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It's ok to take a walk without headphones (radreads.co)
39 points by khehy 12 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 59 comments





I went hiking last month in Yakima, WA. It was a beautiful day and I got to the trailhead at about 9 o'clock. A hundred steps or so up the mountain, I pulled out my AirPods case...and it was empty. I can't describe the panic, then anger, then dread that doused me.

I did the 7 mile hike in a few hours, without a podcast or a song. About 20 minutes in, I forgot that I wasn't piping audio into my skull, and it turned out to be one of my favorite hikes. Made me realize that 1) I'm probably addicted to podcasts, and 2) these kind of activities are more enjoyable if you're _really_ present for them. I spent the rest of the day without my AirPods in, and I wish I did that more often.


> 2) these kind of activities are more enjoyable if you're _really_ present for them. I spent the rest of the day without my AirPods in, and I wish I did that more often.

I guess it depends on what you mean by present. I've done many 3-10 hour hikes and being "present" usually just meant, "God, how many fucking thousands of feet more do I have to climb? My body hates all of this."


If you don't like it, why are you bothering?

Because it feels so good when you stop.

Those are expensive to lose. That’s why I stick with wired AirPods.

I’ve yet to lose them! The case had fallen off my nightstand and they clattered out under the bed. AppleCare comes in handy, too. I actually had to use some wired ones today because the pods were dead — by the third time the cord caught on something I was homicidal. I can’t recommend AirPods Pro enough! (Despite the price)

Has anyone ever seriously suggested that it isn't OK to take a walk without headphones?

I like walking. I walk a lot. I've never in my life worn headphones while doing so.


Was thinking the same thing. IMHO when you’re walking (as opposed to jogging) is when you’re most interested in natural/environmental sounds.

There’s also the subreddit /r/imaginarygatekeeping for bizarre refutations of non-existent arguments like this one.


I'm not even particularly interested in environmental sounds, just turning off the cognitive input for a bit to let the stuff that's already there shake down.

It's not an argument, it's someone's thoughts on an observation he had.

Why does HN always do this? They'll see that the article is an opinion piece and instantly go on the defensive. Inferiority complex maybe?


It’s the framing of “it’s okay to ...” that bothers me. I mean, who says it isn’t?

I wouldn’t have that issue if the title were “why you should ...”

Edit: furthermore, there were times and places where “just taking a walk” was taboo. (See the Ray Bradbury short story [1] or the Mad Men episode where they freak out at the woman who says she does it.) So I chafe at the false implication that we’re in such an era, if the author isn’t going to back up such a claim.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Pedestrian


'It's ok to' doesn't make any sense unless it's a response to someone saying 'it's not ok to'.

> I like walking. I walk a lot. I've never in my life worn headphones while doing so.

I think this has a prerequiste of being well adjusted mentally. I never walk without headphones, my mind wanders into a panic attack thinking about all sort of things. So much so that I fear walking.


It’s a response to tho who seem to think our every waking moment must be sacrificed to the progress of ... not sure what, but they feel quite strongly about it. You can see that sort of mindset all over HN and anywhere else.

Be 10X. Always Be Doing. Hustle. Have a Side-hustle. Be More than You Are Or You’re a Failure. How Not To Be An Introvert. Influencers.

The Casey Neistats of the world who seemingly are productive and marketize in their sleep (example only, he might be an OK guy).

So, no one seems to outright say “walking in silence is bad”.

But they sure imply it.


Walking/running/driving with headphones is likely unwise:

1) you may not hear vehicles, people, animals that pose a risk. If you're in a bad part of town, some bystanders may take you as a target.

2) listening material is a distraction. Whether books-on-tape or music, what you're listening to can effectively distract you. Ergo the occasional earphone user who walks onto an open manhole.

Best to stay in the here-and-now. Earphones are just like drinking or taking drugs as far as safety is concerned.

text: It is unwise for at least two reasons:

1) you may not hear vehicles, people, animals that pose a risk. If you're in a bad part of town, some bystanders may take you as a target.

3) beyond that, the listening material is a distraction. Whether books-on-tape or music, what you're listening to can effectively distract you. Ergo the occasional earphone user who walks onto an open manhole.

Best to stay in the here-and-now. IOW earphones are just like drinking or taking drugs as far as safety is concerned. help


> Walking/running/driving with headphones is likely unwise

Driving while wearing headphones is outright illegal in France, [0] and some US states [1].

[0] (PDF) https://www.rospa.com/rospaweb/docs/advice-services/road-saf...

[1] https://drivinglaws.aaa.com/tag/headsets/


You are underestimating people’s problems. If I don’t keep focusing on something else, my mind turns very dark, quickly.

People who do that know it is extremely bad, but it’s “this or something worse”. At least in the immediate time.

Of course I’d love if people actually had the solidarity they pretend to have, but they don’t. The world is not a kind place. And so, there are many people like me, who appear kind and peaceful and well-mannered, and who work constantly to calm their internal boiler. So no reason to try to make me remove my headphones (unless one addresses me on the street - there are politeness rules)

Also, it is very frustrating when people “try to give you a lesson” by walking towards you as if you didn’t see them. It’s headphones, not a blindfold. People don’t do that when I have a book while walking.

As a summary, my life is pretty much like the movie “Her”. I’ve tried not to be lonely and faced with people being insanely frustrating/angering. So I’ve embraced loneliness and mobile phones. It’s like drugs, slightly better because I still work efficiently.


I think it's aimed at people who say this to themselves (there are plenty in the thread).

Since the dawn of the iPod and significantly more so since AirPods, many people walk nearly everywhere with headphones in their ears.

Before covid this bothered me immensely at work, where it was that much more difficult to get someone’s attention in common spaces.


> Before covid this bothered me immensely at work, where it was that much more difficult to get someone’s attention in common spaces.

In my day job we use slack as the primary means of communication, sometimes the person at the desk next to you will set themselves as away/sleep notifications and pop on headphones - this is usually an attempt by them to focus on a problem. I think it's particularly common with more senior employees that tend to get lots of questions where, for me at least, I have no objection to questions but I want the freedom to handle them in my own time (usually within a half-hour or so, not days later) since that allows me to maximize my personal productivity.

So I very much empathize with folks who occasionally pop on headphones at work - even if they aren't listening to music but just using it as either a visual signal or to leverage sound canceling.

As a dev I'd often pop on headphone when working in the office even without music when I was working on a serious chunk of logic - I'm on the senior end of things and get lots of questions and sometimes you really get into a groove and want to focus.


I specifically said people who wear headphones in common spaces, not while they are at their desk.

Common spaces are kitchens, bathrooms, lounges, etc. Places where in-person interaction will likely be necessary for physical coordination and sharing purposes.


Ah sorry - I've worked in a lot of offices that are ridiculously open concept and lounges sort of spill into desks and kitchens so my impression of common spaces is a bit of a mismatch to yours.

I agree with your sentiment pretty strongly then.


It isn't called the Sony Walkman for no reason, FWIW.

The prior existence of the Walkman on its own doesn’t automatically justify the headphone trends popularized by apples products.

It's a synecdoche - using one single thing to represent a larger group of things. The article is about not feeling like every moment has to be productive. Listening to podcasts is just the example.

> You do not move yourself closer to your goals when you do a puzzle with your toddler. Or when you pause to observe the beauty of a sunset. These aren’t productive activities.

I would argue that every non-targeted activity still has some end, however unconscious or hard to measure. If your goal is to be a good father, doing a puzzle with your toddler is one tiny piece of that goal, however mindless/mundane it may feel.

Sometimes I think that our brains are like rock tumblers, and that even something seemingly worthless like zoning out in front of a TV can serve a purpose to take a particular edge off one of the rocks we've got tumbling around. The trick is figuring out when we're done wearing that edge and should spur ourselves to do something else.


> I would argue that every non-targeted activity still has some end, however unconscious or hard to measure.

What would count as evidence against this position? (Nothing, seems to me.) I mean, if someone believes the contrary, what could you or they conceivably do to decide the question?


I know I should be listening to the sounds of the birds when I take my daily walk. After all, the purpose is a sort of reset - an active meditation. And maybe it's a product of this productivity meme, whereby every waking moment must be utilised to it's maximum potential. But everyday I want to explore one or two recently released albums, and it just fits to fit them into my daily dose of vitamin D. I actually feel like a pleasure of mine has been lost if I go out without them.

Reading all the comments here, I wonder if we are that cursed generation that has convinced itself that the point of life is nothing if it doesn't work towards some goal.

Running around in circles.

Just live your life so that you can eat and sleep well. Everything else is just a scam.


Seriously, the hostility toward this article is unnerving.

"Where do you think we are?" - Dr. John Dorian

I don't like walking with headphones at all. I've never been comfortable not being able to hear a good chunk of what's going on near me while in motion. I don't like a loud car radio either, even as a passenger.

> So I’ll heed Pascal’s advice – and ditch the AirPods during my next beach walk.

All of us who have to walk in the concrete jungle and deal with the nonstop cacophony of ambulances, construction, and speeding cars zooming past the sidewalks can just get fucked, I suppose.


You should probably not be blocking out ambulance, construction, and speeding car sounds while walking outside for your own safety

I don't generally wear headphones when walking anyway but I can't stand the idea of being that disconnected in an urban area. (And I know about transparency mode in AirPod Pros but still doesn't feel comfortable.)

It's ok to take a walk with headphones.

But never run with scissors.

Unless you need to save someone from a zip-tie emergency. You should then at least walk with a sense of urgency.

Wearing headphones while walking or jogging on MUP (multi-use paths) makes it more difficult for cyclists to get their attention. They won't hear the cyclist calling out.

> You do not move yourself closer to your goals when you do a puzzle with your toddler.

If that's true, you may need to reconsider your goals.


yah I closed this article as soon as the author implied that the "atelic" activities described have "no end goal"

(ie making love has "no goal"? what kind of relationship does this describe?? end goal for sex for some people is orgasm, for others it's to make their partner happy, for even others, it's to bond and have a closer, more intimate relationship, for others, it's to work out physically and have fun)

I'd do a puzzle with my toddler since my goal is to make my baby interested and happy.

I'd play a piece of music to entertain the idea that my goal is to be able to read sheet music.

There is nothing without goals. The goals this person has needs to be reconsidered.


Surprisingly enough, one of the most important ethics works of the century (“Intention”, by Anscombe) tries to address that problem and one of her insights is that yes, there are actions without a clear answer to “what for?” but they are nevertheless human actions.

There is no wrong in doing things “just because I want to”.


I think the author means activities which have intrinsic reward and don't necessarily further some project ie the "being" state of mind. This is contrasted with "doing" activities motivated by a desire to be different, to change oneself, to get somewhere, to produce in some way. Work vs play essentially. One is carried out in the mood of time, the other is more aimless in the best possible way. An activity carried out in the mood of timelessness.

> There is nothing without goals.

What a dreadful way to live.


I think it's just a difference of perspective and certainly not a dreadful way to live - whatever way you choose to live is fine by me as long as you give others the freedom to choose for themselves.

I personally think that the philosophy of action comes down to desires in every case - any act you take is taken because a tally board in your brain weighed a number of alternatives and came out with that act as the winner. That tally board isn't observable and may contain a lot of factors that you would never consciously place there (see, for instance, physical ticks) but at the end of the day the machine known as you decided that that action was the best to execute.


> We’re not human doings. We’re human beings. Personally, I suspect that my telic transformations come from a place of fear. The fear of not doing enough, comes from the fear of not being enough. Confusing identity and achievement becomes a slippery slope that robs me from the present and the beauty and love that surround me.

> So I’ll heed Pascal’s advice – and ditch the AirPods during my next beach walk.

but the author is advocating against that. That was just an example of how people try to make everything productive. It is actually in favor of atelic activities.


The author thankfully reconsiders his goals at the end.

100% agree: All of this talk about mindfulness, but sometimes just "being lazy" is peaceful and healing.

I feel like this neglects a huge use case: women that get harassed by random men in public spaces. Headphones are a godsend for this. I have multiple friends that wear headphones even when they’re not listening to anything for this reason. If you live in a major city it can be hard to make it a couple blocks without aggressive hellos.

This article is more nuanced then just being against wearing headphones, but I do think it's important not to judge folks wearing headphones either on the street or in the office since it is a helpful way to block out distractions and signal to others that you're busy with your own thing.

As a dev I'd often pop on headphone when working in the office even without music when I was working on a serious chunk of logic - I'm on the senior end of things and get lots of questions and sometimes you really get into a groove and want to focus.


tl;dr: if you like taking walks, don't feel obligated to make them intellectually productive.

Have to say I really don't like the writing style where every paragraph consists of a single sentence. There seems to be more and more of this style going around, but it hinders readability. It's not as bad as a wall-of-text article that uses too few paragraph breaks, but it's still poor style.


Agree, stylistically it made a relatively straightforward thesis pretty chunky to digest.

Now fear the wrath of the united Smombies! :)

It's also okay to take a walk with headphones on, but not plugged in/connected to anything.

Yup, I often do this to block out distractions in the city so that I can have a more serene walk even among all the distractions - fewer folks try and talk to you when you're out for a walk with headphones on.

It honestly can be very relaxing. I didn't discover it intentionally, either. A few times my music or podcasts just finished and I was so zoned out I didn't realize. But came to enjoy the result of it.

It's nice, but don't do it in the city or every begger, chugger, leafleter, sales person and tourist will expect a 5 minute conversation with you.

That's a great opportunity to learn to say "no" and how to demonstrate in various degrees of politeness that your time is not free.

The most liberating moment was when I learned to say "I don't care about that" to people with flyers, while keeping on walking


Beggars take about a second of eye contact and a slight head shake. Chuggers/leafleters/salespeople you can just ignore completely. I've never had an issue with tourists (London); what kind of conversations do they waylay you with?



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