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Ipods are Woobies

My three year old boy walks around with his blanket, which is actually an old sleeping bag. We've recently started leaving it at home when we go out. That was a big step, believe me.

This is not our first brush with security blankets. When my first daughter adopted a blanket as her constant companion I was surprised. Now, she was an independent and smart little blond girl- who just happened to be attached to the blue and yellow blanket.

I didn't understand it so I did what I always do. I read about it. The books and articles written by people with letters after their names call them woobies, security blankets, whatever. They say the world is a scary place and children need to create their own little universe for their own safety. And soon, their own world and the "real" world integrate and they don't need the woobie.

So these things have been on my mind. And recently my children and I were out and about at the mall -mostly because they have pretzels and a Merry-Go-Round which is all it takes to make five children happy. And as I'm looking around I see men and women with Ipods hooked up to their ears walking everywhere. And it hits me. Ipods are woobies.

They enshroud the listener in their own little universe, untouchable. They might as well have just dispatched their bodies to go to the mall while their minds went elsewhere.

When I was younger I worked as a low-level editor at TV Guide, which was essentially a liberal arts major graveyard. But one oddity there is that they allowed everyone to work while wearing headphones. So everyone wore headphones and did their job to their own chosen soundtrack. It was actually kind of nice. I remember writing a synopsis of some PBS show while listening to Enya and it stopped people from beginning those inane chit-chat conversations which always made me so uncomfortable.

But our manager got tired of having to scream all the time and wave frantically to get her underling's attention and she outlawed headphones. And guess what happened: work quality went up and the place became a pretty interesting place. It turned out that nobody had actually been talking to one another. But soon without their headphones everyone started planning ski trips together and other groups like a Monty Python fan club started up. ( I walked in once by mistake and had fifteen Python geeks (all male) throwing quotes at me with cockney accents. I backed out slowly.) Some brave soul even tried to unionize. (They were threatened with firing and immediately stopped but always grumbled under his breath about "The Man.") I found that chit-chat wasn't outlawed by the Geneva Convention and could actually lead to more in depth conversations. In short, it became a more interesting place to work. There was actually human interaction. And let's face it -liberal arts majors love to theorize and talk. That's our thing.

And I think that's what Ipods are preventing. They're essentially cocoons for the modern day mind. Cocoons are cute and maybe even necessary for three year olds. But I fear we're becoming a society of individuals walking around in body but untouched by anyone else.

Yes. The world is a dangerous and scary place. But take off the headphones. Start talking to people. Theorize. Unionize. Quote movies in a cockney accent. But for goodness sakes, lose the woobie. Take off the headphones. And live.

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Anonymous said...

I have one (given to me as a gift), but I never get to listen to it. I plug it into an iHome for the little kids to listen to at bedtime. That being said, I often look like an waving, yelling idiot trying to get the attention of my older 2 boys while they are listening to theirs. Actually, iPods don't bother me as much as cell phones. I have had more people be rude to me talking on their phone than listening to their iPods. You can't imagine some of the conversations that I've heard working part-time, evenings in a local diner. People think that they are in a cone of silence, or something.

We certainly have lost the art of communication in this "advanced" culture of ours.


Tina D said...

I think you're on to something here, Matthew. Last week at the park I saw a boy of maybe 7 or 8 swinging on the monkey bars and sliding down the slides all while wearing his Ipod. Here was his chance to play with friends and enjoy some time outside, but apparently he had to have his Ipod. I guess it wouldn't be cool to run around the playground with a blankie.

John said...

I am a great offender with the Ipod. On the train I sometimes leave the earpiece in my ear even when it's not on just so people will not talk to me. Pretty bad, huh?

David L Alexander said...

I have a portable XM satellite radio receiver. The built-in battery doesn't hold a charge for more than a few hours, so I basically use it for listening while riding the bus to and from work. It's easier than trying to read on a crowded bus. When I can have a conversation with someone, I'll choose that over the headphones. But my experience with social interaction on this particular bus line... well, some days are better than others.

matthew archbold said...

David L.,I'd like to hear the side of the other people on the bus line before I start blaming anyone.

David L Alexander said...

"I'd like to hear the side of the other people on the bus line..."

Name the time and place. It's not as if I was blaming anyone.

matthew archbold said...

David L,
Just kidding around.

David L Alexander said...

Er, uh... me, too. Yeah, for real.

Marcel said...

I wholeheartedly agree. Just go to your local college campus and watch students come out of class. They either put their buds in their ears or their cellphones. No body talks to each other and they walk around trying not to make eye contact. Completely different from 15 years ago.

Big Tex said...

Bring out your dead!

Renee said...

Wow, I think you are on to something. My youngest had a blankie and she used to rub the corners with her fingers and hum. While reading this I realized that I do the same thing with my Ipod. How's that for creepy!

matthew archbold said...

You win the creepy award for the day. Congratulations.

Lori said...

I think the cell phone texting is the worse culprit...I constantly see groups of 3, 4 or more teens hanging out together, but they all have their cell phones out and are either texting OTHER people, or even more weirdly..EACH OTHER! While they're sitting next to each other. Instead of simply turning and speaking to each other. Drives me nuts.

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