Charles Barkley’s advice on social media? Don’t participate

DT XMAS CARD-431 038 Lee SpencerAt a festival rooted in interactivity basketball legend Charles Barkley’s diatribe against social media jarred for many, but Lee Spencer-Michaelson ponders whether he has a point. 

Looking at SXSW the schedule to try and decipher the madness it’s easy to latch onto the bigger nameslike Ryan Gosling, Henry Rollins, RZA, Snoop Dogg (or is it Snoop Lion now?), and big brands like Spotify, Mashable, and Google.

Delving deeper into the schedule, I realise SXSW is not about the big names, but it’s about the breakthrough tier of creative thinkers on the verge of busting onto the big scene.

Who does this attract? Business folk with creative flair, like myself, a copywriter from a digital agency penning for a marketing publication, who are hot on their tails for inspiration or new business relationships, whether that be discovering emerging tech for an ad campaign, a distributor looking for their next must see film, or a music producer looking to sign new artists.

But, having thought I was going to overlook the big names and focus on the breakthrough sessions to find out what SXSW is all about when push came to shove, I didn’t. I got sucked into the big names; shame on me.

Former US vice president Al Gore talking climate crisis (more preaching about the increase in extreme weather events and not enough on how the cost reduction in renewable energy technology as well as the need for quality renewable energy storage devices will expand his fight exponentially. Where’s Elon Musk when you need him?),

Paola Antonelli from MOMA speaking about the ambiguity of design (how design today is not justabout the before and after but about how it adapts to its environment once it’s been released into the wild), Ryan Gosling and Guillermo Del Toro chatting about Lost River, Ryan’s directional debut (most important points being how he maintained his creative view the whole way through and how he didn’t act in it himself although it would’ve made it an instant commercial success),

Cynthia Brezeal asking why robots should have a personal touch (because we do and we interact with them) and Charles Barkley discussing how to stay relevant in the digital age.

I’d like to dwell on the Charles Barkley forum briefly as it stuck out in my mind like a sore bum, for all the wrong reasons. It went against the essence of interactivity, and was only worthwhile for about ten minutes until it descended into basketball banter, and fans drooling over Sir Charles in question time.

Rather than being called ‘How to remain relevant in the digital age’, it should’ve been called, Why Charles Barkley doesn’t do social media. The answer, he doesn’t want to know everything that’s being said about him, well, the bad things anyway. He thinks social media has moved into a negative place and doesn’t want to feed the trolls. You don’t have to convince Glen McGrath of that.

He describes it “like being the homecoming queen – all the ugly girls hate you.”

Whoah. Charles doesn’t get it and is too stubborn to change.

Unlike the uneducated masses, Charles has his medium, TV, being a sports analyst for Turner Sports, a one-way form of communication where the audience can’t talk, or moan back. He says, “I want to please everybody”, but knows it can’t be done on social media, so he stays away.

Away from his blasphemy, he raises the question – can you be diplomatic and honest on social media? It’s a fine line, and if you’re a popular personality in the spotlight being criticised for all you say and do, good luck. So Barkley’s advice to young professional sportspeople on social media is don’t participate.

Who has it in them to convince Sir Charles that the internet can also be a positive place too? I’ll give a million bucks to the person that can.

With day one down, SXSW is just getting started – the calm before the storm.

I might just have to take shelter in some more off the cuff talks tomorrow.

  • Lee Spencer-Michaelsen is a creative at DT

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