More and more recently, you may have noticed that many hospitality services are not offering wifi, in particular, cafes and coffee shops. In this day and age where the digital world dominates most aspects of our lives, that might seem absolutely ludicrous! But there is a method to this madness, believe it or not. The idea, we assume, is to encourage people to enjoy the company of their companions and to spend more time engaging in conversation than staring at a screen - something we’re all guilty of. Whilst our devices have become a significant part of everyday life, it’s important to set boundaries that suit us. Read on for more of our thoughts on this.
The digital world is an important part of everyone’s life in the 21st century, from our work lives, personal relationships, our free time and hobbies. Our devices really do take up a huge amount of time and space - literally and metaphorically! So much so, that when we go out into public spaces and there isn’t a wifi-password plastered all over the walls or on the menu of our favourite restaurant, it can actually come as quite the surprise.
Now, many hospitality spaces do provide wifi and other services to accommodate those using their space to work - something even more common since the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning that many of us adapted to the work from home lifestyle. And as we mentioned, it’s rare that this isn’t offered when we go to the local coffee shop or cafe. Therefore, it can be quite noticeable when something like wifi is intentionally not provided.
What are the benefits of places not offering wifi?
A bit of old fashioned conversation
We can get so caught up between our work inbox, Facebook notifications and Whatsapp group chats that we forget to look up and talk to the person right in front of us. Our technological devices will always be there, literally - they’re not going anywhere. But unfortunately, the moment we’re in right now will not last past that moment! Time is limited, and that means so are we. This may seem extreme when we’re just talking about wifi here, but our message runs true. One day, we might wish for one more conversation with the person in front of us, and kick ourselves for spending so much time looking down at a screen. Our friends and loved ones will appreciate just popping your phone on Do Not Disturb for the extent of your catch-up - the work emails can wait!
Once we step away from the digital world, we might notice that there’s so much around us to be grateful for. Getting caught up in social media feeds can really redirect our attention away from the good things in life, and instead have us comparing ourselves to people with everything we wish we had. But the reality is - we don’t need any of those things, we just want them because we’re seeing them constantly through the lens that is Instagram. Focusing on what we’re thankful for, as simple as that might be, not only helps us practise gratitude, but can significantly improve our mental wellbeing.
Technically, we can scroll mindfully. But the chances are, when we’re engrossed in the online world, we’re probably not being very mindful. We’re not taking in anything going on around us, in fact the world seems to mute when we’re staring at our devices. You know, when someone’s been talking to you and you didn’t even hear them over that LinkedIn article you were reading? Or maybe you walked to the wrong bus stop because you were so hooked on that TikTok video. Yeah, we’re all familiar with it! Putting our phones down can help us get in touch with our senses, noticing how we’re feeling in the moment. Being mindful in this way has countless benefits for our wellbeing, you can read a bit more about that here.
Coming away from our phones and talking to the people around us will do wonders for our mental wellbeing. We can practise active listening, allowing us to learn more about the person sitting across from us, but also ourselves. Engaging in active listening will help our relationships to flourish too, as it allows us to show up for the people around us with intention. This concept will also help us to bond better with the people around us and maybe even get a bit more in touch with our emotions. Not to mention the obvious - that socialising has lots of benefits when it comes to our mental health. Laughing and being around other people is great for our mental wellbeing in so many ways by reducing stress, anxiety and depression.
Here’s some tips for the next time you’re going for coffee:
It’s there for a reason, and not just for holidays! Aeroplane mode on our devices turns off all the bits and bobs needed to receive messages and notifications. It will stop that ‘ding’ of our text tone interrupting our conversations, or the screen lighting up and distracting us from the person we’re talking to. So if the cafe you’re sitting in does offer wifi, you can limit the chances of your phone going off by switching it on aeroplane mode, or just switching it off altogether if you’re brave enough! And if you’re not ready to take the plunge just yet, you could start by putting it on silent.
Put it away
You know what they say: out of sight, out of mind. It’s become very natural when we sit down to eat or drink to pop our phone straight down on the table in front of us. Oh and by the way, putting it face down doesn’t make it less of a distraction! If we leave it in our bag, coat or pocket when we sit down to chat, it reduces the temptation to pick it up and check our socials, or reply to those 4 messages from mum.
Take a book instead
Whether you’re meeting a friend or not, why not pack a book instead of your laptop or tablet? If you’re alone, what’s more relaxing than a coffee and a book? And if you’re meeting a friend, why not chat about the book you’re reading, or even read them a page you found really interesting? Who knows, it might spark up an interesting topic of conversation.
Final thoughts: When you see a cafe or restaurant not offering wifi, instead of rolling your eyes because you can’t send that meme to your friend, use it as an opportunity to better your wellbeing - even if it’s just at that moment. Our devices take up so much of our time, it might actually do us some good to intentionally step away from them for a while. The people we’re with will surely appreciate it. If you’re feeling up to it, maybe make this something you do on purpose. Rather than waiting to go somewhere without wifi, turn off your device’s wifi connection and enjoy whatever it is you’re doing, distraction free.