iThoughts on iPods

by Don Meyer, Ph.D. | Jul 18, 2009

"Technology is fast becoming the latest driving force behind what is often called the 'generation gap.'"
The Barna Group

For Christmas last year Evie and I got our very first iPod. Keeping up with this world of technology is like trying to catch up with the speed of light. 

Our iPod is an 8GB with Wi-Fi and multi-touch interface featuring a Safari Browser and wireless access to the iTunes Store and YouTube. It is enclosed in a new tapered chrome back with Nike+ functionality, volume buttons, and a built-in speaker. We can add almost any number of accessories as part of the iPod ecosystem. 

Playing its music through a Bose docking station or the stereo in our car resembles the quality of a concert hall. To enhance this transportable wonder, we also got an enhanced set of buds, also known as ear plugs. 

I love the iPod technology but it makes many of my other gadgets obsolete. Years ago I replaced my 8 track tapes for cassettes but soon CDs replaced them. But now my new iPod world has even made my CDs a thing of the past. I can actually upload my CDs to my iTunes files and download those songs to my iPod. For 99 cents I can purchase directly from iTunes just about every song ever recorded. 

I love the ease with which I can access music and the entire internet every time I press "on" and slide my iPod bar to the right. But with this easily accessible world of sound comes a steady stream of nonstop noise which bombards my life. 

Robert Lawrence Smith wrote a wonderful book A Quaker Book of Wisdom. Chapter One is titled "Silence" and it begins with these words, "Silence. Even pronouncing the word seems to violate its meaning." iPods were not invented to enhance the world of silence. 

I also love the privacy it gives me when I place the buds in my ears. As I write these words I am flying on United Flight 6000 from Springfield, MO to Chicago, IL. I can literally shut out any other noise with beautiful cello music. 

Shortly after I got this little marvel I was sitting in the waiting room of a doctor's office. Across from me sat a familiar looking gentleman but my music (and my book) were focused on other things. As I got up to leave I briefly introduced myself and discovered a wonderful community leader whose local friends were many of mine. My time with my iPod caused me to miss much quality time with him. 

Sociologists tell us that our generation gravitates easily away from face to face contact. They call it cocooning. I have hundreds of Facebook friends online with whom we share lots of personal updates but by not being with them in person, we miss much of the human contact. 

But with an iPod I can cocoon myself from you even when I am with you. I have passed some iPod users on the sidewalk and even though I know them I am reluctant to engage them in conversation because I don't want to interrupt them. 

According to the Barna Group, younger adults (18-24) whom they call Mosaics, are more likely to admit "gadget lust." More than one-fifth (22%) of these young technophiles consider owning the latest technology to be a very high priority in life. 

Because technology invades every part of our lives, Mark Early suggests we experiment with "...taking a Sabbath from technology. Shut down your computer, turn off your cell phone, unplug your iPod, hide your Blackberry, and click off the telephone. Read for an hour. When you're done, pull out a sheet of paper and write a letter. And then go outside for a walk." 

Technology is here to stay. There is no doubt about that. But I suppose our greatest challenge is to use it rather than to allow it to use us. 

Think about it.

Dr. Don Meyer is President of 
Valley Forge Christian College, Phoenixville, PA 
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