Having instant access to tons of music at any moment is a great thing. With the newest technology, we don’t have to wait to hear our favorite songs on the radio every hour, or carry around a few cumbersome CDs or tapes in a backpack like when I was a little kid. Now, with just a little bud in your ear, you can listen to your favorite song on repeat for days until your battery finally runs out.
Being able to bring over a thousand songs with you in your jeans’ pockets is a technological miracle which makes long car rides or doctor’s office waits just about bearable. However, does having a musical world always available to us impede our social interactions and make us more disconnected from the people around us? Being constantly plugged into our own little world allows us to ignore social problems and remain stuck in an individualistic lifestyle. We might be plugged in to technology, but that really disconnects us from humanity.
I’m not bashing the introvert (and even the occasional extrovert!) who needs to escape the crowd of people around them. Virtually no one can be happy around people constantly without a little me-time. I’m talking about when smaller and more intimate groups are hanging out, but not interacting. In a sense, they are together, but not together.
How many times have you been in a car with two or three other people, and either everyone is listening intently to the same song on the radio or everyone has two cords dangling from their ears? Music has the power to seduce people and make them forget the outside world is an actual thing which exists, and this can keep people from utilizing the bonding time of which they should be taking advantage.
Being plugged in also makes it strangely easy to walk by the homeless or ignore a scene which may have needed your intervention. I’ll use the real-life example of when I was in a McDonald’s; two intoxicated couples came in with their children. There was an altercation outside, and a baby left behind in its stroller after its parents left. Had I been plugged in at the time, I wouldn’t have been able to call the cops—something that nobody else around the abandoned infant decided to do.
What happens when we do bring our expensive music players along? We are assuming that this piece of technology, which has become as natural to some of us as our own arms, is affordable for everyone. It’s difficult to realize that this seemingly essential little rectangle is not a necessity for everyone; the high price is not in everyone’s budget, even if they wish they could afford such a thing. Bringing your iPod along might not be the most polite thing to do if you’re going to hang out with people of a lower income than yourself, or if you don’t know everyone you will be meeting that day. While having an iPod does not necessary make you into a conspicuous consumer, it is a status symbol, and you should be conscious of that.
One thing I have done recently is to not bring my iPod along if I know I’ll be with other people.
It’s tough; I, as a frequent user of the Boston train system, wonder, “well, what if I’m on the train alone later?” or something quite like that. Having the distraction would be great, but then the temptation to use my iPod while I’m actually with the person is too great to resist, and I know that. It would be rude to ignore whomever I will be meeting while we’re supposed to be having fun together, and if they bring their music player—forget it! We’d might as well call off the whole plan.
Even writing this has me thinking. Why has my iPod become something I have to war with myself over? When did I decide that is was so vital to the goodness of my day that I have to feel bad leaving it behind? I don’t even feel that way about my family when I walk out the door in the morning; why does this inanimate object have some claim on me?
Christina DeSario is a Class Action intern and a rising junior at Assumption College.