iPod etiquette: when to talk, when to shut up, and how to learn to live with the iPod culture

“It seems iPod people have taken over the world. They’re in the airport, waiting for the bus, studying in coffeehouses, working out in the gym, even laboring beside you in the office. With the help of little MP3 players, these people create their own mini universes, shuffling along listening to whatever they want, wherever they feel in the mood,’ Kimberly Hayes Taylor writes for The Detroit News. “iPod users, who also call themselves ‘iPeople,’ say they can’t get enough of the music downloaded from computer hard drives, the Internet and CD collections.”

“To do that, they’ve snapped up more than 10 million iPods since the cute gadgets were introduced Nov. 21, 2001 — 8.2 million of them last year alone. While these creatures remain in their own worlds, obviously ignoring the rest of us, unbeknownst to them, their behavior is being studied. Cultural anthropologists and techno experts wonder what the impact of their actions will be. At this point, experts are still grappling for answers,” Taylor writes. “Do iPeople just want to be alone? Should we talk to them? Will they change society as we know it?”

Taylor writes, “Alex Halavais, a professor at State University of New York at Buffalo, thought he knew the answers until a few days ago when a conversation with a student left him shocked and confused. ‘She was talking to me, her professor, and she kept her earplugs in the entire time!’ exclaims the assistant professor of informatics. ‘She seemed to be listening. She nodded in all the appropriate times. But I couldn’t believe that she wouldn’t remove the plugs.’ Now, Halavais says he’s bracing himself for the moment a student dares to sit in his class with earplugs in.”

His examination of this new breed has provided some revelations:
• It’s fine to interrupt a co-worker who’s wearing ear buds. That was established decades ago when Walkmans were popular.
• You shouldn’t be offended if iPeople listen to their music instead of you because it’s not about you. “They don’t think of this as ‘I’m listening to music,’ ” Halavais says. “They think of it as ‘I’m listening to my own soundtrack.’ “
• People with plugs in will speak to you if you greet them first.
• If the iPeople and their constant need for ear buds rub you the wrong way, you should hurry up and get over it. You may as well, Halavais says, they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Taylor writes, “Think of it this way, he says: Remember a few years ago when someone’s cell phone rang at work or in a restaurant and everyone turned around, stared and instantly hated the phone’s owner? Now, that doesn’t bother you at all, does it? ‘It’s a new technology,’ Halavais says. ‘Just like ringing cell phones, you’ll get used to it.’ And there’s much to love about iPods, their owners say… Are iPod people sort of weird? ‘Yes,’ Halavais says. ‘The iPod people are also serious Macintosh people. That’s already a cult. They were weird already. Once they built them in a little white case they could carry around and wear like jewelry, people say, ‘I have to have them.’ That’s the social part of them. They are in the network.'”

Full article here.


  1. “The iPod people are also serious Macintosh people.”

    Is he serious? Has he lost touch with the real world? I would suspect that a large proportion of these people are from over on the dark side

  2. Taylor writes, “Think of it this way, he says: Remember a few years ago when someone’s cell phone rang at work or in a restaurant and everyone turned around, stared and instantly hated the phone’s owner? Now, that doesn’t bother you at all, does it?

    I still hate it! ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”mad” style=”border:0;” />

  3. I’ve been lost in my own soundtrack since Apple first introduce the iPod. But its a two way street, while its easy to say to the rest of the world get use to it, there are some things us iPod users can do to ease folks along. Some may not go as far as me, because I have a job that’s dependent on making people feel they are important. So the first thing I did was

    1) replace the Apple white earbuds. They stand-out, too much. I replaced with a nice hard to see over the ear earphone in a basic black that blends in with everything except my white shirts

    2) Removed white shirts from my normal dress palette

    3) Wear cording under clothes, so the earplug comes up under my shirt and out into my ears.

    4) Wear ONLY one earphone. This is important to make you more responsive to what’s going on around you

    5) Learn how to control the iPod from within your pocket, this is super important for those long, drawn out meeting, that are a waste of time, except that something always gets added to your work load

    6) Keep the iPod volume at a reasonable level, so that someone standing within 1ft of you can’t hear the music. This also helps with number 7

    7) Don’t shout when speaking to others, while your music is playing. This may take some adjustment to get your vocal volume correct, but remember just because you can’t hear you doesn’t mean others can’t

    8) Last but not least, don’t dance or bop your head, while someone’s spilling out some tragedy to you. This is especially important if you listen to comedy albums like I do on occasion. Its inappropriate to laugh and or smile when your best friend, or family member is discussing their most recent break-up, dead cat, fish, or plant. But lets admit its always tempting to have music on in one ear, when you listen to yet another sobbing break-up story, and wonder why anyone would give your friend a fish or plant as a gift (haven’t they been too their house).

    So there you go, 8 steps to creating your own iPod universe while still pretending to exist in the daily drudgery of life. Obviously the less important it is for you to actually care if other people know your listening to music while speaking to them, the less important some steps will be. I’ve managed to go for the last few years with only one or two people ever noticing the earphone in during a meeting or conversation.

  4. I was at the grocery store tonight, and the checkout girl kept on asking me the same questions over and over again, even though I heard and answered her appropriately each time. I was trying listening to Ozzmotti, but she kept on interrupting me. How rude!

  5. Weird? I’m NOT FRIGGING WEIRD!!!

    It’s the the rest of the world that’s a slave to M$ Stockholm Syndrome!

    Bill Gates is the unstable one, his doodle says so. The nut doctors say so.

    It’s the whole abortion of corporate america and the total mind fsck they got people under.

    I’m a Mac user, I’m FREE!!!

    Now excuse me while I run naked down the road in the rain.


  6. Beryllium: I couldn’t agree with you more – this is the only failing point of the whole piece!

    allgood2: Very good strategy!

    As a freelancer, I spend a lot of time commuting to and from work every day, on loud trains and subways. Apple’s headphones weren’t load enough over the ambient noise (and I didn’t want to go deaf cranking the volume up), so I researched and bought a pair of Etymotic noise blocking headphones (ER-6’s) and then picked up their iPod versions, the ER-6i’s. Far superior and less cumbersome than noise canceling headphones (although an interesting technology to be certain), my music really has become the soundtrack to my day. Now that background noise is not a problem, I have to be more careful crossing the street, and making sure I am not being inadvertently rude to somebody trying to talk to me (for all intensive purposes, I am walking around almost deaf!). If I think I hear an announcement, or that maybe I should be paying more attention to what is going on around me, I can pull one of the headphones partially out of my ear to let enough of the sound in to know what’s going on.

    I am working in London these days, and it seems that after the New Year, about twice as many people are walking around with iPods than before – the amount of iPeople keeps growing and growing!

    I was an early adaptor – 39 months of being an iPerson, and 4 iPods later (upgrading only – no problems!), I still love it! It radically changed the way I access and listen to music, and I haven’t looked back…

  7. I like the white cables of my headphones. Why would anyone replace them with ordinary black ones? That is like arranging all your OS X desktop icons to the left side of the screen. If other people do not like icons on the right side or white cables then that is too bad.

  8. izod- I almost got the ER-6i’s, except I was afraid of canceling out too much ambient sound. Of course only keeping one ear plugged in would help, but I thought if I was going to do that, why spend all that money on the ER-6i’s.

    Sol- Why would anyone replace the white earbuds, because they STAND OUT. That’s great when you want them to stand out, when you want to be a target in risky neighborhoods, or when your telling your clients f*ck you, I’m not really listening. But when you don’t want or need to be notice, choosing a headphone that practically disappears from sight is a good idea.

  9. Remember a few years ago when someone’s cell phone rang at work or in a restaurant and everyone turned around, stared and instantly hated the phone’s owner? Now, that doesn’t bother you at all, does it?

    Nope, still irks the hell out of me.

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