Communicating in Silence: What Your Portable Media Player Says About You

3 Nov

The Value of Portable Media Players

“Sorry, what did you say? I couldn’t hear you.”

How many times have you heard this phrase from a friend when they had their ear buds in? How do you feel when someone can’t hear you? Frustrated? Probably.

We often define ourselves through our choice in music, whether it is classical, alternative, jazz, indie, or hip-hop. However, simply when and how you use your portable media players can leave a lasting – and not always positive – impression on those around you.

Portable media players have become an integral part of our lives, but sometimes they subtract more value than they add. While they allow us to listen to the music of our choice on the go, these devices also limit human interaction and communication. We tune out of our surroundings to hear our favorite songs, hindering our ability to meet new people and make meaningful connections with those we already know.

We also put ourselves at risk by not being fully alert of our surroundings. When we tune into our music, we become oblivious to the world around us. Consider a boss trying to tell an employee about an important client meeting. The employee may fail to hear the meeting time or date and miss an important deadline. Alertness prevents harmful consequences, such as missing deadlines, in a workplace setting where people constantly exchange information. Portable media players have diminished our awareness and ability to receive external information.

What Do Your Habits Say About You?

People often unknowingly give the wrong impression of themselves through their use of headphones. Other times, the impression is purely intentional; people routinely crank up their music to avoid conversing with those around them.

What do your habits say about you? Here are some tips for how to use your portable media player in a positive way:

  • Turn down the volume so others can’t hear your music. Loud music in a public setting is extremely distracting, and you should respect those around you.
  • Take both ear buds out when someone is talking to you. Not only is it the only appropriate thing to do, but it also shows that you are giving him or her your fullest attention.
  • Set aside your portable media player while sitting in public settings such as the airport or a local coffee shop. Get to know the people around you. They may make a difference in your life.
  • Turn off and put away your portable media player before walking into a classroom, office, job interview, or anywhere important. Failing to do so makes you seem uninterested and unprepared for the event. By leaving headphones in, you indirectly convey that the music is more interesting than the situation at hand.

So next time, turn off that iPod and tune in to those around you. You might learn a few surprising things.

by Angela Chen


One Response to “Communicating in Silence: What Your Portable Media Player Says About You”

  1. Katie Bush November 9, 2011 at 1:27 am #


    I thought this was very pertinent and well written! I know many students like listening to music while studying or walking around campus, but I liked your point about putting aside music when in public so you can get to know the people around you. Many people in older generations comment on how “tuned in” our generation seems, and it does make me wonder how many interactions we miss out on because we are texting or listening to music. Also, your suggestion of taking both headphones off when talking to someone was helpful. Thanks!


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