By now, we’re all familiar with the act – if not the word – of ‘phubbing’. A mash-up of the words ‘phone’ and ‘snubbing’, it refers to the phenomenon of people paying closer attention to their phones than to the person they’re actually with.
Now, the owner of a British gin bar is using 19th century technology to solve a very 21st century problem.
Steve Tyler became so tired of watching his customers ignore each other in favour of their iPhones that he decided to make it impossible for them to get signal within the four walls of his bar.
“I just wanted people to enjoy a night out in my bar, without being interrupted by their phones,” he continued. “So rather than asking them not to use their phones, I stopped the phones working.”
The Faraday cage was invented in 1836 by physicist Michael Faraday in order to block electric fields, and involves lining the walls with metal foil and wire mesh.
Tyler lined the Gin Tub’s walls with silver and copper. “It’s not the perfect system, it’s not military grade,” he said. “The Americans are still listening.
“But the general public get poor signal or no signal, so they have to go outside to use their phones. That’s what I want them to do. I want them to talk to the people they’re with, not the people they’re not with.”
Using electronic devices such as ‘jammers’ to scramble or block wireless communications is illegal in the UK, as it could potentially disrupt emergency services. However, the technology used in the Faraday cage has been around for such a long time that there is no specific legislation against it.
According to one survey, some 37% of Brits feel a lack of control when separated from their smartphone, with over half saying that they suffer from “extreme tech anxiety” when unable to use their devices. However, other research has shown that feelings of depression and relationship dissatisfaction increase when your partner consistently looks at their phone instead of listening to you – suggesting that maybe the Gin Tub is onto something.
And it seems like the public are enjoying taking a signal-free trip back in time. Tyler said that he’d only had one complaint so far about his bar’s old-school stance: from a customer whose phone was, to their chagrin, still working. He moved them to another table.
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