe, when our whole purpose for being there revolves around and stems from being human.

Ironic, isn’t it?