My three year old boy walks around with his blanket, which is actually an old sleeping bag. We’ve recently started leaving it at home when we go out. That was a big step, believe me.
This is not our first brush with security blankets. When my first daughter adopted a blanket as her constant companion I was surprised. Now, she was an independent and smart little blond girl- who just happened to be attached to the blue and yellow blanket.
I didn’t understand it so I did what I always do. I read about it. The books and articles written by people with letters after their names call them woobies, security blankets, whatever. They say the world is a scary place and children need to create their own little universe for their own safety. And soon, their own world and the “real” world integrate and they don’t need the woobie.
So these things have been on my mind. And recently my children and I were out and about at the mall -mostly because they have pretzels and a Merry-Go-Round which is all it takes to make five children happy. And as I’m looking around I see men and women with Ipods hooked up to their ears walking everywhere. And it hits me. Ipods are woobies.
They enshroud the listener in their own little universe, untouchable. They might as well have just dispatched their bodies to go to the mall while their minds went elsewhere.
When I was younger I worked as a low-level editor at TV Guide, which was essentially a liberal arts major graveyard. But one oddity there is that they allowed everyone to work while wearing headphones. So everyone wore headphones and did their job to their own chosen soundtrack. It was actually kind of nice. I remember writing a synopsis of some PBS show while listening to Enya and it stopped people from beginning those inane chit-chat conversations which always made me so uncomfortable.
But our manager got tired of having to scream all the time and wave frantically to get her underling’s attention and she outlawed headphones. And guess what happened: work quality went up and the place became a pretty interesting place. It turned out that nobody had actually been talking to one another. But soon without their headphones everyone started planning ski trips together and other groups like a Monty Python fan club started up. ( I walked in once by mistake and had fifteen Python geeks (all male) throwing quotes at me with cockney accents. I backed out slowly.) Some brave soul even tried to unionize. (They were threatened with firing and immediately stopped but always grumbled under his breath about “The Man.”) I found that chit-chat wasn’t outlawed by the Geneva Convention and could actually lead to more in depth conversations. In short, it became a more interesting place to work. There was actually human interaction. And let’s face it -liberal arts majors love to theorize and talk. That’s our thing.
And I think that’s what Ipods are preventing. They’re essentially cocoons for the modern day mind. Cocoons are cute and maybe even necessary for three year olds. But I fear we’re becoming a society of individuals walking around in body but untouched by anyone else.
Yes. The world is a dangerous and scary place. But take off the headphones. Start talking to people. Theorize. Unionize. Quote movies in a cockney accent. But for goodness sakes, lose the woobie. Take off the headphones. And live.