When I think of coffeehouses, I often picture people sitting on their computers while sipping a latte. A new coffeehouse opened in town that turns that idea on its head.
It is located in a renovated historic one-room schoolhouse, and intentionally does not provide internet service. “No wi-fi: pretend it’s 1845 and talk to each other,” the sign proudly proclaims.
In a similar move, Time reported that in an effort to encourage conversation, an Australian food company is giving away pepper shakers that block wi-fi at the dinner table.*
I am not sure how either of these tactics will play out. The coffeehouse may gain some customers who want a conversation-friendly environment, but I suspect it may also lose some who want a “third-place” environment to meet or do work. So many people have smart phones and hot spots that access to the internet is never far away, even if the establishment doesn’t provide it.
And I wonder if we truly need abstinence or pepper-shaker blockers to refocus our attention. A jar of conversation starters, lack of electrical outlets or just some good old fashioned parental rules could also alter the dynamics.
I always think twice before I ban/prohibit/remove or in some way impose restrictions to alter behavior. I believe it is much more effective if you entice/motivate/encourage changes by providing benefits to do so. I agree with Antoine de St. Exupery: “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”
Maybe you can debate this premise over your next latte!
— beth triplett
*Source: Time Off Pop Chart, Time, September 26, 2016, p. 62