Should iPods come with headphone etiquette information?

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Posted Thursday, August 30, 2007 - 12:00am

The iPod is a beautiful invention- it allows us to hold thousands of songs, pictures and movies (depending on what kind of iPod you have) on a little, convenient device. But is it possible that the convenience of the technology can get to be a bit of a problem? Lately there seems to be a lot of talk about cell phone etiquette, and I'd like to present a new subject, headphone etiquette.

Because the iPod is so common nowadays, I put a lot of blame on that device, but I'd really like to write about headphones in general. Headphones allow us to listen to music without bothering others, but there are few things more annoying than someone who cannot take them out of their ears for a decent conversation. If you are constantly walking around with one headphone in your ear, even when you're talking to someone, maybe you should do a little thinking. Maybe even experience the world around you, see something you might not have noticed before.

There's a book that talks about the effects of constant use of technology. In this book, a man's wife walks around with little electronic devices, called Seashells, described as "thimble radios tamped tight, and an electronic ocean of sound, of music and talk and music and talk coming in ... ." The seashells become almost an addiction for her - she even learns to lip-read so she doesn't have to take them out when people talk to her.

The book, Fahrenheit 451, was written in 1950, and is about an emotionally and intellectually dead society. The society, in case you haven't read the book, becomes so reliant on technology that they have completely lost the ability to think, act and live for themselves.

What's wrong with technology? Inherently, nothing. But technology is meant to make life easier, it was not meant to take the negatives and hardships out of life - to make life labor and boredom free, because through hardships come achievement and greatness.

When we rely on machines to fill our loneliness, our empty spaces, our blank thoughts with sound and distraction, we are trying to live constantly on the fruit of life, the labor of expansion, exploration, contemplation, and progress, without actually having to really live. As a result, we are constantly getting and getting without really living, and we are filled with emptiness.

I'm not saying put away your iPod or television or any of that for good - I know I wouldn't have enjoyed my 45-minute walk to the bank yesterday in the 90-degree heat if it wasn't for my pink Nano - but maybe you should try taking it out more often.

If you don't listen to it that often, then think about your television or your computer. Try sitting and just thinking some time.

Boredom is okay, maybe in the midst of being bored you can have a great thought or discover something new about yourself. Silence is beautiful, learn to appreciate it. As Thomas Morton said, "Silence is the strength of our interior life ... If we fill our lives with silence, then we will live with hope."

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