Do not disturb mode 🎧 🚫

During a walk the other day I realized that I have a weird habit: I wear my iPhone headphones even when I’m not listening to anything.

Roughly an hour into my walk I took my headphones out as they were tugging on my ears. Within seconds a passerby asked me for directions to a well known restaurant. As soon as I finished giving directions it hit me — I wear my headphones in an effort to signal to others that I am in “do not disturb” mode.

Reflecting on my walk, I realized that my strategy worked extremely well. I had walked through the heart of Austin during lunch time and had not been spoken to a single time. Sure, strangers aren’t typically conversing on the side of the street with one another but I personally experience receiving at least a “hello” from a few people when I walk around each day.

At first my realization seemed simple enough — I wear headphones to avoid any unnecessary conversations. I’m sure I’m not the first person to employ this strategy. However, thinking about it more I started to uncover something a bit more complex and maybe even a little depressing. I began reflecting on times that I had traveled, worked in large offices, walked through other cities or even been running outside and I had put my headphones in without any sound. In fact, I realized that the vast majority of the time I have my headphones in there is no sound playing. Weird.

I came to realize that I was not only using my headphones as a do not disturb signal, but I was also trying to convey that I was busy. More specifically, that I wasn’t just walking or sitting and thinking alone. It dawned on me that I was extremely self conscious about other people knowing that I was in deep, personal thought, and the way I avoided externally signaling this was putting in my headphones. It was as though I found sitting and thinking alone akin to being naked in public.

It would be really easy to analyze this realization from a million different angles and determine something really dark and twisted. However, I believe the explanation is far easier than that. From my perspective, it seems like most of the internet wants people to be constantly consuming, creating or building something during every second of every day. If you’re not moving (something) forward than you’re pretty much worthless on this planet. Personal reflection is the opposite of that. You’re intentionally stopping all forward moving activities to think. Maybe it’s my involvement in the tech / startup world, but I’ve realized that I’m uncomfortable with people knowing I’m not building, consuming or creating something at all times, hence the headphone trick.

Will all that said, from this day on I am going to consciously avoid wearing headphones without sound. Let the public thinking commence!

Do you wear your headphones without sound? If so, please comment below as I’d love to hear why.