It began over the weekend. The frantic tweets from friends who appear lost or excited; tired or hungry; thirsty or trashed; bragging or complaining; trying to find somebody or trying to find some party; running low on batteries or running into Jack White. Sometimes they’re a combination of these things, and at other feverish moments, they sound like they’re all of them.
Yes, it’s the time of year when it seems half of everyone is in Austin for SXSW—the South by Southwest music, film and interactive festival (or just “South By” if you want to sound like you’ve been before. Fun Fact: Many Austinites call SXSW “A Great Time to Get Out of Austin”). This leaves you and the rest of your unlucky, not-Texas-bound friends to decipher cryptic, sun-cured, #sxsw-hashtagged Tweets about this band’s surprise performance in a taco truck or that brave narrative short documentary or this game-changing if wholly impractical technological advance.
Here, a few handy tips to surviving the social media deluge.
1. The worst is over. While I’ll confess to a fondness/weakness for tech news and tech conferences (I attend from time to time), I’m aware that most of what I tweet from them sounds like so many pounds of jargon scrapple. Metadata, walled gardens, adaptive design, social mobile cloud and gamification, for instance, can only get tossed around with “innovative,” “paradigm-shifting,” “2.0” and “game-changing” so many times before the Internet falls asleep and starts drooling. Maybe that’s why SXSW schedules its “Interactive” programming on the first weekend when the rest of the world is less likely to be sitting at its collective computers and succumbing to acute narcolepsy. (According to reports, this year’s edition was thin on big ideas and news.) Oh, and in case you were wondering, Elon Musk is not an Estonian cologne; he’s a guy who wants to die on Mars.
2. Don’t waste your time with Twitpics. Smartphone snaps from SXSW are universally terrible. Do not open them unless you don’t mind spending 10 minutes trying to figure out which blurry blob is allegedly Aziz Ansari or Tyler The Creator or Bill Murray in a photo taken from across a dark club.
3. Don’t play games with attendees. While it may be tempting to play games with attendees who are clearly having more fun than you are by, say, telling them “OMG I’m here too!” and that they should meet you at that one pizza place on Sixth, or around back of the Convention Center, please resist. In 2011, several badgeholders were told via Twitter to meet some friends at the BBQ truck at the corner of Congress and San Jacinto and have been wandering the earth ever since.
4. Remember: It’s probably not as fun as it sounds. It can’t be, right? Besides, this can’t be the only time Japandroids and Divine Fits will play together. And Baauer’s probably got a long and fruitful career full of even more infectious viral hits ahead of him. Right? Right? Also remember: There’s always next year.