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It’s the last day of SXSW Interactive, and finally the rain set in. Judging by the amount of cat love in Austin, rain is keeping people indoors today which is a good thing. Why? Because it gives everyone some time to relax; avoiding lines outside; not running around; not acting out their FOMO.
— Dell Blue (@dellcreative) February 27, 2015
South By (short for SXSW) is the ultimate Fear Of Missing Out event. You think you’ve planned your schedule ahead of time (there’s this crazy app sending push notifications on the hottest events around you that literally broke my phone) but then you bump into a friend from school, a TV lawyer or your favourite comedian who informs you ‘actually there’s another event you’re missing out on right now’. [Expletive].
With a festival guide resembling the Gideons Bible, it’s hard to decide between a talk by the Winklevoss twins or the Pixar founders happening simultaneously (the Winklevii won this one btw). But you wouldn’t know that until halfway through the Pixar talk, when you realise Pixar’s president couldn’t attend but you’re already stuck in a packed room far from where The Social Network‘s quasi-
That feeling, I’ve discovered, defines South By. Another example: wearing a Simpsons t-shirt to the PBS lounge someone says “cool t-shirt dude, have you been to the Kwik-E-Mart food cart?” Following his directions resulted in severe FOMO as I discovered the truck (and the 3 400 free slushies handed out) was gone. I was so FOMO’d-out I tweeted it. People who know me know I wouldn’t normally do this, but I was overcome by FOMO:
Like any other festival of this size, the best part is obviously people-watching. The more places you’d go in Austin, the higher the odds are of being caught in a flash mob, cycle with the Hootsuite owl, photobomb Pete Cashmore‘s hair or find yourself in a three-hour-long line waiting to meet a cat. Yes, a cat. At South By, domesticated animals are more popular than celebrities. Before arriving in Austin, I hadn’t set up any interviews with any actual person except for a cat. What made it worse was that this cat was over an hour late for our interview. What a diva!
As most people had their heads buried in their phones “interacting”, selfie sticks were luckily less prevalent than what you’d see most days on Times Square.
Social interaction at SXSW pic.twitter.com/ejlTPr0kUM
— Guy Kawasaki (@GuyKawasaki) March 14, 2015
One thing Austin can however brag about (not seen in endless New York selfies), is the pure angst in teenage faces experiencing FOMO as they are far too conscious of the limited hours available to queue for all the things their hearts desire (Katy Perry’s lion, Grumpy Cat, frozen temperatures). While in line for a free emoji tattoo (the operative word here is free), a girl asked me “what are you waiting for?” with a face that most accurately resembled this:
(I kid you not. I spent a good 10 minutes tracking down this gif).
But aside from all the fanfare and the hashtags, the giveaways and the freaks, it’s the greatest collaboration of creativity and commerce I’ve ever experienced. Heavyweight South African techies held the flag high with Michael Jordaan and Alan Knott-Craig Jr walking the streets of Austin like normal people. Despite not being the greatest networker, I made a couple of American and South African friends, people I’d most likely not have met otherwise, and they — seriously — changed my life. I heard and saw things I wouldn’t have seen elsewhere, and got up super early just for these croissants. And that is what will make the trek here worth your while.
But don’t come expecting the experience will help with your FOMO. If anything actually being at SXSW will only make it worse.