The unheard side of airpods


Julia Smeltzer

For many people, AirPods can help make social situations less stressful because it makes them feel less alone.

One of the scariest things for anyone with social anxiety can be going out into large public places and doing it alone. While surrounded by overwhelming stimuli in these situations, it is very easy for someone to feel anxious and stressed, but can AirPods come to their rescue?

My close family and friends who know me are aware that I deal with social anxiety. I can recall times when I would make my family leave busy stores or areas because I didn’t feel safe and I felt too overwhelmed by the world around me; at times, I would be standing in the middle of a crowded area not being able to breathe. From a young age, I would never order my own food at a restaurant or cafe, and the thought of going somewhere without someone else by my side terrified me. Now, if you interact with me on a daily basis, you probably would’ve never guessed that I have social anxiety. I am not trying to dramatize it or glorify social anxiety because it is a real and hard struggle a lot of people go through including me.

Over the years, my close friends have dealt with me refusing to go up to anyone without them next to me and making them walk into a place first or answer the door when the pizza delivery guy arrives. This isn’t who I am; it’s just a part of me that I have lived with ever since I was little. Now, the other day, I did the unthinkable. I went out in public, by myself. Crazy. Actually, I had Post Malone, Luke Combs, and all the other artists in my Spotify playlist right next to me. See, to ease my nervousness about interacting with strangers, I brought my AirPods with me and popped them in as I went throughout my day running errands near the Montgomery Mall and Target.

I love wearing my AirPods either in school or when I’m out by myself because it makes me feel more comfortable. I don’t feel like I’m isolating myself from the world, because at times, everyone needs a break from all the moving parts swirling around them. Sometimes I feel like I’m being judged for wearing them in public, and I feel scared that complete strangers who I will most likely never see me again label me as an ignorant and rude teenager. 

If you are not in the mood to talk or hate interaction with people, AirPods are used to keep people at a distance. At my work or in school I don’t mind talking to people, because I am comfortable in those situations, but sometimes when I am in public, I don’t want to talk to anyone, and AirPods act as my shield to avoid small talk and awkward interactions. 

It is important to note that there are a time and place for AirPods to come out. In situations like cars or train rides, free periods in school, and in certain public situations when you are alone, AirPods are okay. However, when I was on a college visit, another prospective student had AirPods in while the student tour guide was talking, and I immediately labeled him as rude and disrespectful. In situations where you are supposed to be listening or paying attention to someone else, it’s not appropriate to whip out your AirPods and start listening to Today’s Top Hits. To an extent, I see the other side of the story and how it can seem rude to be plugged into your device and not soaking in the environment around you. 

The moral of the story is that AirPods can’t cure someone’s anxiety, but it can help them in situations where they may be overwhelmed. It’s also important to note that everyone should be a little kinder to one another, because we don’t have labels on our backs that tell people what we are going through. You never know – something as little as AirPods can help someone through a tough situation.