April 26, 2011

Small Ears

I'm not a phone guy. I don't like them. I let calls go to voice mail so I can deal with people on my own time under my own terms. Professionally I have to step up and put aside whatever phobic aversion to phones I have because it's, well, my job. But personally? Hate the phone. And it shows. In real life I am only moderately funny but I'm happy, gracious, laugh frequently and am very open. On the phone I'm a douchebag.

And I have small ears. (Stay with me here. I'm going somewhere with this.)

For a long time I've been using ubiquitous white standard-issue Apple earbuds. And honestly they suck. The sound quality isn't all that great and, since I have the earholes of a five year old, they're way too big and uncomfortable. But since I have the insatiable desire to listen to music during the day, participate in many conference calls on my phone, and my car stereo decided that it no longer feels like functioning reliably, I've relied on those crappy earbuds pretty regularly for a while. I finally broke down and bought a really nice pair of earbuds. And they are glorious. After using them for a sum total of three days, I've heard things in music I've never noticed before and my ears no longer feel attacked. I can envision myself using them constantly.

Which brings me back to the phone thing.

Society - while most of it apparently has larger ears - is with me. More and more people talk about their hatred of phones and have decided to forgo their use entirely relying instead on email. But even more people have transitioned to text messaging as their primary form of communication. And on top of that, more and more people - like me - shove things in their ears to close off the outside world in order to provide their own soundtrack to the world. In short it seems to me that we're all slowly enclosing ourselves in our own personal bubbles.

While the antisocial side of me sees a definite advantage to this way of life, the larger part of me thinks this can't be headed anywhere healthy. But at least I don't have to answer the phone and my ears don't hurt.

What do you think? Are we moving to a less-social society?

Posted by Chris at April 26, 2011 7:59 AM

Yes and no. We share more with more people, but they are frequently people we will never meet. We interact directly (as in face-to-face) with fewer people. So I don't know what that means in regards to your question...

Posted by: Elizabeth at April 26, 2011 8:05 AM


Posted by: Ann Elizabeth Adams at April 26, 2011 8:12 AM

What kind of ear buds did you find that are so awesome? I have freakishly small ears and have never been able to find ear buds that don't hurt. I rely on the big 90's style over the ear headphones.

I despise talking on the phone. Text or e-mail me. If I have to talk to you it will take forever to get back to you!

Posted by: Lisa at April 26, 2011 8:56 AM

I second the request for info on those earbuds. My ears always ache after having the Apple ones in for even a short time.

Less social society? Yes. Just go out one night and look at the interactions of a group of friends. One will pull out their smartphone and it's all over from there. . .everyone else pulls theirs out and conversation comes to a grinding halt. I find it annoying.

Posted by: shan at April 26, 2011 9:03 AM

Yes, I'm worried about it. Not because you and I couldn't have a conversation, but because I fear that three or four generations from now, our society will have changed drastically. I fear we're stripping away some of the best parts of humanity.

Posted by: Brad at April 26, 2011 9:08 AM

I have small ears, too. I hate ear buds, too. I hate talking on the phone, too. I can SO relate.

But. Chris. It worries me to hear you refer to your ear buds making up for your broken/breaking car speakers. You don't actually listen to music through your ear buds while you're driving, do you?! That TOTALLY freaks me out when I see people doing it and I'm pretty sure it's illegal but even if it's not, it should be, because don't we rely on having our ears available for sirens and such while we drive? Sorry. I really don't mean to be critical, but it seems so dangerous and scary to me! I don't understand it!

My thought on your bigger question: yes, I think we are moving to a less social society. Or, at least, less civil society. I totally agree with Elizabeth above--we have more "friends" and share way more information with the world than could possibly be healthy, but we don't interact with the people around us. For example, I am personally annoyed by the ubiquitous ear buds on commuters. I really do *get* that people like music to relax, or they like to use the time to catch up on some podcasts, or audiobooks, or what-have-you, but I am highly annoyed when people are oblivious to what's going on around them. When I'm on a crowded bus and say "Excuse me" to someone 5 times, and have to physically *touch* them to get their attention so that I can get off the bus... ew. I wish people would engage a little more with the world, I guess.

Posted by: Sabrina at April 26, 2011 9:09 AM

Personal bubble = good. Personal bubble + invisibility cloak = would be awesome.

That used to be my frame of mind but I'm way more open now to letting in the world at large (including myriad weird subway passengers) make their presence felt as I go around and about my day.

In conclusion, not a fan of the phone, but a big fan of that cool Cactus family photo.

Posted by: azita at April 26, 2011 9:29 AM

I echo the request for earbud recommendations! I can't even get the iphone buds to stay in my ears. Forget the right ear, and the left one I can only get to stay in if I loop the wire over the top of my ear and put it in upside-down. Though I'm not holding out any hope that even good ones will fit -- I've tried every size of in-the-ear buds I can find. I keep looking for ones made for kids. They're coming, I'm sure!

My husband talks on the phone much more than I do. I think we have enough rollover minutes to last until the end of time. I even text with my parents now.

Posted by: Jaime at April 26, 2011 10:22 AM

I was an early adopter of handheld music devices. I just always dreamed of being able to have my entire audio collection at my fingertips. But now that I do, I find that I have trouble deciding what I actually feel like listening to at any point in time. But that is an aside.

The point I really wanted to make was that early on I always felt so great to be experiencing something that no one else was experiencing at that time. While most were hearing the train clacking away, or the sound of the crazy guy chanting, I was listening to an awesome David Gilmour solo. But now that everyone seems to be wearing headphones, it does make me wonder if we are becoming more isolated and socially awkward when we do have to converse with strangers.

One thing I do know is that I feel so exposed when I am riding the subway without headphones. I think my experiences on public transit are way more on the negative side of the spectrum than the positive. So my headphones have become a bit of a security blanket for me.

Posted by: Mike at April 26, 2011 12:49 PM

Which earbuds did you get? My iCrap earbuds just fell apart on my morning walk.

Posted by: James Proffitt at April 26, 2011 1:48 PM

I am known for not answering the phone. I will however, call back as soon as it its convenient.
I think that the widespread use of phones as a primary communication tool is the reason why we are a less- social society. I have an aversion to phones because it allows people to be crappy to each other without the benefit of face to face contact. Rudeness without the uncomfortable side effect of having to see the person. Also, god bless the caller ID. It allows me to actively ignore the telemarketers. They are the bane of my existence.

Posted by: greenie at April 26, 2011 1:57 PM

I hate, hate, hate talking on the phone. If we are becoming a more anti-social society, I think that might be ok with me.

And I'd also like to know what earbuds you got!

Posted by: akofaolain at April 26, 2011 4:47 PM

I don't really know. I do think it's natural for humans to want to control their experience of the world. Lately we've been inventing many fancy new gadgets to do that.

But yes, maybe we're going a bit overboard. Too little is left to risk, to chance, to surprise. If you're wearing earbuds, you don't have to deal with the panhandling homeless guy, but you also miss the "sounds of the street," as Murray calls them, and random funny bits of overheard conversation, and all that.

Posted by: Laura Gato at April 26, 2011 6:22 PM

You said 'earholes'... LOL I use that term, too!

I fear that we ARE heading towards a less social society. People already don't know how to properly interact with others... and it's only going to get worse.

While it's true that I prefer a text message or email over an actual phone call in most cases, I also make sure I participate in society... but then again, I know HOW to do so. So many people have NO idea how to function within society -- they're stuck in their own little bubbles. I guess it's all about balance and moderation.

Posted by: ironic1 at April 26, 2011 6:45 PM

No, I don't think we are becoming a less social society. I think we are becoming a more global society...it is just harder to speak with people face-to-face since no everyone is right next door. If you think about it, how many people do you keep in touch with via your blog and social networking sites that you wouldn't be in touch with if we didn't have this technology? I still talk to people face-to-face and on the phone...and I don't think I'd do it more without the Internet, I do think we would have a more limited social circle to work with.(I do understand that I am in the minority with this opinion).

Posted by: Krush at April 26, 2011 10:05 PM

I think the definition of "social" just keeps changing! I'm funny about the phone...I have to be in the right mood! I definitely can't pull off the three hour yak-fests of my teenagehood though ;-)

Posted by: Heather at April 26, 2011 10:48 PM

We aren't just moving to a less-social society, it's already happened in some parts.

Since I work in retail, I have seen this first hand - and in spades. I will try to engage some of my customers by asking them what's up and (GASP!) being friendly, and the looks I get in response are frightening - you'd have thought I just killed their dog or something. They don't know how to react to someone being nice to them.

Don't even get me started on the cell phone, because that's another chapter of rudeness.

Posted by: Matt Sledge at April 27, 2011 4:32 AM

We living in the post-mega security age; if that stranger isn't trying to blow you up, give you anthrax, kidnap you, scam you, cut you up and eat you ala CSI, then what exactly are they up to anyway? So I think that there is this sort of underlying tension around large groups of strangers that can be cut pretty well with a personal soundtrack and cultured distraction.

That being said, I think that this is a regional thing; as my dear grandmother used to tell me, Yankees are just plain rude. She raised me to be a Southern gentleman living in the North, and I have found that common ( un? ) courtesy goes a very long way. Also, there are times when someone doesn't want a smile and a kind word, they just want form R7B in triplicate, and get out of my face.

I think ultimately the tech is coming very soon that will allow "texting" by thinking, with an interface beamed directly onto your retina. At that point the only way to tell the uber-wired from the zombies will be by the smell and the utter lack of interest in your brains.

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