Walk down the street and you’re sure to see them, yes those iconic “mug me white” wires winding their way out of one’s jacket or shirt pocket creeping up wearer’s neck to enter their ears. Here you will find them terminating into two small plastic “buds” which are planted so deep in the wearer’s ear canals as to allow for them to block out the surrounding world. Pass them on the street, and you will notice these same “white wires” also provide their symbiotic host with super social powers.
Here they have purchased the rights to pass you by without acknowledgment, avoiding your gaze as they are creating a world solely of their own. Here they have moved from a “social being” to a monogamous soul existing within themselves, and for themselves. In a way this has become a version of a new self induced affliction of “audio autism“.
Where the ear crack of the “iDevice” has taken over our social existence moving us from a condition of audio interconnection where the common sounds of our environment joined us together. As once upon a time a sound would join us together by bring about a common response among those who shared it. It created a united connection within strangers who may have enjoyed the sounds of a street minstrel performing within the acoustic shelter of a subway entrance or the high pitch whine of an ambulance siren as it races down the roadway with the tone shifting ever so distinctly as the sound faded into the distance.
In fairness the iPod isn’t the first device to bring with it the thrill of “personal isolation”, as before we had the Walkman with its iconic cassette and over ear mini headphones. However we have now traded the ability to carry with us a mere 90 minutes of audio solitude, to that of weeks or even months before the chance or should one say inconvenience of having to listen to a song for a second time. Ironically we can go back even further to the automobile where instead of muffling our auditory receptors with earphones, we would wrap ourselves into a ton of fine tuned metal and glass while turning up the radio to close ourselves out to the rest of the world.
In the later example we’ve taken ourselves out of the social setting by also removing ourselves from the commuting populous, as instead of walking on the street, riding the bus or maybe even the subway where we needed to interact with our fellow man, to one of self imposed isolationism. While we scream for social connection, our own actions show us separating further and further apart as let us take for example social club memberships, as in the day it was the main stay of life in suburbia. As being a part of a social fraternity was common place, be it the Eagles, Rotary, or Moose’s. However starting in the 90’s there grew a steady decrease in the membership base of the past which had grown downward with time.
Since we are social beings why do we strive so for such isolationism, yet yearn for more social connection? Taking this a step further, these connections which we seek now all seem to be looking for are second handed in nature as we covet our physical separation, and privacy from others. However, yet in a strange way we are ok in exposing our inter-most self to the world and allowing it to be recorded for history on a Facebook wall. We human animals are truly strange semi-social beings as we struggle with our individualism, yet seek greater social connections all the while tuning out the world at our own choosing…