WIFI World

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The WIFI Phenomenon

I started off my trip not knowing what to expect from an Internet access standpoint. Five years ago, when I did my last international trip, humanity really didn’t have smart phones to such a degree. Access was a mute point back then. I feel so old!

On this trip, some of the hotels had no access. Some had free access in the rooms. Some charged for access. And some, interestingly, had free access but only in the lobby.

Surprisingly, the ones with free access only in the lobby had a carnival-like atmosphere and were the most fun.

Perhaps it was the proximity to the bar?

At first, I was dubious and angry. Why would you do that, only providing access in the lobby? Damn cheapskates! But then, as I watched the human interaction, it was clear this was brilliant!

Even though people had their heads buried in their electronic devices, they were still forced to interact with each other. If someone from your tour group was also in the designated space, you could not just walk past and not acknowledge them. You had to wave or say hello. Even those small gestures created a layer of intimacy that we might not otherwise have developed. You are more likely to confide in someone who has said hi and smiled at you three or four times, even in passing, than someone who has only done it once.

Further, you are a heck of a lot more likely to buy a coffee or a beer to consume while WIFIing which means more income and alcohol means freer socializing.

The desire for Internet access is a little bit like cutting. The tension builds up until finally you engage in the behavior, then sweet release until the tension starts to build again. Some may not appreciate the analogy but it is true. The lobby arrangement allowed the release of tension, which would have ended up distracting after a point, while still providing a forced break from devices, which is also necessary for brain vacations.

Which then begs the question, how much Internet does one need?

Texting prevents necessary human interaction. It is also dang convenient and fun. So what to do?

I often recommend device vacations for kids/teens when I am doing an adolescent well visit in the office. When we have that much access to each other, it wears you down. I have young patients who are trying to answer texts in the office during our visits. They find it difficult to maintain eye contact. Conversation is punctuated by what is going on with their device. When I ask them to put it away, they get a wild, lost look in their eye. Adults need this break, too!

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