As a college student, I frequently notice people walking around with their earphones around campus. Listening to music makes the everyday walk to class a little less banal. In fact, depending on the day’s playlist it can be an entirely new experience. A few weeks ago, one of my favorite former professors guest lectured about music in my Survey of Contemporary Media class. At one point, he pulled up a video from the point-of-view of someone walking somewhere with earphones in. He rhythmically spoke about what the journey was like listening to music, even including a new song with the new day. The new song had a completely different tone and rhythm than the first one, showing how much music can affect our perception what we are viewing.
I would say many people choose to listen to music on their way to class for the same reasons you would listen to it in the car or at the gym. Listening to music is enjoyable, it makes things a little less boring, and it can change your mood. The trouble is the minute we plug in, we tune out the world around us.
The other day I was talking about it with one of my roommates and she noticed that when she was running without earphones she was able to take in the beauty of the scenery and appreciate it much more than when she was listening to music. She had little interactions with other people walking around in the same area. When she saw people with earphones in they were much more likely to be focused on one point, and it seemed like they were “in their own world” so to speak.
Walking around campus, I see the same thing. Even sitting in a lecture hall before class I see a few people talking to those around them. Others are scrolling through one social media app or another on their smart phones. And still others are plugged in, sometimes tapping a foot or nodding their head along to the beat.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not against technology. And I am certainly not anti-music. I love listening to music, and I think it is really a neat concept that we can bring it essentially anywhere we go. However, I cannot help but think about what we might be missing by being so plugged in, and tuned out to the world around us. I think there is a time and a place for being plugged in. For some people listening to music can help them concentrate on certain tasks, or it can help pass the time doing something boring. But the more we are engrossed in technology, the more we eliminate the chance for serendipitous moments.
If you were to dig in to the archive of this blog, you might find that I am a huge proponent of serendipity. In fact, at one point I called this blog “A Series of Fortunate Accidents.” When we are more interested in what is going on in the “twittersphere” than the real-world we miss out. One of my favorite quotes is “Enjoy the little things, for one day you will look back and realize they were the big things.”The seemingly small moments can make a big difference. What if the person you were sitting next to in lecture could have been a future relationship if you had to make awkward small talk that one day before class? Or what if you were supposed to meet your future best friend because you guys took the same route every day? And if you’re thinking those moments wouldn’t happen anyway, because you don’t randomly talk to strangers, I challenge you to change that.
Recently, I read an article called “Why You Should Always Talk to People in Elevators“. The name intrigued me, because it seems like such a strange concept. Why would I talk to someone that I don’t know and will only be in the same space as for such a short amount of time? By the end I was convinced, and I am determined to strike up a random conversation in an elevator, no matter how awkward it might be. My favorite part was, “I think we have to create situations that allow those unexpected opportunities to find us.”
My challenge for you is to spend at least one week unplugged. By that I mean whenever you are out in public make a conscious effort to not have earphones in, try to avoid using your phone when you don’t need to, and make an effort to have spontaneous conversations with people around you. Whether you are a college student, a business person, or a momma blogger I challenge you to make meaningful connections with the people around you. Let your battery recharge, while you spend a little extra time with the special ones in your life. Resist the temptation to see if anyone commented or “liked” your photo yet. Listen to the sounds of the buzzing city or the natural life around you. Serendipity might have a wonderful surprise for you if you give it a chance.
Life is beautiful. Enjoy it through your senses, not just through the filters you can select on your smartphone.
How’s your week going so far?