Column: Leave your earbuds at home

By Juila Gall

Last week, Apple once again released two updated iPods, and it still amazes me how much a little gadget has defined our generation. In the same way the Internet makes information instantly available, iPods keep music at our fingertips for constant entertainment.

While portable cassette and CD players have offered the same function and have been around a long time, the iPod’s size, storage capacity and versatility have made it more appealing than its predecessors. In many ways the iPod’s scope of influence has brought a steady decrease in social interaction.

Lots of technological advances, such as e-mail and text messaging, aid people in avoiding direct contact with other humans. The iPod is no different. A person asking for directions will probably not ask someone who is wearing an iPod any more than someone talking on a cell phone, even though the iPod wearer is not busy, just blocked out.

It has been mentioned to me that students aren’t social when walking around campus because they’re wearing iPods. And while this is not the entire reason iPods are unnecessary, they can be deliberately used to avoid people.

There is no dire need to listen to music while walking out into the world, but when students do, they block others out, instead of unplugging and making themselves open for some sort of contact.

Saying hi to someone in passing is a lot more difficult when they can’t “hear” you. IPods obviously convey that you need not be disturbed.

While this is mostly rude, sometimes it has its benefits.

A friend of mine told me about overhearing a conversation between two girls, one of whom was listening to her iPod and couldn’t hear her friend calling her until she caught up with her.

The girls mentioned how that can be a good thing if a guy is “tryin’ ta holla.” They can pretend to be jammin’ to their iPods even if the device is off.

In such a situation, using iPods to avoid contact can be acceptable, especially if the guy is gross. It’s a lot easier than blatantly ignoring him, but it’s still an example of the iPod as an avoidance tool.

People will say they don’t purposefully avoid others, and really just want to rock out before class.

But for the 15 minute-ish walk to classes I just don’t see why it’s necessary to listen to music. Is it really that important to play, what, a total of four songs?

I know there are those who claim to “not be able to survive” without music. Yet you don’t listen to your iPod during class, right? Well, you shouldn’t.

That’s at least an hour of your life spent without listening to music and your heart is still beating, right?

Since listening to music 24/7 is clearly not a matter of life and death, it still seems to mainly serve the purpose of blocking out the world around you.

Because of this, one’s own safety can also be a viable concern. I read an article in Glamour magazine about how the world is seen through the eyes of a criminal. One of the things the author noted was that walking the streets of cities alone makes people, especially females, easy targets.

But when you eliminate your hearing with an iPod, you are at even greater risk of becoming a victim of a crime, like being mugged. The same can also be said for crossing the streets while not paying complete attention to the surroundings.

The moral is, ditch your iPod when walking around, despite how incredibly hard it is. I promise you will make it through the day without listening to Justin Timberlake’s new album until you get home.

Who knows, that cute someone you share the stairs with might actually say “hi.”

Maybe not, but at least you won’t get hit by the T while crossing Huntington Avenue.

Though iPods make being solitary simple, try staying connected with your world; it might surprise you.

– Julia Gall can be reached at [email protected]

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