How to be a Good Wi-Fi Host
Wi-Fi, like electricity, is a necessary component of modern life. When we visit a home, hotel, office, or any place with walls, we expect to be able to connect to the internet over a wireless network.
But asking for Wi-Fi is not the same as asking for, say, a glass of water. Using Wi-Fi is inherently anti-social, so there’s a tinge of rudeness involved in the request. With some forethought, however, we can at least minimize the awkwardness.
When to Ask
If you’re a guest in someone’s home, ask for Wi-Fi not long after you’ve said hello—even if you have to tell a white lie. One possible excuse: “Our sitter might need to reach us, and I’m not getting any bars. Could I have your Wi-Fi password?” Better to ask right away than to wait until the salad is served.
How to Answer
If you are a host, you want this transaction to go smoothly. That means that you should have a Wi-Fi network set up for guests, just as you have hand towels in the bathroom for them. (You do have hand towels, right?)
Almost every home Wi-Fi router lets you set up a separate guest network to give visitors internet access without letting them connect to your private devices, like your home computers.
Since you’ll be sharing this network password with guests, you don’t want it to be obscure or hard to explain. It is good to have a very strong, possibly random password for your private Wi-Fi network, which you never give out. But for your guest network, you want to be able to tell a person what the password is. For example, “It’s ‘Smith-guest5,’ that’s cap-S-Smith, a dash, guest in lower case, and the numeral 5.”
Or, if you can pull it off, have fun with it: “The network is ‘JoshIsGreat’ and the password is ‘ILOVEJOSH’ in all caps.” Now you’ve lightened the mood before your guests have even taken off their coats.
Advanced Wi-Fi Etiquette for Nerds
Here’s another way to sidestep this whole awkward transaction. Put a sign just inside your front door that has the details on it.
If you have needlepoint skills, this would be an excellent use for them.
An even nerdier way to get your guests online is to create a QR code (a modern barcode) they can scan with their phones. Go to QiFi.org, enter your network info, and then print the code that the website generates. Frame it and place it near your front door (sadly, this isn’t something you can needlepoint). When guests with smartphones open their camera and point it at the QR code, their phone will read the network information and connect immediately. Then you can go back to your normal conversation.
It should go without saying that when you’re hosting someone—or someone is hosting you— everyone should limit the amount of time they devote to their phones. If you’re bored, I suggest making conversation. If you need help, try a game of Phone Stack.