In an attempt to avoid human contact, headphones have become the average student's vice. PHOTO: FARNIA FEKRI

Headphones on, world off

In Arts & Life /

Opinion By Keith Capstick

What do I do if I have to go to school without headphones? Will I survive? Should I just drop out now? What if someone tries to talk to me? What was I actually doing with my life anyway?

As I run around my room checking each drawer over and over, I realize that the feeling of absolute emptiness that comes with missing headphones make my short list of life-shattering situations. It’s right up there with picking your major and talking to other people about how you “feel.” Needless to say, I’m sweating in ways I’ve never experienced before.

Out from the drawer comes a cluster of tangled wire and broken plastic. We all have that headphone graveyeard somewhere in our room — it’s like that game you played when you were a kid, with those monkeys inside that barrel. Every time you open that drawer and pull out that wired spider web, you’re teased with the prospect of actually finding a pair that work.

This particular morning, I find my headphones sandwiched between my dresser and the wall, in the most abstract and confusing place possible, as always. I exhale as my world puts itself back together. The anxiety of actually having to spend my day noticing what’s going on around me fades. I slowly melt into the chorus of a song written by one of those bands whose name is comprised of two semi-related and semi-confusing words like The Black Lips or Modern Baseball.

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As students, they’re our greatest vice — we don’t know what a life without headphones offers short of awkward encounters with people we saw that one weekend when we drank too much and having no way to make yourself seem unapproachable when we walk past those “Because I Am A Girl” people on the sidewalk.

Given a severe lack of social competency and a fear of stepping foot on Ryerson’s campus without music in my ears, today’s going to be hard for me. I have to stand in the middle of campus and be that asshole who bugs headphone-wearing people for his story about using headphones to avoid people.

“They help me try to avoid contact with people, I just try to pretend I’m in my own world,” said Victor Franchi, a first-yaer environmental and urban sustainability student and one of the only people who didn’t walk right past me. I asked him how he felt when one of his headphones stops working and he responded abruptly by saying, “Um anguish, definitely anguish.”

On the subway, I look for other students wearing headphones — unsurprisingly, this wasn’t difficult. All of them seemed to be looking down, changing songs, avoiding eye contact, as is the norm on public transit.

“I use headphones to avoid people whenever I walk in the halls at school, or go get food, or work on homework,” said Kelsey Whyte, a 21-year-old photography student, when I finally approached her.

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Next comes the most ironic and mortifying part of my day-long battle with headphones and social interaction. I walk toward The Eyeopener office, music on, terrified by the prospect of pitching my story.

I start pacing around the Student Campus Centre, listening to nostalgic songs and thinking through the words I’m going to say to the arts editor and the editor-in-chief. I shake my head because it shouldn’t be this hard to approach my peers, but I think I’d feel more comfortable talking face-to-face with the devil himself.

In this new world where we all use ear buds to ignore everyone we see, there are few things more difficult than proving to someone else that what you have to say actually matters.

I make my way up to the second floor, worried about the ways I’ll ramble when I start talking. I trun the handle to the office door and look up for the first time since I put my headphones back on. I see the editor-in-chief sitting at his desk, feet up and headphones on, escaping the rest of the office. I can’t help but laugh.

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