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This article on the ‘i-Pod generation’ appeared in The Times Online, on February 20, 2005. It talks about how technology has completely changed society. People have become isolated from one another, living only in their own little bubbles on the internet. Such a life makes us miss out on a lot of experiences.
The i-Pod People
The author was visiting New York and noticed something. The nightlife was almost dead. But day life was a little different too. It was quieter. As he looked at the pavements, he saw teenagers with i-Pods. They were all lost in their own musical world.
These were the i-Pod people. They walked down the street listening to their own music, bumping into others, deaf to small social cues. Sometimes they unconsciously emitted strange tuneless squawks, and their fingers snapped to some strange soundless rhythm. They did not respond to others talking to them.
The author too is one of these people, He began with a Walkman and then a clunkier MP3 player, before giving in to the sleek i-Pod. It allowed him to rearrange his entire music collection as he saw fit, anytime. So, an occasional musical diversion became a compulsive obsession.
We see people act like machines at airports and subways. They just tune in and tune out. We get our news from our favourite blogs, listen to a satellite radio service that matches our tastes. Television is all cable. Technology has given us a universe entirely for ourselves. So, the charm of meeting a new stranger, hearing a new kind of song, or an opinion different than ours- are all effectively banished.
The Change in Society
This is society without the social. Human beings have never lived like this before. Music was primarily a shared experience, something that brought people together. But music is as atomized now as living is. And it’s secret.
We become masters of our own interests, more connected to people like us over the Internet, more instantly in touch with anything we want. But we miss things like the funny part of an overheard conversation that stays with us all day; the child whose chatter on the pavement takes us back to childhood; birdsong; weather; accents; the laughter of others.
External stimulation can crowd out the interior mind. Even the boredom that we flee has its uses. We are forced to find our own means to overcome it. Once, when the author left behind his i-Pod on a trip, he noticed the rhythms of others again. He noticed how others related to each other and felt more connected and aware. We should try this because there is a world out there and it has a soundtrack all on its own.
We must get out of the online world and live and experience the real world around us. This will help us know more about humans and life, and allow us to have fun and unexpected experiences.