At last: some pushback
The “democratization” of photography in the smartphone age has wrested the role of the professional wedding photographer and distributed it among all the invited friends and family members; and this change happened almost overnight, in line with the exponential speedup of technology introduction in recent years. The relevance of this to information overload was the subject of my recent post, Wedding Photos and Managing Information Overload.
Another interesting development, which came surprisingly close on the heels of the former, is the appearance of the Unplugged Wedding concept. This is a clear instance where people are beginning to push back on the overload, trading some of the exhilaration of portable device use in exchange for more serenity and human togetherness.
What it’s all about
An Unplugged Wedding is one where invitees are requested to switch off their phones. This simple act has three outcomes:
- People can’t take photographs.
- People can’t receive or initiate phone calls and text messages.
- All beeps and alerts are disabled.
The result, when all this is done to a hundred or more people, is the achievement of four benefits:
- There are no primary distractions for the owner of the phone.
- There are no secondary distractions for the people around the owner (which includes rings and beeps, noisy conversations, and camera flashes).
- The hired wedding photographer can do a much better job.
- Everyone can focus on the business at hand – being there among friends, all together, to share in the special moment of the happy couple who are being married!
Now, isn’t that a desirable outcome?
Incidentally, guest photo-taking can really ruin the photos taken by the professional photographer – a detailed illustrated article of how this happens can be found here.
What about the workplace?
Admittedly a wedding is a poor metaphor for the workplace (talk of people being “married to their job” notwithstanding), but the Unplugged Wedding does give us food for thought in the domain of knowledge work.
The modern workplace is full of people that make constant use of technology – email, smartphones, social media, the web – that distracts them and interferes with their main role, that of focusing on the job at hand. Stopping the distractions in order to gain some quiet time to think in is very difficult – everyone is pretty much addicted to the flow of information, useful or otherwise. The result? The workplace becomes just like a wedding where everybody is so busy jostling to get a good photo of the ceremony that they completely miss its significance.
What you can do about it
Well, if you’re getting married, I leave it up to you and your spouse; but what about the office? I’d love to advocate an “Unplugged workplace”, but of course this is not realistic. A wedding is a brief event, and a request from the couple being wed to shut the mobile devices has a good chance of acceptance on their special day. A sweeping ban on mobile devices at work is a silly notion – people need their smartphones! Still, you can drive an improvement by removing the distractions during specific, limited times, no longer than a wedding reception. During staff meetings, for example, the way it’s done by US president Barack Obama (as I’ve described here). Or during your one on one meetings with your subordinates (I can think of no easier way to convey your respect for them than shutting down your phone).
Think about it…