The sound of silence

I admit to being an odd bird (you can stop nodding your heads now) but I’m still amazed at how few people can tolerate silence. Benjamin, for example, always has music playing either via his iPod or computer be it in the house, in the car, while working out, etc. He doesn’t like silence.

I on the other hand very seldom play music except while in the car (which is seldom in itself these days). I’m perfectly happy running, working out, cooking, working, and doing virtually everything without music. To take it a step further, often I prefer silence.

This concept appears to be foreign to many people these days. Take for example the gym I attend. The facility is very small (a joint collaboration between the Raddisson hotel and the next door office building) and has a single TV in the room. If the TV is on a specific channel and someone wants to change the channel they usually ask those already in the room if anyone is watching it — the implication being that if no one is watching the currently-playing channel the asker will change it to something else. Several times I’ve been the only person in the room and turned the TV off prior to starting my workout. When the next person walks in they don’t bother asking if I wanted the TV off but instead just turn it on to whatever channel they desired.

On a similar front if I do have music playing in the house Benjamin will ask before changing it to something else but never thinks about playing music when there is none currently playing.

Has this uncomfortableness with silence always been there and personal music players (eg: iPods) have allowed folks to counteract it or is the dependence upon sound a recent development due to the accessibility of personal music players?

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I'm a gay geek living in Seattle, WA.

7 thoughts on “The sound of silence”

  1. I half-agree. :-)

    I stopped listening to music for running. I don’t need it when driving (thought NPR is nice, and sometimes I do get bored). I can skip it at the gym but it’s on overhead anyways.

    But at work I do plug in usually. I have enough dead time waiting for compiles, remote logins, etc., and I find coding to a groove a little better. When I started, I was sans music but lately I prefer it unless I need to think really hard.


    1. On whether silence is uncomfortable because of music devices:

      Before ever there was a recoding of music, people could and would sing to themselves when working to pass the time and alleviate the tedium. So now the only difference is we listen to other people making the music instead of making it ourselves.


  2. I’m more like you than not.

    In fact, recently my iPod failed, so I’m without it for my workouts. I was just thinking yesterday that I kind of like just being alone with my thoughts while I do my cardio. (Though initially, I did miss it.)

    [I have my eyes closed for a good portion of the time, too. People probably think I’m meditating (or a goofball). Or, there is always the outside chance that people aren’t thinking about me at all. :-)]

    I think, in general, that people would rather do something passive (like listen) than active (like think). It’s not a judgment thing… okay, maybe just a teensy bit one. :-)

    I’m sure, like myself, when you tell people you don’t have a TV say, “Oh. I hardly watch mine at all. I just have it on for background noise.”

    And my thought always is, “Why in the world would you prefer noise to peace and quiet.” (That’s after I think, “Yeah, right,” of course.) :-)


    1. Re: I’m more like you than not.

      Yeah, I’ve heard that too. I can understand wanting music (though I usually don’t), but wanting TV noise is just bizarre.


    2. Re: I’m more like you than not.

      I’m not surprised we are so alike in this area :) Hopefully tomorrow I’ll make enough time to write up this morning’s event that spawned this blog post (I opted to break them into two posts as to not muddy the already murky waters of my ramblings!)


  3. I often prefer silence, but I think I understand why people want filler noise (which is what most music/tv is- either filler or a more aggressive kind of distraction): they we don’t want to think, or, really, hear ourselves think. if we did, we might have to come to terms with reality, which hardly ever matches up with the facade we present to the world and hide behind even when looking in the mirror.

    but then again I am a jaded soul :D

    in silence I can figure out things that are going on somewhere in my head, but of course sometimes I realize there’s not much going on in there. there’s just a resounding echo of BOREDOM. or of the thought, perhaps, that I wish to God that I could be doing something much more illuminating than the million stupid chores that are taking up all my time, and a kind of pining for the bookshelf or computer. and it seems that recently my life pretty much consists of the most never-ending mundane and repetitive tasks, I swear, so I listen to CDs while walking the dog, washing the dishes, doing the laundry, etc etc, therefore I eat up those CDs like you wouldn’t believe! I have noticed a marked rise in my spirits and a firmer grip on sanity since I started listening to them.

    optimally of course I’d prefer to have more time to myself, and so I wouldn’t have to listen to cds as I could just attend classes, read books, watch the shows, etc and I’d need more quiet spaces to sort all that input out in my head.

    I do listen to music when I’ve got a problem I’m working on and I can’t quite solve it and I need at least my conscious mind to be distracted from it for a while. or in other cases when I’m thinking too much and just need to quiet down the language parts of my brain which aren’t required for that specific task. (it’s amazing how much faster I can do a jigsaw puzzle if I don’t actually think about it.)


  4. I’ve had the same experience with a TV in a workout room. It’s frustrating, because I feel like a spoilsport to say, “I’d rather have that off,” yet if it’d been on a channel, I would have typically been asked first.

    I like music okay, but I’ve never been particularly passionate about it. I think that contributes to why I’m happy with silence.


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