Sunday, 13 December 2009


 At risk of causing the Daily Mail to have a heart attack at the thought of its interference, the EU has suggested a maximum volume on MP3 players to help protect listeners' hearing. Some may think this is the ultimate in the nanny state, but personally I think it's a marvellous idea...

This is not because I worry about my hearing. In fact, I may be the only person in the UK who doesn't own an MP3 player of any type. No, it's because I couldn't be more fed up with listening to other people's music in public. Every time I leave the house I am bombarded with the tinny overspill of someone's overly loud iPod and it drives me nuts. Admittedly it isn't as bad as actually being subjected to someone's shit Rn'B played on the bus on a mobile phone, but it still grates on me like you wouldn't believe.

Partly it's because music never sounds good mumbling along through bad headphones competing with the noise of modern life around it, but also partly because MP3 players seem to help erode what few manners most people have left. They are the electronic equivalent of a security blanket for those who own them. They cannot spend two seconds in your company without fiddling with their increasingly tiny music player, usually at the expense of conversation or eye contact with you. The way people insist on shoving their earbuds in before they've even left your house or fitting their iPod to the car before doing up their seatbelt makes me think that most people value the opportunity to listen to music above interacting with a real life human being these days. It's like an itch they can't stop scratching.

This insistance on fussing and fiddling with bits of plastic and wire instead of paying attention to the world around you is rude, dismissive and in many cases dangerous, as people are too busy trying to skip a track rather than pay attention to the road or street around them whether they are driving or simply dandering round a crime-ridden city. Plus I've lost count of how many people have trodden on me on public transport as they frantically try to adjust their iPod as if leaving it be for 30 seconds will cause them to expire on the spot...

I obviously have no objections to people using MP3 players with some regard for the world round them, unlike  the man I went on a date with a few years ago who turned up in the bar to meet me with his earphones in and music still blaring from his iPod as if he was surprised to see me waiting where we had arranged to all means block out the noise of screaming children or the generally unhinged on public transport or add a soundtrack to everyday things, but please turn it down, buy some decent headphones and try not to fiddle with your MP3 compulsively like a dog with a bone when dealing with other people. Or just try eavesdropping on other people's conversations when you're out and about like us iPod-less folk do...


  1. I thought I was bad with an iPod, until I got an iPhone. Now the temptation is not only to fiddle with the music, but check/reply to emails, IMs, etc... it's addictive.

  2. I was all set for an enormous tirade of a response... Until the final paragraph. Of all my vices my iPod is my most responsible. I have noise canceling earphones and can still hear notifications on the tube.

    I agree that others should invest in better earbuds as the one supplied with iPods are dire and will result in damage to your hearing.

    Love a responsible iPod addict.

  3. Marathon Man, your example just proves it's possible to still have manners and an iPod. I know it's not really the MP3, it's the lack of manners...but that would have made a rubbish post in comparison...