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Three Books Every Post-Secondary Student Needs To Read

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Instances of this so called “distancing” can be seen simply by paying more attention to your fellow students in the hallways as they shuffle by you on their ways to class. Next time you’re walking to class, or are outside walking to the train station, just try and count how many people you see listening to their iPods. How many of them do you think are in another world? How many of them do you think would find it difficult, if not nearly impossible, to make that same journey without their music?

When I asked Mathew Janele, a criminology student at Simon Fraser University, if he ever finds himself listening to music in the hallways or other places on campus, he answered: “Not really. I would much rather be more approachable and socially connected. The problem with headphones is that they take you out of the world. Walking to class with headphones personally makes me feel disconnected from the world around me.”

Perhaps, however, not everyone is unconsciously seeking some kind of escapist occupation to enliven the tedious humdrum of life’s everyday mundane routines. The act of unthinkingly plugging in your headsets, and allowing your brain to be inundated by endless streams of sound waves from your MP3 player, whether that be on the bus to school, in the lecture hall or at the gym, can be also be thought of as a means of creating a certain sense of continuity amidst the rituals of everyday life. People crave continuity, or at least like to be comforted by that feeling of continuity – whether it’s real or not – and perhaps MP3 players, and their continuous supply of our favourite tunes, can forever provide that sensation.


Plugging In From An Outsider’s Perspective

When I asked Mathew about his thoughts regarding the “plugged in, tuned out” aspect of our MP3 culture, and its subsequent implications on our interactions with our social environments, he said that he believes that “constantly being plugged in has a massive effect on peoples social skills. If I spot someone with headphones, my first impression is that they are not interested in anyone talking to them or approaching them. I think it has to do with the fact that the majority of people are shy, and having headphones allows them some form of comfort in social situations. They don’t have to talk to anyone, and no one will talk to them.”

Many of us are plugged in — there’s no point to deny it. And while it is likely true that while music for most of us can be very a personal, inspiring, and of course exceedingly pleasurable experience, it can also be a veritable source of distraction, which can cause us to become distanced from our external social surroundings. For some of us, this distancing may be a favourable outcome, but for a lot of us this is an inadvertent result of the constant melodious drumming and singing always being fed into our ears.

A classical example of this would be that guy on the bus at 8 in the morning, listening to his MP3 player at an extremely loud volume, subjecting everyone else to the cringing cacophony of his favourite music play list, all the while completely unaware that everyone in his near vicinity (everyone else on the bus) not only can hear exactly what he is listening to, but knows that the 104 decibels being blasted into his hears is most likely causing some damage. It would be a fair assumption to make that this guy is not just distanced, but quite removed from his social environment, with his MP3 player as the sole agent of this alienation. Sure, some people listen to outrageously loud music in public places, knowing full well everyone else around them is being annoyed by their lack of concern, but for the most part people are probably unaware that the volume on their portable music players is excessively obnoxious – which would most likely be a source of embarrassment for them if they actually knew.

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