The plane landed, pulled to the gate and that unmistakable bell sounded. Immediately, the sound of metal against metal and the ruffling of people and clothes followed. Everyone unbuckled their seatbelts and moved into the isles. I had the middle seat. I waited.
The passenger to my left got up and began to get her bag from the overhead compartment. I had stashed my jacket there and wanted to let her know to feel free to move it if need be. I looked up and began talking. I got a look in return that read something like, “What are you looking at?” I tried to explain, she began to pull here bag out, my jacket was a mute point. I stopped talking. Just then I noticed them. Hidden under the hood of her hoodie was a pair of large over-the-ear (assumably noise-canceling) headphones. She hadn’t heard a word I had said.
Then I got to thinking about how much of the technology we use separates us from our current surroundings.
The personal mobile device allows us to change who we relate to, what we see, and what we hear wherever we are. I don’t need to talk to the stranger next to me, when I can talk to my best friend who is 100 miles away. I don’t need to look around when what’s on my device is more interesting. And I don’t need to listen to what’s around me when I can curate my own personal soundtrack.
The airport I’m sitting in as I write this is silent – but for the conversations happening within earshot, a few announcements over the PA, and low hum of the escalators and ventilation system. No music is playing.
(I’m also writing this on my phone, looking up every few minutes in an attempt to pay attention to my surroundings.)
The personal music experience (that started with the Walkman, thanks Sony), is a wonder. Who wouldn’t want to be surrounded by their favorite tunes all the time? But the listening of music to the exclusion all else?
I get it. We want to be in our own world. A world that’s better than the one we’re currently in. I’m guilty of wanting that escape, too. But the world we’re in will never change if we all live on our own islands. Digital or otherwise.