Turn Off the Music and Face It
"Hey, Bob!" I say happily. No response. "Bob?" I repeat, a little louder, but he still doesn't so much as glance in my direction. When I catch up with him across the quad and I see his little white earbuds, I know why. Bob couldn't hear me because he was listening to music.
I have noticed that as audio technology becomes more advanced, people are becoming less social. CD players evolved into iPods, which fit into pockets and can be taken anywhere easily and conveniently. As a result, the number of people listening to iPods in public spaces such as the bus or the sidewalk has increased, and the opportunity to strike up a casual conversation has decreased.
What is more, when headphones turned into earbuds and became less recognizable from a distance, the opportunity for embarrassment increased significantly. I have witnessed and partaken in many instances in which a person attempted to talk to someone he or she did not realize was wearing earbuds and was ignored and publicly humiliated.
Technology's alienating effects are evident on the Hill, as students slip on their headphones and crank up the volume on their iPods the second class is over, if only to entertain themselves during their short trek from Lovejoy to Dana. In doing this, they become almost entirely unapproachable and eliminate any potential for post-class discussion. "Dude, I just bombed that quiz...I can't believe we have to write that paper for next class..." This is quality bonding time that is often wasted because a student cannot last a moment longer without listening to Lady Gaga.
The post-class headphone routine is also extremely unfortunate if a headphone-free student and a headphone-wearing student happen to be walking in the same direction. "You're walking to Foss? Oh, me too," the headphone-free student often finds himself thinking. "I'll just walk a couple steps behind you awkwardly...and we won't talk."
So, why do students feel the need to listen to music as they walk across campus? Are they hiding behind headphones out of shyness and fear of social interaction? Are they misanthropes who cannot stand listening to the inane discussion that takes place in between classes and wish to avoid small talk with people they could care less about? If either of these are the case, then students would do well to take their headphones off and practice having a pleasant conversation with a classmate, if not because they want to make friends then because this is a skill that will come in handy in the real world.
Perhaps the real reason that people listen to music en route is because they just love music. But how can someone enjoy a song while having to navigate crowds and open doors? The music will always be there. The cute boy or girl in your biology section who has been hanging back after class hoping to talk to you will not.