7 Times When Wearing Headphones Does Not Mean “Do Not Bother Me”

The modern age has introduced some fascinating social norms that seem to carry over to other cultures no matter where you go, especially in international metropolitan areas. One phenomenon would be what we perceive the meaning of someone wearing earbuds or headphones to be.

Generally, headphones mean, “Don’t bother me,” across the board. Still, there are seven instances where we must forget the new norm and ignore what headphones and earbuds mean. Here are seven times when wearing headphones does not mean “don’t bother me.”

1. Natural disasters

Weather-related calamities have been happening frequently lately. Tornados, hurricanes, earthquakes, and tsunami to name a few. When something like this is on the verge of breaking out, we can’t leave the people rocking out with their headphones on while the sirens sound.

Ignore that they might want to be left alone. Extend helping hand and save another person. Even it means simply pulling out an earbud so they can hear or see the warning signs. 

2. When driving

The last thing we need is distractions behind the wheel. Hate to break it to you, but hearing is one of our best senses. We can perceive a lot about the world if you merely open your ears. For example, if you are driving or biking with your earbuds or headphones on, you are greatly reducing your ability to react to danger and drive or move defensively.

I have seen countless of accidents caused by people with earbuds colliding with others because they did not hear the blaring horns. Worse, I saw a person cross an intersection and hit an ambulance. They were wearing headphones and had not heard the oncoming sirens. 

3. Forgotten and dropped items

Yeah, the person might have in headphones, but that does not mean you should not call out to them or stop them. The item could be really important. I know I would not care if someone disturbed my jam to make sure my umbrella was returned to me.

In fact, I would be thrilled. On a similar note, if you just witnessed someone litter in a place where it is clearly in bad taste (which is everywhere), I think it is perfectly justifiable to disrupt their reverie. 

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4. Medical emergencies

This one should be a no-brainer. Someone is showing signs of having a heart attack, clutching out their chest, sweating, stumbling, and wan complexion. Regardless of their earphones, someone should do something. Whenever there are signs that someone is struggling, whether or not they should be troubled or reached out to should be the last thing on anyone’s mind.

As I said before, saving a life goes beyond personal barriers. If I was suffering from an asthma attack in the middle of the subway station, I would be relieved if someone stopped to ask whether I am all right or not, albeit my earbuds would be in.

On the same token, we can’t simply pop in our earbuds and skate through life without noticing the world around us. Just because we do not want to be bothered does not mean we can essentially subtract ourselves from the equation. Ignoring a person or animal in pain just because you didn’t ‘hear’ them asking for help is not cool.

5. Office hours

Depending on your line of work, it might be acceptable to put on headphones and get into the zone. Music is not only great for focusing, it blocks out the office chaos. Plus, the added effect of the “do not bother me” sign from headphones will keep prying coworkers out of your cubicle.

But you are at work. You are part of a team. Unless you are a full-time, at-home worker or freelancer with no one to bother you, you need to be prepared to communicate with those around you. Moreover, superiors are always looking for those employees who are quick to respond to impetus.

Openness as a team member is crucial for the business to function. If you are giving off waves of “do not disturb,” you might actually be hampering your overall effectiveness as an employee.

6. When class is in session

I must confess, I am guilty of this. In high school, I was plugged in almost every second the teacher was not talking. Sometimes even when assigned busy work, I had the music going because noises from others were distracting.

Yet, despite my wanting to be left alone to get work done, I unknowingly came off as detached and avoidant. Want help from teachers? Want to make friends? Do not put up limiting barriers. It will save the instructors from having to pull a Ferris Bueller moment too.

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7. Crime scenes

Before, during and after a crime, headphones are a moot point. If you are aware of suspicious behavior, are caught up in a crime, or witnessed a crime, whether or not you want to be bothered or do the bothering is not a choice.

Someone wearing headphones can become an easy target since they can’t hear an assailant moving in. And if you are the one listening to tunes, you still have eyes, so be a good Samaritan.

Though music gives us something to focus on throughout the day and blocks out noise, disconnecting from the world entirely is not possible. Despite the “do not disturb” sign that invisibly hangs from headphone wires, there will be times when disruption is unavoidable. Remember that in times of crisis, you need to be open to the world with every sense.

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