Friday, February 25, 2005

iPod iSolation

Andrew Sullivan has an opinion piece in the Times Online about the large number of people that are walking around enveloped in the soothing musical swaddling provided by an iPod. He links this to the increasing personalization of content: only reading a set of websites that agrees with your viewpoints, listening to satellite radio stations that play exactly the kind of music you want etc, and makes the argument that this is leading to people becoming more and more isolated. His main point with respect to the iPod is that by cocooning yourself in your own soundtrack, you miss out on things that you don't explicitly seek out, like overhearing funny conversations, kids laughing and miscellaneous other Hallmark card-worthy images, and that that's bad.

I agree with him that you miss out on some good stuff. However, on balance, I think that the good stuff is so infrequent that the bad stuff you're subjected to [if you're not listening to music] easily negates it. Based on the last few months, the chances of me having to listen to a bunch of teenagers who seem to be on a pure sugar-and-fat diet, loudly chanting "F!ck you, b!tch" [or something of that sort] while listening to their latest gangsta rap CD and doing pullups on the metal handholds on the train are much, much higher than hearing a funny/interesting conversation. [And, for the record, I'm actually not making up that last scenario -- it's what caused me to write my post about stereotypes].

All that said, I don't actually listen to an iPod other than while working out. The hassle of dealing with the headphone wires, finding space for the iPod in my pocket with all the other stuff that's already in it etc, while dressed in full winter gear and lugging a heavy bag, just isn't quite worth it to me. So it's not like I'm trying to justify why I listen to an iPod, it's more that I think Sullivan is living in la-la land a bit.

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