San Franciscans may have noticed a new sign on their way into the
office cafe a few weeks back.
“Before providing you with our free Wi-Fi code, you must first have a conversation with three strangers,” it read.
That’s right, before they dove deep into their online rabbit hole over lattes, the sign instructed them to make like they did in the olden days and actually strike up a conversation with someone – wait for it – in real life.
The short-lived signs were actually a social experiment by artist Ivan Cash and filmmaker Reiner, who took it upon themselves to covertly post the signs in a slew of digital nomad-filled cafes.
“Basically it started with a super simple insight – that Wi-Fi connects people around the world, but it can distance people sitting next to each other,” says Reiner with an ounce of exaggerated profoundness.
“We both spend a lot of time working in cafes, and anytime you look up from your screen, it’s impossible not to notice all the people around you who are just totally immersed in technology. This just felt like a really nice way to push back, challenge the way things are, and also have fun with it.”
As the experiment was not backed by coffee shops, it was short-lived (though a sign at a Starbucks counter did last a whole 15 minutes).
It does shine light on an ever-present problem, and one that now affects everyone from millennials to baby boomers: human interaction is becoming a lost thing. We even see this happen within romantic relationships.
In fact, many find it more weird than welcoming when strangers make old-fashioned conversation in elevators and in coffee shops alike these days.
That’s why some businesses should follow the lead of the social experiment for themselves and facilitate human interaction in their establishments – in everything from a similar Wi-Fi policy to board games.
Especially in coffee shops and cafes that are jam-packed with the digital nomad, creative, and entrepreneurial set, imposing a “talk for Wi-Fi” policy could actually facilitate meaningful networking, creative collaborations and life-enriching dialogue.
Sounds like a win/win to me.