Plug in/Turn on/Tune out

I recently watched part of a Ralph Nader lecture on YouTube. He made an interesting statement that young people listen to too much music these days. He was frustrated by the fact that people are so caught up in their IPods that they don’t take the time to stop and talk to activists and sign petitions. Let me preface this by stating that I listen to my IPod during my entire commute to and from work, the crowded subway ride would be intolerable without it. Still, Mr. Nader’s comment got me thinking. Are portable music players contributing to a lack of social engagement in society today? While music is mind expanding and uplifting, the way we listen to it may not have the same effects. Live concerts contribute to social interaction, listening to albums with friends at home, or on a jukebox in a public setting are great ways to spark conversation. But, when you close yourself off to everything around you by putting in your earphones, what are you missing? In a time when social networking seems to be the most popular form of communicating, are we losing the ability to act socially in person? Millions of people ride the NYC subway everyday and based on my experience at least a quarter of those people tune out with headphones. I’m not arguing that the subway is an ideal forum for discussion; in general people are usually tired and not eager to converse. Still, several people read the newspaper in plain site and this is a perfect opportunity to arouse comments and discussion. Even though I agree with Mr. Nader in that too many people are closing themselves off from their community by plugging in their IPod, I’m most likely going to listen to it my entire commute home today. Maybe if I didn’t have so much awesome music on there it would be easier. I’m curious to know if people are noticing the same type of solitary confinement on public transportation in other cities. What do you think about IPods and their impact on social interaction?