In 2008 I spoke at a small business conference and during the event for the first time I started tweeting takeaways from the sessions I attended. The attendees, many of who had no idea what Twitter was, were floored. They couldn’t believe that there was a conversation happening inside the session they were attending, yet there was an online conversation happening about that same session. They were hooked on Twitter, and I was hooked on live-tweeting conferences. I gained dozens of followers an hour. I looked forward to going to events just to live-tweet the sessions, cause I knew that if the session had a big name speaker, I could possibly gain 100 followers in an hour’s time. Just from tweeting key takeaways to people sitting at home on their coach.
But after attending a few events I began to realize that while I was expanding my Twitter network, I wasn’t expanding my learning because I wasn’t paying attention during the session. I told myself that my live-tweeting was a sort of digital note-taking, but the fact was, I wasn’t ‘present’ in that room and involved in the learning that was happening there. I was on Twitter.
In 2009 I attended SXSW and one of the sessions I couldn’t wait to attend was Kathy Sierra’s talk. As the talk was getting ready to start, I realized that I had to make a choice between live-tweeting the session, and actually paying attention. I knew that Kathy’s talk would be wonderful, but would demand my attention.
So I turned off my laptop, and pulled out my notebook. I took about 10 pages of notes and it was one of the most informative sessions I’ve ever attended at any event. From that point on, I stopped live-tweeting events and decided that it was more important to be present.
It seems that for many of social media’s heavy users, documenting the moment is more important than living the moment. Facebook and Twitter has created a culture of narcissism where creating content trumps creating memories. The allure of Likes and Favs is too great for many of us, and I’m just as guilty as anyone. Last year I was at an Alabama football game and Bama was about to score and I had my camera out trying to take a picture as they did, and I suddenly realized that I might get a picture of a touchdown, but in the process I will miss seeing it happen.
It’s important to document our experiences, but not if they get in the way of us having those experiences. It’s a fine line to walk between creating content and living life. How do you walk that line? BTW VentureBeat has a fascinating study on this topic.