Last night Portable presented two of the founders of Refinery29 in a talk at the Museum of Sydney, discussing fashion and social media. It was interesting stuff, particularly seeing how fashion, traditionally an industry slow to adopt new technological trends, has embraced the internet. Luxury no longer means limitation and exclusivity; the new luxury consumer is chasing individuality and customisation. Anyone can drop a few grand on a designer dress; now fashion idolises the unique, the challenging, and pieces with a back-story.

The way fashion brands and media are integrating e-commerce and online sales is quite ground-breaking. It’s hard to see at this point whether there’s a lesson here for monetising journalism, which is the issue my industry is most concerned with at the moment. Where a fashion news site can unite “information and actionable material”, for example a street style photo with a breakdown of where to buy the items, complete with links to the brands or even the site’s own online store, a straight news site is trying to sell the medium itself. If that makes sense. It’s been a long day!

Anyway, it’s a little off topic but the thing I was most struck by at the Refinery29 talk was the behaviour of the MC. Patty Huntington is a local freelance fashion journo who’s done very well at building her reputation through blogging and social media. Patty brings excellent experience and insight to her writing as well as style, humour, fun and a nose for breaking news. She’s written for me for the Walkley Magazine and I found her great to work with. But while she was interviewing Philip and Piera from Refinery29, she was tweeting.

This photo is terribly dark – Huntington is at right.

I’m talking about breaking eye contact during an interview to tap away on a Blackberry. Now, I understand that her social media coverage would have given the event more attention that it might have recieved otherwise. I realise that her Twitter followers would have wanted to know her thoughts on the event as it unfolded. She was doing her job. But it just seemed quite rude. What is the etiquette here? Am I being old fashioned?

I couldn’t help but think of a sketch on The Daily Show last year when Jon Stewart took aim at all the old media heavyweights suddenly taking up Twitter. He crossed to a correspondent in the show’s fake news style, and while she was reporting about the adoption of social media she kept stopping mid-sentence to update her Twitter feed. Maybe this is where we’re actually headed – it wouldn’t be the first time The Daily Show has broken a real story!

This social media stuff is big, and it won’t go away. Last night they said that FourSquare is expected to be even bigger than Twitter. Not to mention the implications of something like ChatRoulette. Our very notions of privacy and publicity are changing. Our work no longer begins and ends at certain times and in certain places – we’re always wired in.

And maybe no one cares what I’m doing right now, what I ate for breakfast or what hilarious graffiti I just saw, but because I have the technology I’m going to publish that information anyway. All I know is that those people tweeting every two minutes must be missing out on a few real interactions. All this social media might not be making us anti-social, but it is changing our understanding and expectations of relationships and communities.