Perhaps one of the most irritating things is when someone speaks to you with ear buds in or headphones on. It makes you feel like they are not even paying attention to you. In truth, they probably are. But that really doesn’t give them an excuse to appear to not care what you say.

If you are listening to music, there are certain rules you should follow. Even though this applies to all mp3 players, C.D. players, etc, I call it “iPod Etiquette” because it rolls off the tongue easily.

A fine time for listening to music

There are some  very basic rules as to when you should not listen to your iPod. (With a few qualifiers, see below)

  • When you are in a social situation that requires lots of interaction with other people.
  • When residual noise coming from your earphones might distract people.
  • When you are speaking to a group.
  • When you have been listening to it all day (you need a break).

This is by no means a comprehensive list. Take the first one as an example. An iPod can be a good way of shutting yourself off when you have had too much social time. This is perfectly acceptable. But the rule is do not try to interact with people for extended periods of time with ear buds in your ears. Now, in some occasions it is appropriate to have one earbud in. But you have to judge for yourself.

That said, there are several times when using ear buds is definitely appropriate.

  • When you are in your own home (particularly if you are alone).
  • When you are on rapid transit, (who wants to socialize with that crazy old man?).
  • When you are on a car trip that doesn’t have much interactions (either when you are on your own or when it’s a long one were people don’t want to talk the whole way)
  • When you are doing something non-social that you need to focus on (if, of course, music helps you focus).

Of course, in the end, you are the one that needs to make the judgement call. However there is one general rule. If you are going to talk to someone, in any capacity, make sure at least one of your ears has its full attention on them. This will make them feel better, and listened to for that matter. This post was not meant so much to to tell you everything you need to know, but to raise awarness. I don’t think very many people actually know how frustrating it can be to others when they are listening.

What about you? Do you have any iPod etiquette that you follow? Perhaps it is different from mine. I would love to hear about it so why don’t you leave a comment below?

Categories: Other
  • Betyár


    Your above suggestions seem to be common sense more than etiquette. I am curious about the etiquette for the following examples:

    • I am walking down the street listening to my iPod. I see an acquaintance approaching and they have seen me as well. I would much rather listen to music than stop for inane banter and small-talk. How would I avoid this?

    • A colleague from work, finishing work at the same time as me, appears intent on waiting for the bus together and subjecting me to yet more small-talk and crap about work. How can I politely avoid a long and excruciating bus/metro ride and just listen to tunes?

    • Patrick Wells

      That’s a difficult one. These situations you have given have more to do with your relationship with the person in question than they do with the iPod itself. With your first example, that is just a risk you run by so choosing to walk down the street. By ignoring them and leaving your earbuds in, especially when it is obvious that both of you know of the other’s presence, you run the risk of appearing insensitive and just plain rude. In the end, it comes down to if you want a good relationship with this person or not.

      Your second example is much the same. You have to have the courage to tell someone when you are not interested in being in a conversation with them at that time. It doesn’t matter what you do afterwards.
      I’m not one to give relationship advice, however it does seem that that is what your situations are about, not the iPod itself.