Why You Should Lose Your Headphones During Your Commute

I absolutely adore music. I love that I can always turn to music to decipher how I am thinking or feeling, and it never fails to put me in a better mood. Listening to music is a great way to pass time, and every morning on the subway, I see people with their headphones in jamming out who must feel the same way. However, after ditching my headphones for a month, my perspective on commuting has entirely changed.


For a long time, I viewed the daily commute as an inconvenience. Since it is not really worth it to do homework during a crowded thirty-minute subway or bus ride, commuting seemed like a lost opportunity for productiveness. Therefore, I learned to put my headphones in and live in my own little bubble that disregarded the hectic environment of the subway. Worse yet, I abused the MTA’s free wi-fi to stay connected to the world inside my phone which only furthered myself from the physical world around me. But, after being headphone free for a month and deciding to put my phone down, I have learned that the daily commute is truly a valuable opportunity to find self-reflection in our social media obsessed world.


The problem...


In my opinion, social media has taken over our lives in the sense that many people rely on it for self-validation, even if they don’t realize! Everyone is prone to have a bad day every once in a while, but instead of reflecting on it, most people choose to indulge in their phones or laptops or music. Consequently, self-awareness is not easily attained because when we look to media to supplement ourselves, we find our self-reflection on Instagram and Twitter instead of introspectively. Furthermore, the validation that we seem to crave is from acquaintances and strangers liking our latest posts instead of the network of friends and family we have built relationships with outside of social media. We live in a world where it is questionable if your family’s support matters when you have Instagram followers or fellow Reddit users that let you know that they are there for you.


I do think there is value in social media, though, for it allows us to stay connected with old friends, family that is far away, and make connections with people who could help us in our careers, but I do think that this availability of artificial friendship can also create a need to remain friends with people even when your relationships are long over. This need to stay connected with people from the past is a concept that did not exist before social media. Sometimes I find myself commenting on people’s posts just so I can feel like I am still a part of their lives, and the issue is that there is a tendency to feel guilty when not connected to people all the time. Nonetheless, there is no reason to constantly connect with people you were friends with in seventh grade and haven’t spoken with since, when we all have at least one person in our lives we have a continuous real (as opposed to artificial and online) relationship with that is fulfilling as long as we let it be. If you don’t feel that way about any of your relationships, then taking a break from social media could be extraordinarily beneficial.


This brings me back to my main point: we put our headphones in and drown our issues out with music and social media, so we never allow ourselves time to digest our emotions. As soon as a class ends, people pull out their phones to see what they missed in the last hour in the cyber world. We habitually turn to our devices to tweet about a crappy day or how we had the best day ever without ever making sense of what each day says about ourselves. We record our lives in Instagram posts instead of in the moment even though we deserve more than that.


The solution…


I challenge you to disconnect from social media more often.


Use your daily commute as a time to put down your phone and perceive the world you physically live in. Take out your headphones and listen to all the craziness and chaos that is happening around you because all the falsehoods and exaggerations social media presence are not going to help you make any more sense of this world. Living in this world will. Being mindful of this world will.


In the last month, I have not just learned so much more about myself but also the people surrounding me. Instead of exploring the world that lays behind the lock screen of my phone, I have explored the actual physical world around me, and when you pay attention, it’s a completely new experience. If I am having a rough day, I can always find something beautiful around me to appreciate like the exquisite buildings of New York City, the diverse people who make up the city, or even just that I have the opportunity to live here. More importantly, by being mindful of the world around me, I give myself time to self-reflect and understand my day and my actions as well as the actions of those around me.


We all deserve to have time to understand ourselves and our world, so enjoy your commute. Even if you don’t have a long commute, you can practice mindfulness when you’re waiting in line or waiting for a class to start. Look for the good things during rush hour, and don’t discount your ideas and emotions. They matter, and they are worthy of your attention. Don’t take that away from yourself. Choose mindfulness and being aware of yourself. Try to disconnect from the world inside your phone and instead listen to the world around you for it is constantly changing whether you pay any attention to it or not. There is music in the world around you, and your Spotify playlist will be right where you left it, I promise.