I was on the phone with a friend recently when she was lamenting the fact that one of her ex’s instagram story kept accidentally popping up when she was watching other people’s stories.

“UGH it pains me because I know they can see I was looking too when I didn’t even want to see it in the first place.”

She didn’t know you could mute people! I had stumbled upon muting people accidentally myself after getting frustrated in particular with that one person who adds to their story all day everyday.

So many of us deal with what tech gives us “out of the box”. We don’t tailor it to our needs or limit its power. We assume positive intent with what the creators show us. I’m all about positive intent – don’t get me wrong. More than anything though, I’m about making technology work for you because it’s often not built for you unless you happen to fit the niche use cases they might have tested. I’ll hold back on a rant about why diversity and inclusion matters in tech (and why I’m really hoping phones don’t keep getting larger while women’s pant pockets keep getting smaller).

I critique tech more than I praise it so, for a change, I want to praise it as this past weekend was truly powered by random technology from the moment it started.

A good, true road trip should always start with new music. This is a rule of thumb that I firmly stand by as there’s no better way to create new memories than to do so with a new soundtrack. I use the Discover Weekly play list on Spotify and found this song:

As I was getting coffee prior to leaving for LA on Saturday, I pulled the band up on my phone and downloaded the entire album for $5.99 onto my phone from iTunes (before you comment about why I would buy music from iTunes, keep it to yourself — I have my reasons and I get to do what I want to with my money). Right as I was about to leave, I found out friends who used to live in San Diego were in town. Ironically, they now live in LA and I was planning on reaching out to connect up seeing as I would be their new town. We exchange quick texts with a rough plan of meeting around 8:30pm-9pm for drinks in Santa Monica.

To kick the trip off, I opened Google Maps, set the destination, and quickly realized the plan I made prior to visit the Huntington Museum was for sure a no go thanks to Google Maps showing me the predicted time it would take to get through classic LA traffic. Time for plan B: I immediately went to eater.com and started digging around for must see coffee shops in Studio City where I was having dinner that night. While searching, I had an extra podcast downloading in the background using the coffee shop wifi to save my data and to act as more entertainment for the longer than expected drive. Within 5 minutes, I had a new destination, a new plan, an extra podcast episode added to the list, and was hurtling towards LA.

While I was waiting to order at the coffee shop in LA, I checked a friend’s Instagram story. He had posted a picture and geotagged the location as being LAX. I freaked! I hadn’t seen him in over 1.5 years and have known him since we were in elementary school. I immediately replied to his story and found out he was going to be in Malibu until Monday morning. I sat there contemplating what to do – I had planned to head back to San Diego that night after a drink with friends. I could drive back the next morning? Ehh that’ll add another 6-7 hours of travel over the weekend if I do that. When will I see this dear friend next though?!? It was already 5pm so I didn’t have much time to decide.

It was an easy choice – I hopped on airbnb and booked a private room for $60 that had free parking on site (yay for filters – use them!). I jotted down my plans to the airbnb host in a message and told my friend the news, “Find a breakfast spot near Malibu and I’ll be there.” I then added the airbnb address to my Google Maps app as a saved location, “LA Airbnb”, so I wouldn’t have to try to remember the address or pull it up later (life hack). I spent the rest of my time at the coffee shop immersed in a book with my phone on Do Not Disturb mode (it’s always in that mode).

It kind of blows my mind the more I dig into how tech played a role in this weekend. Days before this trip even began, open table made it possible for me to book a table for 3 at Barrel & Ashe. Going back a step further, I found Barrel & Ashe through this Eater.com article on “San Fernando Valley’s Essential Restaurants, Spring 2017“. After enjoying kombucha from the coffee shop I found and making more plans for the weekend, I meandered towards the restaurant strolling in right at the time of the reservation and was seated immediately with zero problems while others waited. Absolutely seamless and delicious meal!

After dinner, I coordinated where to meet my friend in Santa Monica thanks to the ability to share locations. She kept changing where we were going to meet up as there were ridiculous waits at different spots. It didn’t prove to a be problem though as she’d update me via sharing her location as she went. Quickly at a red light, I was able to add in the last shared location she sent and headed that way.

After a great evening, I headed to the airbnb and crashed. The next morning, I headed to Malibu and found myself wanting coffee on the way. Again, I found myself using Google Maps additional search feature to search for coffee along my already pre-defined route. I ended up at Caffe Luxxe where, for some reason, the barista gave me a free cappuccino :). It’s the little things I tell ya.

The rest of the weekend fell into place with technology powering the experience and not being the experience or intruding upon it. When with friends, my phone was silent and I only was distracted if I chose to look at it (make technology work for you!). Thanks to the ability to create adhoc playlists of sorts with the “Play Next”  feature I just set up what I wanted to listened to and didn’t look at my phone again until I got back to San Diego. Bluetooth technology in my car made the ability for me to listen to what I wanted to extremely easy — I still remember the days before this was possible and there isn’t a day that goes by that I’m not thankful it’s so easy to play what you want to hear.

This experience with technology could have been very different depending on how I used it. I could have booked an airbnb without parking and ended up in a bad situation (they don’t automatically show the filters). I could have had my phone un-muted and spent the dinner distracted and coordinating with the friends I was getting drinks with… I could have spent time getting drinks coordinating with the friend for breakfast the next morning. Instead, I put my phone away and paid attention to those I love. I could have spent the drive looking at my phone, answering texts, etc and putting myself in peril. Instead I set everything up so I didn’t need to before I even started my car. If we want technology to distract us, it will gladly do the honors.

Technology worked for me and enabled me this past weekend. Think about this:

  • I found out a friend was in town through geotagging technology and coordinated meeting up with him over instagram messenger of all things.
  • I was able to know I needed to make new plans before I even got to LA based on predictive traffic results.
  • I made arrangements to sleep in a stranger’s home after booking a spot at 5pm that day.
  • I was able to find friends thanks to them being able to share their exact location.
  • I made a reservation for a place I had never been to days in advance without picking up my phone.
  • I was able to find delicious coffee along my route with very little effort on my part. If you’re a coffee drinker, you know that early AM panic of “Where can I get caffeine?!?”
  • I was able to tailor my entertainment (read: podcasts + this new album) without fiddling with my phone at any point while I drove which frankly helped keep me awake and engaged in driving.

It warms my soul when I’m able to see loved ones and I needed that this weekend. It’s pretty fantastic the role technology played when taken as a whole. I do have the advantage of nomading a ton, being extremely technologically literate, and being especially adept at going where the wind takes me. When I have experiences like this though, I can’t help but see the magic of technology. I just wish I was able to help others tailor their phones, apps, etc so they merely led to experiences they wanted rather than hindering the experience they have. I still see too many people experiencing the world with technology as a thin layer wedged into their viewpoint whether it’s checking their phone for notifications constantly, getting news alerts interrupting their train of thought, or missing the power of a sunset while they are too busy trying to take 235908359 pictures (take one then put your phone away). The key for me is I let technology do the tasks that stress me out: book a table, find a place to eat, pick the fastest route, figure out coffee along my way, fill me in on traffic ahead, queue up music etc. The second I’m in the presence of another human, those tasks fade and I quickly deprioritize them though! For example, I didn’t worry about the location of drinks in Santa Monica until after I was walking back to my car from dinner alone.

Sigh – I’m getting back into railing against technology when that wasn’t my intention ;). As I close out the weekend, I do want to express how thankful I am that everything came together. I feel so incredibly lucky to have these resources at my disposal and know it’s a privilege that I’m constantly learning how best to use.

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