Monday, March 10, 2014
I just spent a very intense six days presenting to clients and soaking up the magic of the 2014 SXSW Interactive festival and I've come away with a single takeaway: Please stop looking at your phone.
Of course I'm an app developer, a UX enthusiast, an advocate of the mobile lifestyle. But Jesus. You are MISSING EVERYTHING with your head in your phone.
I made a conscious decision this year to use my phone as infrequently as possible while walking around the convention center, the other venues, the streets in between. I looked for faces. I saw people I knew, people I'd heard speak, people I worked with, people I worked for. That place was packed, but I found the faces of no less than 25 people who matter to me, just by keeping my eyes on the crowd.
I also saw a ridiculous number of people crouched over their phones: walking, not walking, tethered to wall outlets (no doubt because they'd been staring at their screen all morning), stopped dangerously in the middle of intersections, their necks craned over a schedule or a map or a text message. Missing all the people around them. I saw people at networking events furiously scrolling their LinkedIn profiles as the owners of some of the brightest, most impressive resumes they've never met sat across from them -- answering their own email.
As app developers, we may very well be failing humans. If you find your smart phone more interesting than the crazy ass shit you can find on any street corner at any time of day in Austin, you are doing it wrong. Blatantly, unequivocally, sadly, dangerously, completely wrong.
At best, you'll miss seeing Seth Rogan or Oliver Platt strolling the streets. At worst you'll walk into the path of a speeding Game of Thrones pedicab. This is not about safe texting. This is about joining the human race. A race of art and ideas and beautiful, interesting people who are also unfortunately scrolling their latest Tumblr post for virtual validation. Stop. It.
I reconnected with old clients. I cheerfully shared stories about Bottle Rocket. I stepped up to Jeff Goodby and Sally Kohn and Jehmu Greene and introduced myself. None of them were on their phones. I had my eyes up and my heart open and I found all kinds of people to talk to. A creative director from Target. A Worldwide Partner from Y&R. I was invited to interview, to sample, to play. I wouldn't have seen/met any of these people if I was walking around studying how many people liked my Instagram posts.
As experience designers and shapers we need to empower users to quickly use their devices to get their heads back into life. Whether we're at the supermarket, the movies, across the dinner table from our spouse and kids, or walking around the biggest circus of innovation you can find on the third coast. Immersive mobile experiences are robbing us of our time to be human. I need to say it out loud because I bear some responsibility here. But you guys need to help me out.
You're missing your chance to share an idea in person. Make a friend. Smile. Flirt. Recognize someone you know or wish you knew. You're missing all of it.
Look up and smile.