Friday, October 14, 2011

The Sociology of Earbuds

Earbuds (and the iPods/mp3 players attached to them) have changed the world. I admit, I’m guilty myself. While walking my dog or commuting on the bus, I get bored. I’m not much for music in my ear. (I prefer to listen to music in the air, not through earbuds.) But I love podcasts.  For me it’s mostly recordings from AncientFaith Radio and occasionally Mushing Magazine.  (Yeah, I’m a bit odd.)

Here we are, crammed in a bus, but no one communicates. I sit next to someone, so close that we have to tense up to keep from touching, but yet neither one acknowledges the other; we both are in the world of our recordings.  It’s just not right.

So sometimes I rebel. I’ve made friends with the morning bus driver. We’re usually the only ones talking on the bus. I’m not sure what the others think of our chattering.  But the driver tells me she looks forward to picking me up each day.

But I still plug in on my evening commute. A couple of days ago I sat down and plugged in as usual. A young woman sat close to me. I smiled at her. I recognized her from somewhere.  But I was already plugged in, so I didn’t say anything.  Then the bus stopped and waited while a young girl gathered her musical instrument and backpack and got off the bus. We watched her, our eyes showing our concern for the young girl riding the bus alone.

When she had gotten off, I paused my podcast, looked at the young woman and said, “She seems kind of young to riding the bus by herself.”

That comment started a conversation.  I asked the young woman where I knew her from, and she said it was just from the bus. (I still think I know her from somewhere else, perhaps the Table, where I eat lunch frequently, but she could be right.) We exchanged names, I asked her what she was studying, she asked about my job, where I lived, what I was listening to. I made a new friend on the bus, and I look forward to seeing her again. 

What a concept: Making a new friend on the bus. It used to happen all the time; but now it’s an oddity.  And it makes me concerned for the future of our society.
Maybe I’ll unplug more often.


  1. Fantastic post! I enjoyed that Marcia.

    Ahhh, the good ol' days, huh?

  2. Yeah, I often get nostalgic for the way things used to be.

  3. Lincoln is an "in-between" city. I've lived there (half my life), but also in big cities like Boston. Now I live in a small town where strangers frequently chat, but could you imagine how busy you would be if you were expected to greet every one you encountered in NYC? In New York, it's sometimes considered rude or at least strange for some one to talk to you, but in small town America, it would seem rude if you did NOT! (Merrill)

  4. Those are good points. I think Lincoln is in between. You can chat with strangers or ignore them. It's your choice. Since I ride on a campus bus, it's a bit different social atmosphere as well. Maybe I should write a post about the sociology of cities and towns.

  5. Amazing, I thought I was the only one who disliked music right in my ear? It makes it too loud for me, usually.

  6. Yeah, sometimes it's too loud and bothersome but there's more to it than that. Sometimes I like to sing along, but that doesn't work with headphones. Also, I just prefer music to be in the air. I can't really explain it; that's just the way music should be listened to, in my opinion.

  7. music in my ears helps me to improve my mood!

  8. That's good. I know a lot of people like it. I think most of the people who wear earbuds are listening to music. But if you see me with earbuds, I'm probably listening to a podcast.