I’m not sure what I think of this: Earbuds: The End of Civilized Life As We Know It. Excerpt:
In the past there existed an implicit social contract in public: We’re all in this together. We’ll help each other if needed.
No longer. It’s as if the Earbud People are wearing “Do Not Disturb” signs. Their eyes are often closed, absenting themselves even further from those around them. This used to be one of the functions of sunglasses indoors and on subways — to say, “I’m not here. I’m inaccessible, so buzz off.” Earbud People are cut off from others who might serendipitously begin a conversation with them. They’re thus preventing not only unwanted human contact but also the potential of positive contact.
In earlier times, merely by looking away from the gaze of another person, at the ground, or by reading in public, one could signal “Do Not Disturb.” But not everyone did it. There were always many people who were accessible and ready to give directions, talk about the likelihood of rain, or speculate about when the next train might arrive.
You’re not alone in finding this conduct anti-social and disturbing. While the users of these listening devices may not intend to convey hostility, they do.
Earbud People get much less out of every subway trip — and out of life in general — than they would without their earbuds. Once we’re in public we can benefit from being open to others.
I appreciate that someone with earbuds (or headphones) is displaying a body language that states, pretty plainly, “leave me alone.” I use an iPod and sound-cancelling headphones on airplanes for that very reason; it’s rare that I have a seatmate that I care to chat with. But personally I would never begrudge removing the headphones for someone that needed directions, or help with baggage, or anything else. But just to chat? No; I have my own expectation of privacy.
What I find more bothersome is the invasion of personal space by blabbermouths with cellular phones. I carry a cellular phone myself; in fact, I have since before they became ubiquitous, back when the cell phone was the ‘badge of the consultant.’ Mine is a business phone, but it sees personal use, too. And most people, like me, use the phone for various reasons, quickly, quietly, and efficiently.
You know the people I mean, though. The blabbermouth in the grocery store who yaks about her best friend’s extramarital affair in the grocery store checkout line. The bozo who yanks out the phone the moment a plane’s wheel touches down to start discussing his latest sexual conquest with his ‘bro.’ The walrus in Wal-Mart who stands blocking an entire aisle to discuss her daughter’s unwanted pregnancy. Why these three examples? Because I’ve seen all three myself within the last month or so.
The invasion everyone else’s personal lives into our living space is far more concerning to me than earbud users. I hear now that the airlines are investigating ways and means to allow cellular phone usage on airplanes in flight, and I sincerely hope they don’t; in the air is about the only place I get away from it any more.