We're all increasingly in tune with our iPods, melded to our smartphones, and plugged in to our headphones. These indispensable gadgets have many uses, but they can also be an etiquette minefield.
Be very aware that headphones cut you off from the rest of the world - this is sometimes a very good thing, but if you actually want to interact with your fellow human beings, you may need to follow these simple rules:
- Use headphones when you want to withdraw into a private world, and cocoon yourself from your fellow humans. They're very useful when you're working out at the gym, or sitting on a train or bus. They even have the added advantage of shutting you off from all the audible mobile phone conversations going on around you.
- The minute you are engaged in a social transaction, lose the headphones, turn iTunes off, and put it away. This really isn't the time to start multi-tasking, and conducting a conversation with headphones dangling around your neck makes you like a moody teenager.
- When you're involved in everyday transactions (paying in shops, going to the bank etc.), remove both your headphones. If you leave one headphone in and your music is playing, people will rightly feel that you're not treating them with any respect. The fact that it's a mundane transaction does not justify a refusal to engage properly with another human being.
- If someone addresses you while you're plugged in, remove the headphones and switch it off, to signal your willingness to interact.
- If someone interrupts your music-listening, don't react with sighs or irritation. Remember people are always more important than gadgets.
- Be very aware of volume and don't blast people nearby with your decibels.