What We Did Before Cell Phones

… and what it should teach us about how we use them now.

Zack Morris Cell PhoneI have had a cell phone since 1999 or 2000. As new features are added, I upgrade. I was one of the first people I knew that texted, I had to be one of the first to have a picture phone, then an iPhone (and each iPhone upgrade).

I have my cell phone with me almost all the time. My iPhone is my calendar, my most used camera (and photo album), my most used video camera (and video player), my email, my social networks, my place to track my running distance and my entertainment (Angry Birds much?)… oh AND it is my phone, not that I use it for that often.

I will give myself a break on my phone though… I use it for me. I don’t answer personal calls at work, I don’t answer any calls when I am having dinner with my husband and I usually don’t text or take a call at all when I am in the company of other people. But I am very dependent on my phone.

Cell phones don’t work in Aruba

Last week, Adam and I had the pleasure of going to Aruba to celebrate a dear friend’s wedding. Not only was it a dear friend’s wedding but my closest group of friends were also in attendance. How fun is that?!

Know what didn’t work in Aruba? Our cell phone (unless we wanted to pay a lot for it). How did we do it? How did we possibly survive? Well we did and it made me think a lot about how I use my phone, when I use my phone and who exactly is in control here.

Here is what we did without cell phones:

  • We made plans and stuck to them – We had to plan ahead. We decided who was going to meet where and around when. Once that plan was made, you had to stick to it. If you said that you were meeting a person or a group in the lobby around Noon, you did. You didn’t text them and say ‘actually I got hungry so we just stopped at a restaurant to grab lunch’. You went to the lobby, waited and then possibly you ate lunch after you met up.
  • We had to remember numbers – God forbid something happens and I need to make a phone call to anyone other than Adam. For serious… I don’t think I could tell you my mother’s cell phone number. The phone numbers in my brain are Adam’s, my parents land line, my mother’s work (she has been there for 25 years), my grandparent’s land line (they are now answering phones in heaven but thank goodness my uncle moved in that house so I don’t have to feel like knowing that number is a waste of space in my brain) and my own cell phone number (sometimes I slip and can’t get that right and spit out my NH cell number). That is it, that is all the phone numbers I think I know.

    In Aruba, each hotel room did have a phone in it. So you know what we had to do? Remember people’s numbers! They weren’t in a directory, I couldn’t Google it and they weren’t in my address book. We had to learn them. We did and we got pretty good at it. What is that area of my brain doing now? The part I used until I was 19 or 20 to remember friend’s phone numbers… it is apparently still there. I just must be using it for different things.
  • We left notes – Remember notes? Remember the excitement of passing notes in school, hoping a boy would circle ‘yes’ that he liked you, or a note on your whiteboard on your college dorm, or how about just notes left around the house from roommates or family? One step further – what about letters, cards and notes we receive in the mail. There is something so much more exciting about finding a note than receiving a text or an email.
  • We banded together and pulled through awkward moments – This one is huge at conferences or networking events; you are talking to someone and the conversation gets a wee bit lagged. A semi-uncomfortable pause, a break in the conversation and you both pull out your phones. The conversation picks back up commenting on what someone just tweeted, a video on Facebook or by checking in on Foursquare. What would happen if you just muscled through that little pause? I bet you would have come up with something to say, maybe even gotten to know who you were talking to better.

    There were a few times in Aruba that I would be talking to someone and a story would end, one of us would get distracted and forget what you were going to say or whatever else happens to cause those pauses. For those, we couldn’t distract ourselves with our phones, we had to muscle through. Needless to say, the conversation would sputter back up and I think I had more in depth talks with many of these people that I have known for years this week alone.
  • We told stories not status’ – Yes, sites like Facebook and Twitter or email are a great way to keep in touch, to tell people what you are up to, where you have been, where you are going or to make them laugh. In person though you don’t tell 140 character stories. You tell long stories with grand hand gestures and voices and maybe a little dancing here and there (depending on the story).

    In Aruba no one said ‘Crazy night out last night with the guys. Boy am I tired.’ They said ‘…did you hear about what Simon* did last night? No? Well we were all out at this club and the guys decided it would be a better decision to get bottle service than to just keep buying drinks. Everyone was acting ridiculous…‘ twenty minutes later ‘and that is how we found him sleeping on a roof‘.

Six days after getting to Aruba we touched back down in the US, Philadelphia specifically. While we were preparing to land I told Adam I was excited to turn my phone back on. Then when we were taxing on the ground, I was a little apprehensive on turning my phone back on. It was the end of that silence, that stillness of not checking something or listening for a beep or a vibrate. I did turn it on and I am still going though emails, tweets, texts and Words With Friend’s moves even today.

I have tried to maintain a little bit more control over my phone, we will see how long that lasts. I have my ringer to silent and the vibrate off. When I look at my phone is when I want to, not when it summons me. I don’t know how long that will last, probably until I miss something important.

I do want to remember how that felt though. How we had to be creative, make plans, leave notes and trust our friends to communicate well with them for almost a whole week. It somehow made me feel more in control than perhaps if each person was just a text away.

How about you? Is your phone for you to keep in touch? or do you think it controls too much of you and your relationships?

*Names have been changed to protect the innocent.

What I learned at SXSW – The Not So Official Version

Photo credit: Dave Delaney

I just returned from South By Southwest (also known as nerd Spring Break). This is where nerds of all areas of nerd-dom convene in Austin, Texas. This is where new products and apps are launched, the fancy nerd people come to rub elbows (this year brought the likes of Ashton and Demi, PeeWee Herman, Mike Tyson, Danny DeVito etc.) and get their geek on, or watch movie premiers or perhaps just for an ego boost. The conference has three parts: Interactive, Film and Music.

This was my second SXSW and I felt much wiser. The whole thing can be quite overwhelming. There are really cool events happening from 8am – 4am and if you could, you would want to hit them all. You have no idea when a walk turns into an interview with Brad Womack, when a panel has a celebrity guest appearance or when your next big client or business partner is in line with you to get coffee.

With all the content, activities, giveaways, iPad drama and celebs you learn things in different ways than you expected. If you want an official search of takeaways from the conference – sit tight, I am sure those will fill the interwebs by the thousands soon. This is my not so official version of what I learned at SXSW.

  1. Real, in-person relationships mean more than any online relationship – I have met some really cool people online. We have shared thoughts, ideas and jokes. You almost feel like you ‘know’ them but there is still no replacement for an in-person relationship. Some people you know from online aren’t as great in person and some people in person are way better than they are online. Sites like Twitter have a lot of noise. Great for meeting people but if you really want to get to know them, don’t forget to take the relationship from online to offline.
  2. It doesn’t matter what the nerds think in business as much as it matters what everyone thinks – I had a lot of good conversations about tools and apps that are out there and that are being launched. In the nerd world, we are constantly trying to out-nerd the other nerds. The tools we have created are too complex, have too many features and that isn’t what businesses and users want. If you want to succeed (like make money, not just be nerd famous) you need to find something your average Joe from Maine or Minnesota or West Virginia wants, not just what the nerds want.
  3. If you have a good story people want to tell it for you – Friends of mine launched the beta version of their app, Pathcrosser, at SXSW. The hosted an awesome party (that wasn’t too in your face) and spent the week fluttering about meeting this person and that. No major marketing roll out, just connecting. Their app is smart, the audience they are trying to reach is real and they are good guys. People WANT to tell their story. They want to introduce them to influencers and get them interviews. They didn’t dress up in Chipmunk costumes to be noticed but they did get interviewed for Read, Write Web, talked to traditional media outlets and won for buzz on the street.
  4. When you are not in New England you can’t say you are from Portland and expect people to think Maine – This is pretty self-explanatory, but I got awfully tired of letting people down by telling them I was from Maine and not Oregon.
  5. Some things are just supposed to happen – Especially at SXSW where almost everything you do has major potential, you can’t try too hard. Some things are just supposed to happen for some reason or another. I know a few girls who were part of a major promotional campaign, things didn’t go as planned and the original goals were not met but both of these groups of girls came out with something life changing that has altered their course in their lives and careers. I also had a dream about Gary Vaynerchuck and the cast of the Jersey Shore. I tweeted about it, Gary laughed and an hour later, I was in a small room and he walked in. Not too shabby of an ice breaker to connect about a hysterical dream. We had a good laugh and I was lucky enough to get a copy of his new book. That introduction wouldn’t have been the same if it wasn’t for Ronnie being such a jerk in my dream.
  6. Glasses for fashion bother me – As a girl who had to wear glasses or contacts her whole life (until recently) I get upset when people admit they are wearing glasses just to compliment their nerd outfit.
  7. Only having the internet makes you disconnected – The night I arrived in Austin, there was the terrible earthquake in Japan. I was actually awake when it happened and we saw it all over the news. The internet can make you feel so connected to other people but it can also make you disconnected. While at SXSW most people are armed only with their iPhones, iPads or laptops. The whole tragedy in Japan seemed removed without being to connect with the people you care about most on how this makes you feel.
  8. I don’t consider myself a blogger – On my second night at SXSW, I was at an event that was off the traditional SXSW routine. It was for a group of people who work more in the fashion arena. This event was primarily for fashion bloggers. One very nice woman asked me ‘so are you a blogger too?’ I told her I wasn’t. The question stuck in my head the rest of the week. I currently write for 6-7 blogs regularly and I don’t call myself a ‘blogger’. I call myself an internet marketer and blogging is just one piece. I just thought that was interesting.
  9. I am a pretty lucky lady – My life is pretty ok. My husband is fantastic. He even registered me for Beach to Beacon because I couldn’t do it from SXSW. He also really makes me laugh. My family is amazing. My mother finally got her cowboy boots after some inspiration from my photos at Allen’s. I have also got to surround myself with some pretty smart and motivated people (I attribute a lot of that to Rich Tucker and the Social Fresh Cruise). I am home with a full brain, full notepad, some great pictures and an even closer network of people I am lucky to get to talk to, laugh with and pick eachother’s brains.

So that is it. That is my first impression, unofficial version of what I learned at SXSW this year. I haven’t unpacked, I haven’t gone through business cards or the notes I took but these 9 things are what I have already taken away from this conference. I look forward to seeing what other opportunities and relationships come from the people I met this week and the things I learned.

Using Nerd Powers for Good and for Love

My Bit.ly Valentine

Happy Valentine’s Day!

I like Valentine’s Day, I also have the bestest husband in the world. I think I always have liked Valentine’s Day. I am sure there was a rough year or two in there but generally speaking, I like the holiday. Some years my mom was my Valentine, Brody had a good run for a few years too. You can always have a Valentine.

This year I did something super nerdy but I wanted to share. If you haven’t gotton your guy or girl a gift yet, you may want to listen up!

I use a popular link shortening service for work stuff all the time, Bit.ly. What it does is take a long website URL like http://www.ohmygoshinc/article/todaysdate/how-to-use-URL-shortners.php and makes them really small like bit.ly/aBcDe. That makes the links so much easier to share on blogs, websites, social media sites and more. You also can track how many people click on your bit.ly link after you share it. Neat eh?

Bit.ly Customize LinkThere is another feature in Bit.ly that I like, you can customize your shorter link.

So for our Valentine’s Day we went out to dinner last night. I took the gift I got Adam, found a link for it online, shortened it, customized it and wrote just the Bit.ly link on the inside of his card. His special Valentine’s link was http://bit.ly/LOVEuAdam. He was able to use his iPhone at dinner and see the image that I linked to. Pretty cool huh? In a lame, nerdy way?

So boys and girls who haven’t got something for your sweetie yet – purchase something online, grab the link for the image of it, shorten it with Bit.ly, customize it and put it in their card. You will win some bonus points for thoughtfulness!

Bonus round – Google Local Valentine’s

So as I was writing this, I stumbled upon Google Local’s Valentine maker! Do you and your loved one have a special place? Where you first met? An upcoming vacation? Your first home? You can add the location in an eCard from Google. Add a personal message and send it off! Aww how nerdy!

I HAD to make one (or two – sent one to Jenika too)!

Adams Aruba Google Local valentineJenikas Google Valentine

Hope you are all having a fun, nerdy Valentine’s Day!