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Trolley Jollies, Invisible People, and a City of Angels at #SMWLA

“Why see the world when you’ve got the beach?” Frank Ocean, Sweet Life

I arrived at Mark Horvarth’s Keynote ten minutes or so into it, running late from my lunch at the Roosevelt. This was an after thought on my schedule. I knew the name Invisible People somewhat but not enough to resonate with me that this was an important topic.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. As I arrived, Mark was just pressing play on a video interview he had done with a woman living under a bridge. “I’m not a doctor,” he said, “but I could see that she was dying under there.”

He showed an animated video explaining how someone might get to that situation.

He explained how close he had been to that situation himself. How precariously close he was even today after all the amazing accomplishments his efforts had brought about for the homeless. But he felt accomplished. Changed. 

“Never miss the opportunity a crisis provides,” he said.

Despite tailoring my first day at Social Media Week Los Angeles to be hyper-focused on the southland, I hadn’t expected the vast majority of the talks and conversations I would attend and have to be so centered on the people of the city.

I shouldn’t have been. There’s a myopia that comes from spending most of your work day tackling marketing and promotional tasks.We talk a lot about tactics and metrics and tools and messages. Those things have their place but the reality, as it always has been, is that the internet is made up of and about people.

This should not be mind blowing but sometimes, like today, it is.

It was great to hear about KCRW’s social strategy first thing this morning but the real celebrity sighting was Lan-Chi Lam, LA Metro’s communication strategy manager–one of the brilliant people behind the Carmageddon moniker and who is preparing us all for the sequel this weekend.

She delivered my favorite term of the day: Trolley Jolly.

She was also a member of the “A City of Angels” panel which was about how we use social media to make our neighborhoods and communities a better place. That was a running theme. My final panel of the day was called “Nobody Walks in LA” featuring a gaggle of people who do nothing but. And this theme of community–real community where we know our neighbors and our streets, where we are less strange to each other, where we sit behind screens not to retreat but to connect in real and meaningful ways–is now my entire focus of this week. 

I had come planning to be inspired about the future of digital media and work. Now, I’m already re-engaged with what I fell in love with online in the first place, how these tools give us voice and bring us closer together.

Let’s go.

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