Friday, September 21, 2007

Why I Hate (hated) My iPod

I love to read non-fiction books about all sorts of things. Recently I read one entitled ‘The Perfect Thing : How the iPod Shuffles Commerce, Culture, and Coolness’ by Steven Levy. An interesting book, and it convinced me I had to get one of these things. So I did.

Sure enough: I loved my Nano... for a week. Then I hated it. Here’s why.

I haven’t been a fan of music since my teen years. I would sooner always hear a radio show or, preferable, sweet silence. Sweet silence isn’t really silence, since I have thoughts running through my mind. At some point after my teen years I realized that music interferes with that process. But I was willing, even eager, to give music another chance.

Also, the iPod book mentioned these things called podcast, and they sounded right up my alley. I guess the theory is that anyone can be a radio host, right, and so all these people make all these shows, and they are available for free. Sounded interesting, since I like talk, and I don’t have much chance to listen to the radio or television talk shows. Well, let me tell you right off that while maybe ‘anyone can make a show’, unless you enjoy a couple of morons droning on and on about nothing, most of these homemade ‘shows’ are worth considerably less than you pay for them (they are free, by the way).

So I decided to try music again. I loaded my iPod with a whole bunch of songs, set it to shuffle, and let the beat go on.

I thought this was pretty cool~ for about a week. Then it started to happen.

Then it started to happen a lot.

The ‘tunes’ would intrude on my thoughts, even without the contraption. On my daily one hour hikes I would leave the machine at home, but instead of a wonderful, peaceful moment in the forest where my own thoughts could sort through my head, some stupid refrain from some stupid song would start playing over and over in my mind. Oh yeah, baby, heading down that long and lonesome highway! There was no way to turn this noise off.

Before long, these song snippets were constantly intruding on my thoughts. Annoying! My own thoughts and ideas may be none to brilliant; but they are my thoughts, and important to me. With this line or that of some song playing on a loop in my mind, I was being robbed of my own thoughts.

I wonder how many other people have found this, and how many are bothered by it. My guess is that many people experience this, but that since they have always been listening to music, they just assume it’s normal. Believe me, if you frequently have some song snippet playing through your mind, I think you are missing out on something of real value: your own thoughts.

I was so happy to give my iPod away (aside from a little guilt-- feeling a bit like I was giving a bag of smack to some innocent kid!). It took over a month, but finally I am free of all those stupid lyrics trespassing on my thoughts. Once again, when I go on a hike, when I am working, when I am living, I am free of that noise in my head. Well, almost free. Once in a while, one of those lyrics still pops by to annoy me-- to remind me how nice it is to no longer have that stupid iPod with all its noise.

You may believe that music adds a lot to your life, and you are more than welcome to believe that. I believe it is like a drug, numbing one’s brain, interfering with thoughts that might be important to think about-- thoughts that might be more important than the sound of some guy droning on. A catchy tune? I’d sooner catch a cold.

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