Constantly plugged in

I have become increasingly bewildered in recent times by people’s requirement to be ‘plugged into’ something at all times.

It seems that whether shopping, walking in the park or even out cycling, it’s impossible unless earphones are in and the entire head is resonating to the sound of some music or other.


And I make this observation as something of a music nut

Or even music nerd!

I challenge anybody to be into music as much as I am.

I have literally thousands of LPs, tapes (yes I am of an age that was familiar with these formats), and CDs. I have two iPods full to capacity with material and my library of music books is almost as extensive as my audio collection. And then there are all the concerts…

My tastes thoroughly cover everything from ancient church music to classical, jazz, blues, folk, soul, electronica, heavy metal, psychedelic, avant garde and most points in between (there are gaps – rap being one). My iPod houses Abba next to AC/DC and Motorhead next to Mozart.

The right time and right place

I say this only to outline my absolute interest in and enthusiasm for music in most of its forms. And yet the last thing I do when I go about my day to day activities indoors and outside is enter the sensory confining world of my iPod earphones.

I do appreciate they can be a godsend on some train and bus journeys, and lying in a park under the summer sun listening to something that makes your soul shine is a glorious feeling.

Supermarket shopping, walking through town, sitting in a library, eating a meal… These are not headphone times for me.

The new social norm

I’ve seen youngsters watching a film whilst listening to music. And I was once party to a job interview when a hopeful turned up with his oversized headphones draped around his neck and sat down for the interview without any notion that this might not look right.

And no, he did not get the job.

The insidious nature of this turning on, tuning in and dropping out process has now seemingly impacted on working out and gym activity.

Music and fitness

Industry magazine Health Club Management has reported that as many as 1 in 10 gym goers is likely to abandon their workout if they have forgotten their headphones.

Seriously? I was under the impression this was a workout experience first, not an exercise in aural rhythm and melody.

Not surprisingly this has now been seen as an opportunity for gyms to earn more revenue by meeting needs of members – selling and renting earphones. All good sound business sense of course.

But it only underlines my incredulity at this utter reliance of living in the echo chamber of your own selected musical sounds.

Waking up and tuning in

Music lifts, drives and inspires – absolutely no questions about that. But being open, aware, tuned into your environment, available to pick up infinite noises, voices ambient sounds all serves to fire the senses and feed the mind.

The neural highways are fizzing along and we’re open, absorbing and calculating a thousand times a minute.

And being aware makes us far more likely to be mindful and polite.

listen to music_2A baseline definition of politeness is ‘being aware of those in your immediate vicinity’.

Based on that you can see how the person wired to their iPod and probably staring at their phone, is less likely to know or care about anyone in their immediate vicinity.

Situation awareness

This is a recognised term and has been defined as:

Being aware of what is happening in the vicinity in order to understand how situations, events and ones own actions impact on you and the surrounds. Lacking or inadequate situation awareness has been identified as one of the primary factors in accidents attributed to human error.

And according to a government guideline, ‘Our situational awareness is only as accurate as our own perception or reading of a situation. How we read a situation can be influenced by many things such as information we are given or distractions..’

Many people operate on auto-pilot these days as it is

Travelling the same way to work every day, perhaps doing repetitive tasks when they get to their workplace, and maybe even their training is an unchanging repetitive process in the same place.

This too is given to dulling the senses.

In the longer term this can develop into a lack of social skills, a lack of empathy and consideration for others, and an increasingly selfish, inward looking approach to life.

And as for the magical Sixth Sense that done of us can really define, most of us are aware of and have relied on and benefited from at key times… If some of the the five primary senses are being hampered, what chance the ‘magical’ six sense?

Please promise me that the next time you happen to find yourself at the gym without your headphones, please just remember why you are there and get on with it! 

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