Sounds of Nature?

The Dale Ball Trails in Santa Fe, NM

The Dale Ball Trails in Santa Fe, NM

Dear readers: I’m here today to discuss with you an alarming phenomenon I’ve noticed that is sweeping over trails, open space, and natural areas near all of us. I’m talking, of course, about the plethora of tunes you WILL be inundated to if you choose to go on a popular hiking trail at a remotely close to peak time. While the outdoors used to be a place to keep our personal volumes reasonable so that others could enjoy the absence of the noises of everyday life, it has suddenly (within the last few years) become common practice to blast tunes from smartphone speakers while trecking up the local trail. This is a very disturbing trend, so let’s analyze it in detail.

I think this problem has roots from a decade ago, when of the iPod and other assorted portable music players were released. From this time forward, a huge portion of our fellow humans have consistently plugged themselves into a blissful stream of uninterrupted and varied tunes to move throughout their day. Unlike the portable CD players that came before, iPods allowed enough capacity that one could listen nearly indefinitely without become bored with the music selection – and thus, an addiction was born. If you visit a college campus especially, you will view a huge share of pedestrians with their gaze down and a Do-Not-Disturb message provided by their earphones.

While some say that the need to escape into listening music when in public is a disturbing social trend, it never bothered me personally because of one of the iPod’s key design features – audio that only comes from a pair of headphones. ┬áIn this decade, these wonderful click-wheeled personal jukeboxes have been replaced by far more complicated iPod Touches, iPhones,and Android devices that include these troublesome speakers. If these speaker-laden devices had come to market from the onset, people might have evaluated their reasonable use more carefully. Instead, those who were hooked to their constant stream of music now had the ability to listen even if they didn’t have their headphones on them.

Also, these things are loud! While I might admit that including a modest speaker was a wise move allowing people to share a quick YouTube video with friends or have a comforting heart-to-heart with Siri, the latest generation of phones pack so much tinny, low quality volume that they can easily overpower a whole room. If you need volume to fill up a room with background music, that is what iPod Docks were invented for. And the best thing about iPod docks? They need a wall outlet!

So just like that, in the span of a few years, the sounds on our trails are provided by the latest smartphones rather than your friendly local birds of song. So readers, put your phones away on a hike when you aren’t snapping a picture, and spread the word!

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