Tuesday, March 14, 2006

I am not generally a possessions kind of person.

But yesterday evening, as I walked in the rain down the beautiful lamp-lit and glistening street of Palmerston while listening to “The CN Tower Belongs to the Dead,” by Final Fantasy, I realized that my MP3/radio player has actually fundamentally changed my life for the better.

In the mornings I walk to work listening to CBC Metro Morning. I tune into the BBC World News on the Jazz FM station.

No matter what mood I am in when I walk home, I can add music and enhance that feeling. It is like MSG for the soul.

I have read a few articles lately that talk about the anti-social effects caused by widespread use of MP3 players. People using MP3 just “cut themselves off” from the world – so They say.

But I have two things to say to these people.

First, as someone who has now lived in downtown Toronto for five years, I can say that Torontonians often go to great lengths not to engage one another on the street. Rather than risk direct interaction we lower our eyes, turn our backs, examine at the peeling paint on the elevator door, and hum non-melodiously to ourselves. In this sense, the MP3 player is just the logical extension of our urban loneliness. Fine, if we are going to walk around in our bubbles, we may as well fill our little spaces so that we are surrounded by music that moves us.

Second, I am not so sure that MP3 players don’t actually have the reverse effect from that alleged. That is, they may actually bring us closer together. In my short time of MP3 player ownership, I have swapped and traded music with people and learned of more new bands in the past year than I have in the past five. Increased awareness of music means more potential points of commonality between people.

But on a less practical level, I have sometimes found myself emboldened by the music I listen to. While listening to a particularly upbeat song, I have caught myself smiling at people around me. Music is acknowledged to have the potential to stir deep visceral reactions in people. Maybe it is the case that our MP3 players sometimes actually help us to achieve a heightened sensitivity to others around us.

And even if this is just a cockamamie theory – who cares? MP3 listening is pure bliss and if you don't like it, mind yo' business and leave me alone.


Blogger Andrew said...

I cannot accept the premise of your first point, which is that the isolation of Torontonians from one another is something that we should accept or even seek to deepen. I accept your second point, so long as an MP3 owner doesn't make music the primary vehicle of their identity à la high school. As for minding my own business and leaving you alone, this request is belied by your having posted your thoughts on a blog with a comment button.

1:05 AM  
Blogger Nadine said...

I am certainly not advocating for the acceptance of isolation. My point is merely that MP3 players are not the problem. The real causes are far deeper and more complicated, and I am not qualified to really comment, but at a minimum they must relate to the breakdown of publicly-owned community spaces, highly competitive and individualistic societal forces, climate of fear with respect to members of the community with mental health issues, the list goes on...

10:20 AM  
Blogger Andrew said...

While the public use of MP3 players may not be a root cause, they are a contributing cause, in that I am that much more discouraged from engaging a stranger in conversation if they're listening to music. In the war to storm the beaches of social isolation, MP3 players are but one more obstacle on a shore that is already too well defended by far.

10:46 PM  

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