Let Your Fingers Do the Walking


Back in the age of the dinosaurs, music interests were a means of making friends.  Alex, Mike, and Barksdale were great friends in high school, and we shared an interest in particular artists and styles of music, as well as sharing favorites and exploring the unknown.  Another friend, Kip, inexplicably preferred instrumental movie soundtracks, but his passion (and particular knowledge) was just as great.

We each shared a notable talent, which was to nimbly, swiftly and thoroughly flip through albums in what was then known as a Record Store.  The eye/hand coordination was certainly not that demonstrated by the current generation of Guitar Heroes, but it did require instant recognition of album covers as one poured through the bin to find a particular title or the unexpected.

album rack

There was also a sense of competitiveness to it.  We had our want lists and would often travel from Lynchburg, VA to Roanoke or Charlottesville to get to better stores.  But who would find The Greatest Treasure on a given trip?  Well, we all did, and the friendships that resulted were solid and continue in some form today, be it infrequent or on Facebook.  Generally, people who like a lot of similar music have a pretty good chance of liking each other.

This observation served me well at college also.  The question, "What music do you like?" or, even better, an A-Z look through someone's album collection was the stuff that formed the foundation of friendships.  Dr. Chicken, Big Ben, Rat Boy (I'm not making these up... now anyway) were all friendships that formed around musical interests.

Skipping forward 23 years, it's much harder to figure out what music someone likes.  Part of being an adult means that we're no longer invited to a person's bedroom or dorm room where they keep all their cool stuff.  Hopefully, we've all moved out of our parents' houses.  So it comes down to T-shirts or a CD left in a car to suggest that there might be a similar interest.  It's now a rare thing.

There's another barrier, of course.  Adults are very guarded.  We don't have an abundance of good friends.  We get married and begin focusing on family and career.  We keep and make friends, certainly, but only a few get close despite all the "socializing" that we may do.

I have an iPod, and if it's not with me, that's okay, because iTunes plays on my iPhone.  I can be pretty much anywhere and enter the blessed realm of aural goodies I've set aside for whatever occasion.  And so can everyone else.  There's a convenience to it, certainly, as well as a benefit of being able to exclude the din of whatever is going on about us.

shure-earbuds But the iconic ear bud phenomena, in effect, insulates us from what is going on around us and removes us from personal availability.  A person walking by with ear buds is saying, "Leave me alone.  I'm not available for public chat.  Send me a text message, and maybe I'll reply."

Someone recently asked me why I chose Clemson (over UVa and Va Tech).  There were a number of reasons, none of which included football, but I remember my campus visit clearly.  Jimi Hendrix.  This was blasted out of a dorm window and... even though I'm not a huge Hendrix fan, it made me feel right at home.  Do kids even have stereos any more?  ...other than in their cars?

I went to the gym this evening, withipod playlist iTunes in my ear as my wife didn't go with me.  Looking around, almost half of the people were wearing ear buds, lost in their own worlds.  I can't flip through albums anymore (CD's are no fun to flip, by the way), but there's still a part of me that wants to scroll through others' iWhatever song lists and see if there's any cool people about.


  1. Some good observations here. I have seen them in other articles on the isolation of the current generation.

    That is one of the reasons I use a fountain pen and a mechanical watch. I have also owned an iPod Nano, iPod Classical, iTouch, and iPhone.

    Just my way of saying “You may be ignoring me, but I am watching you.”


  2. I think you touched on one of the reasons that people are much more insular these days. You talked about you and your friends driving around, going from store to store, looking for items on your Wish list. By waiting and looking together, you had the time to bond.

    Today, its just a matter of logging in and downloading that special song. You don't even need to wait until the album comes out, just log in and grab that one song now. No going to a store, no waiting in line, everything purchased in the privacy and comfort of your home. Thereby ensuring that people are not being given the time to bond with others over a shared interest or object.

    Get what you want, when you want it from instant messages to music downloads to fast food to high speed rail ways. Welcome to the microwave generation. Frozen pizza for 1 anyone?