I started writing this blog on the train home last night after having spent the last two days at the No B/S Conference in Melbourne. My head is overflowing with ideas and information to the point where if you asked me who my favourite presenter was I’d struggle to name a single person.

The theme of the conference was ‘Digital Reality Check’ and there were speakers from all over the world talking about their experiences as creatives in the digital world. While my area of expertise lies more in the printed realm of design, I’m always super keen to see what all the cool kids are up to and I wasn’t disappointed.

As someone who energetically hates social media, I am well and truly behind the times in my understanding of digital platforms like TikTok and was surprised to learn how these spaces are drastically changing the way businesses are marketing themselves.

The traditional model of a businesses sinking all their money into a single, highly polished campaign is gone as consumers move away from static advertising (like magazine, television and print ads) and consume more and more of their content through social media platforms. People don’t want highly polished, beautifully shot ads, they want real people talking about the shit they like.

Word of mouth has always been the most powerful way to build an audience. When someone you know says they like a product/service/restaurant/event/anything, their recommendation is endorsed by the respect you have for them, meaning you're more likely to try to seek out and try the so-called ‘thing’. Social media platforms, especially Tik Tok are simply amplifiers, producing word of mouth at scale.

There was a pretty even split between people being for and against the digital age we find ourselves in. It was pretty scary listening to the depth at which platforms like TikTok collect your personal data. Every single upload gets mined for every drop of data they can squeeze from it. From your head (face recognition) to your toes (location data), nothing is yours anymore. 

Being ‘older’ I’m extremely concerned about the next generation who don’t know life without digital surveillance. These platforms are designed to attract young people and keep them logged in - forever. As a creative (and business owner and general member of society) I’m torn between wanting to be up-to-date with the latest technology and not wanting to be another blimp of data helping the social media giants curate my digital world via algorithms. 

Don’t even get me started on the Metaverse. We’re all fucked there.

Luckily the reality check was peppered with some really wonderful stories of how people got to where they are today. I’m a huge sucker for a good origin story. Coincidentally or not, there was an underlying theme of authenticity and relentless commitment to one’s calling. Against all odds they had failed and succeeded, failed and succeeded only to fail and succeed again. No one got up there acting as if they’d ‘made it’. 

Everyone is forging their own path, some people have just won more awards than others. It's easy to come away from these sorts of events feeling inferior. It's only natural to feel a jab of jealousy when some amazing person 10 years younger than you talks about their incredible success.

I think my favourite part was the networking. I love meeting new people. I really do. I lost count of how many new and interesting people I spoke to. I also talked to most of the speakers which is something Jess of a few years ago would be too shy to do. I may not be an award winning designer but it’s only taken me 40 years to realise that my authentic self, me, Jess Kelly, is the best asset I have.

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