2 February 2007


Hello, Ned Ludd here.

Almost 20 years ago I remember bumping into a close acquaintance at the university library. We had a brief 'how's uni' conversation, during which time he asked me several questions, and affirmed my responses with the odd "Right", "I see" and "That's great". As we wound up and he turned away I realised by the wire emanating from his left ear that he was wired for sound and probably hadn't heard a single word I said.

That was near the beginning of the portable music revolution, when we revelled in a technology known as the audio cassette, which many of today's mp3meisters have never even seen. Different time, then, but same issues--yet another nail in the coffin of civility and social interaction. Today I lined up at the local supermarket and both the shoppers in front of me were chained to their ipods. The first at least offered some grunt of acknowledgement to the checkout operator, the second was too immersed in the metronomic pounding in his ear drums to even be that gracious. In other public places such as trains and fast-food joints, basic civilities like after yous, pleases and excuse mes are passing into oblivion as increasing numbers of people have their ears shut off to the outside world, and their minds soon follow.

Whilst I am a technology junkie, I cannot understand how this can possibly be seen as progress. Let's catch it whilst it's still a trend and before it becomes normal. Let's reinforce the notion that it is simply rude to be wearing headphones whilst talking to people, and even when in a public situation where incidental conversation might occur. I know that many communications courses teach people to talk less and listen more, but I think they mean 'to each other'!