There are a whole host of advantages to social media: it gives us a means to connect with our friends, even when they are clear across the country – or the world! – it allows us to curate pictures, videos and other content that we find of interest, and keeps us up to date on what’s happening in the news and pop culture. However, there are certainly times when social media culture stands in the way of truly enjoying experiences in the moment. For instance, “unplugged” weddings where the bride and groom ask guests to refrain from using their phones to take pictures and post to social media during the ceremony are becoming increasingly popular.
Recently, a story has emerged discussing the impact social media culture – and more specifically Selfies – is having on a much larger event. My alma mater, Bryant University, has asked graduating seniors to please refrain from taking selfies with University President Ronald Machtley as they receive their diplomas during commencement this May.
This seemed like a reasonable request to me, after all, if each of Bryant’s 850 graduates stopped to take a selfie with President Machtley, the ceremony would be almost endless. What surprised me was not the actual request, but the attention it was given by the media. A few fellow grads had posted the story on social media on Friday, and over the weekend I was hearing and seeing it everywhere: on the radio, in Huffington Post, even The New York Times covered it. In a world where everyone is constantly plugged in and poised for the almighty selfie, simply requesting that students refrain from doing so for a few hours certainly makes a big splash. But we think that Bryant’s on to something here.
A Time and a Place for Social Media
Bryant by no means is denouncing all forms of social media – they playfully made the announcement about the selfie restriction via Snapchat. Nor is President Machtley opposed to taking selfies with students in the weeks leading up to graduation. No, the University is simply addressing the fact that commencement selfies detract from the experience as a whole. Not only do they add to the already lengthy ceremony, they may impede eager parents and professional photographers from getting a good shot.
Generally, we encourage businesses to get their customers involved with social media whenever possible, but there are definitely cases when you may want to take a leaf out of Bryant’s book and set a time and place for social media and selfies. For instance, if your service is experience based, for instance, say you own a shooting range, it’s wise to make the range an “unplugged” zone, for obvious safety reasons. Or, if you run a cooking class, you may want to ask students to hold off on taking pictures until the dish is complete as they may risk missing an important instruction.
Assess your business and see if there are any areas where your customers would benefit from an “unplugged” environment. Be sure to post notices and make announcements not only detailing that these are social media & selfie free zones, but why as well! Your customers should know that you want them to have the best experience possible and that putting the smartphone down can help them do so!