My reaction was, "Well, duh, yea-ah." All you have to do is spend a morning trying to say hello to people to answer that. If you ever want to feel invisible, try it. I took a walk recently as my twentysomething neighbors headed to work and school, and I didn't get a single "hi." They looked through me, glanced but looked away quickly or, at best, grunted. That is, if they weren't texting furiously or having conversations with their phones. I'm not sure they know how to cope with real people in front of them.
Then I glanced through some of the 431 comments posted about the article and was surprised at how many people defended the shutting out of real life. "I was already anti-social. The iPod just makes it easier" was a typical comment, as was "I don't want to have to deal with people."
Oh, my. That's just so sad. Perhaps those ear buds are keeping out objectionable noises, but they're also limiting experience. I'm willing to put up with traffic noise and even the thump-thump of rap blasting from a passing car, if I can also listen to birdsong, eavesdrop on a mother's pre-school litany ("Do you have your lunch? Do you have your homework? Pull up those socks.") or have a conversation with the vegetable vendors.
Is that a surprising viewpoint from someone who is always running off to an island? I don't think so. There's a difference between living on an island and making oneself into an island.
When I visit North Caicos, I am not running from society but going to one. I reconnect with old friends, catch up with what's going on and enjoy the islanders' different perspective on the world. People talk with shopkeepers, talk with tourists, even wave at each other as vehicles pass. Life is personal ... and shared.
I was once told that Internet news feeds are superior to magazines and newspapers because I could control the information that comes to me, customizing it according to my own interests. But that would mean I'd never get the chance to develop a new interest or learn something I didn't know before. I would be shutting out the things that didn't pertain to ME.
That's why I think those who use their ear buds, phones and pads to insulate themselves from society are sad. Some say they are creating their own islands. But a world of only my music, my friends, my interests isn't a real island. It's that circular, one-palm islet of cartoons ... and the joke's on them.