by Anna Post
I'm on the web all the time, whether it's for work or my own personal use. I'm also on planes all the time, though just for work. The two don't usually mix, but thanks to AirTran, that will soon be changing.
By the end of July, AirTran plans to have all of its planes equipped to offer in-flight WiFi to passengers with wireless internet-capable devices. No more disconnecting from the real world from take-off to touch-down.
So much of my life is wired into the internet--blogging, banking, email, weather, news, pop culture, Facebook, Netflix, Pandora, work, shopping--that I always thought I'd be happy to log back on once we reached cruising altitude. I'm a very copacetic flyer, enjoying the time-out from phone calls and emails to read books and magazines, get ahead on my columns and chapters for work, watch in-flight movies, or snooze to my iPod. I'm realizing that I indulge--and enjoy--all of these things because I don't have the internet as an option. Will that enjoyment diminish now that it's available? I don't think so. Hello, Netflix on-demand!
It does, however, make me think about how best to set some boundaries. Perhaps I won't open Outlook. And in such crowded quarters, it certainly makes me think about privacy. Someone reading my laptop over my shoulder right now will likely see my latest masterpiece of etiquette--hardly state secrets. But I check my bank account several times a day. Not information I want available to seat 14B. And many of the movies in my Netflix queue are rated R; while many are also Oscar nominated, it doesn't mean they are appropriate for a public audience.
It's for exactly these kinds of reasons that I'm working with 3M Privacy Filters on an etiquette program. A thin film of plastic, the 3M privacy filter drops into discrete clear plastic tabs that adhere to the edges of your screen, making the filter removable when at home. From the side, the screen appears black, but when sitting in front of it, you'd never know it was there.
I recently saw them in use when visiting someone in the hospital, and they make perfect sense--nothing on the monitor was visible, even as I passed very close to a mobile computer unit. Unless the passenger directly behind you has x-ray vision, your bank codes and taste in movies will stay as private as you could wish. (Read: no one has to know that I watch Gossip Girl.)
Interestingly, 3M also makes a film that works the same way as the computer filters, but is used for cell phones. But please, let's draw the line at in-flight cell phone use. We need to keep those skies friendly.