So evidently I freaked some people out.
Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the ACPA Convention in Tampa, FL. As part of the digital technology task force, I was excited to reconnect with this team face to face and draft out our formal recommendations based on almost 9 months worth of research, work and meetings. I was also looking forward to attending different sessions, reconnecting with friends and colleagues, and diving into thought-provoking conversations.
Generally, while at conferences I’m a crazy social media person. I’m all over Twitter and Facebook – posting images, thoughts, quotes, etc. I live my conference life out loud and on-line.
Except this time – I didn’t. I did my work as an ACPA social media influencer at the larger sessions, and I volunteered at the Social Media Command Center, but I made a very conscious effort to not broadcast all that I did on social media. I realized that conferences for me had turned into a sort of social media arms race. How quickly can I tweet out that nugget of information? Quick – I’d better take a picture and post it on Instagram and Facebook to capture the moment! Oops – I didn’t remind people about my presentation – better do that. And I’d better take a picture of the food (well, I still do that. Food pics are my kryptonite).
Now before I cause a second wave freak out, know that I do not fault those who live their lives out loud at conferences on social media, nor would I ever discourage someone from sharing something that truly excites them about their work, their interactions or their friends/colleagues. Be proud of what you do and share what you love. But social media had become laborious and somewhat anxiety producing; it was not adding value to my conference experience in the way I had come to use it. I was more focused on getting messages out to the world than on what I was engaging in. I was not in the moment. Rather, I was rushing to broadcast the moment for other people to see, and by doing so, I completely missed it.
Some may consider this change in activity disingenuous, or that it undermines my social media brand. I do not. I simply decided to do things differently. I sat down before ACPA Convention and asked myself three questions:
- What do you want to get out of this experience?
- Who do you want/need to connect with and for what purpose?
- What are you missing out on by focusing so much on sharing and less on engaging?
One of the biggest realizations I came to is that by being so focused on social media, I was not allowing space for either in depth conversations or learning to occur. I was also not being present for the people with which I wanted to connect, nor was I able to embrace the random moments of connection and conversation that only face to face conferences provide.
I am proud to say my choices this time made a difference. I did share some information online, but no where near as much as I normally do. However, by focusing less on social media during convention, I was able to connect in more meaningful ways with colleagues and friends, and engage fully in the learning that happens in these spaces. While I didn’t get to connect with everyone, and I still hate that we never seem to have enough time, I was able to have a far more genuine and fulfilling experience even though I had to cut it short and head back home. The deep and meaningful learning I experienced and connections I made at this ACPA convention were fundamentally stronger than what I’d experienced before, so much so that I look forward to following a similar path at NASPA later this month.
So I’m sorry if the #SoMe silence freaked some folks out – I’ll make sure to give people a bit of a heads up next time. I do appreciate the “are you okay?” texts and messages. For me, it reinforces that these on-line connections are truly personal, and I want to honor those by being fully present when we do connect IRL.
How will you approach social media use at conferences?