LESSONS FROM SXSW: GO ONLINE TO GET OFFLINE.

/// MY PICTURES FROM THIS WEEK: Sign at San Jose Hotel, flowers on the east side, a ginormous chard leaf we got from Greenling, veggie sausage decadence at Easy Tiger

There’s this thing that happens to me when I’ve been on the computer too long.  It looks a little like this.

Which is probably why I felt such a sense of kindred spirit with Andrew Wager, former editor-in-chief of ReadyMade Magazine, who spoke on our panel last Friday.  This is Part 2 of the three part “Lessons from SXSW” series I’m doing this week, and what he said really stuck with me:

“Go online to get offline.”

He was making a larger point about building community, but this little gem has been echoing in my head for days.

Do you ever feel like you have to shake off all that weird, computer energy when you’ve been sitting in front of a screen for too long?  I do.  I can feel myself becoming part machine and I don’t like it.

Lucky for me, I married a man who is endearingly offline.  This was our conversation last week:

ME: Blah blah, Citysearch, blah blah-

ROSS: Wait. Is Citysearch an Austin website?

I shook my head and I laughed and I laughed.  No, silly!  Citysearch was one of the first dot coms ever!  It’s like Yelp!  Citysearch is EVERY city!

After I had calmed down from that, our friend Jason came over and mentioned something about QR codes.

ROSS: QR codes … ? (look of genuine befuddlement)

That was when I had to just walk over to where he was sitting and hug him.  As he tried to explain through my laughter, Ross “gets up, feeds the cat, goes out to his studio, plays music with kids, and that’s kind of my day.”  He’s not tweeting or pinning or checking in or becoming the mayor of anything.  Ok ok, sometimes he “likes.”  And he definitely emails.  But that’s about it.

Point being?  Ross is one of the most balanced people I know.  He spends very little time online.  When he does, he reads his email as well as the BBC.  When those activities are finished in the morning, he indeed goes out to the studio and plays music all day long, either with kids, his bands, or by himself.

Ross is also an extremely creative person.  And you know something?  I have noticed that with some of my favorite bloggers, too.  They may have a large online presence, but they themselves surf very selectively.  They spend as much time offline as they can, to get inspiration, to listen to music, to putz around in the kitchen.  Our panel on Friday was about lifestyle media, and one of the reasons I think the field has grown so quickly over the past few years is that life, palpable, scent-filled, gooey life, may becoming a treat for people.  The longer we spend online, the more offline life begins to feel like the real novelty.

How do you build community?

This is always such a personal question, for every blogger, but it’s the question Andrew was really gesturing at with that piece of wisdom above.  The subtext of his go-online-to-get-offline thing was, how do you encourage people to step away from their computers, and go enjoy life?  It’s a matter worth pondering.

These past few months have been a whirlwind for me personally, so much so that I’ve been forgetting to tote around Danger Kate (my camera) places.  No more!   Especially with this ridiculously gorgeous weather.  Tomorrow night, I’ll get a pretty fabulous photo opp: Ross and Jason’s band, The Lennings, are PERFORMING AT THE SXSWi AWARDS!  It’s like the Oscars for the Internet.  This year, it will be hosted by Jenny Slate from SNL and the inventor of Marcel the Shell, which I think we can all agree is the cutest Internet character ever.