You see them everywhere on the streets of Manhattan as well as in and around major cities in the United States. The wireless earpod craze started with the Apple Airpods and Apple as usual has done a very good job of delivering on its brand promise.
Since I am an Android guy when it comes to phones, the bizarre-looking earpod equivalent does not exist for Samsung and other non-Apple users (which still make up more than 50% of the mobile device owning population). After some inexplicable period of resistance, this week I broke down and bought an inexpensive pair of earbuds from Weepo , (not the highly regarded Galaxy buds). No I had never heard of them before. But they were $45. Apple Airpods are more than $150 and Galaxy buds are around $130. I didn’t know if I would like the earpods so spending $100 less was meaningful.
I’ve only been using the Weepo US X a couple of days and I am not sure if I love them or hate them. Part of my ambivalence is borne out of the fact that ever since the Sony Walkman came around, the idea of walking around the city tuning out the sounds around you seemed self-defeating to me. If you are going to live and work in a major city among other things you know that it’s going to be somewhat noisy and somewhat dirty. Over the many years I’ve changed the way I feel and look at headphones in general, as they became so … normal to see people wear.
Let me note that I believe Wireless headphones are a great idea. Particularly where exercise is concerned. What’s different about the earpod ‘revolution’ is that now more than ever, when someone walks by you wearing them you don’t know if they are talking to someone else, listening to music or a podcast, or wearing them just in case someone calls. In the process what seems to happen is that everyone is ignoring everyone else – more so than usual. Because people kind of look like they are paying attention when they are wearing earbuds, in fact the legions wearing them are appearing to be engaged when in their head they are miles and miles away. In a big city it can be quite impersonal sometimes and earpods are making it worse.
At the same time I LOVE listening to music while I walk around the streets of New York. The Weepo earbuds are small and have no dangle so it looks a little like a hearing aid in both ears. (That’s how you know it’s NOT a hearing aid and please pardon me if I am being a little over-sensitive in my advancing age). The carrying case is more of a hassle to tote around than the old wired earbuds, which easily fit in every pocket. The need for regular charging is also a bit of a pain and requires forethought so I don’t run out of juice. I assume I will adapt my behavior accordingly.
I am not sure why, but when I am not listening to music or something else, or talking on the phone I can’t help feeling a bit pretentious in wearing earbuds. There’s still a certain cachet in wearing them which will die out fairly soon in my opinion. But for now it’s hip and cool to have earbuds in all of the time.
I understand the overall usefulness of earpods. The ability to tune out the honking, rumble, and bustle of the city with your selected groove is fantastic at times. I just feel guilty tuning out from my fellow commuters, pedestrians, taxi, Uber and Lyft drivers. I am part of the vibe of the city and with that comes the responsibility to be part of the community in any number of ways.
With the increasing ability to disengage in the presence of others, (for what it is worth Instagram is truly a black hole in which I see people on constantly), the intention to further disengage seems to me to be a negative trend. My guess is that I will overweight the positives of using wireless earbuds and continue to wear them, just not all the time.