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Some have called my generation the MySpace generation. Others have dubbed us the generation of reality TV and celebrity obsession disorder; and though each of the christenings seems accurate in its own context, none seems to define our generation quite like the iGenertaion. Of course, I’m referring to none other than the Apple iPod. The iPod’s impact on our culture is revolutionizing the way we listen to music, sweeping Americans off our feet, leaving us blissfully floating amidst one another with our trendy white ear buds threading from pocket to ear. Some maintain the iPod’s merely an mp3 player; many others feel it is much more. An iPod not only provides listeners with their favorite music, but also the power to control how they feel and act towards themselves and others. According to Michael Bull: “People are controlling their space, their time, and their interaction” (Bull 69). Not only do they fill the ears of listeners with music that makes them happy, but they also help maintain personal space and fuel self expression. As a result, there is growing concern among citizens that Apple’s portable music player is hindering interaction with other people.
The iPod has shown great evolution in a short amount of time. At one time, the iPod was only accessible to Mac users, making it an exclusive and elite product. In 2001, “It was unveiled by CEO Steve Jobs on October 23, 2001 as a Mac-compatible product with a 5 GB hard drive that put 1,000 songs in your pocket” (Apple.com). Up to now, the iPod has emerged through 4 generations of iPods including the iPod Mini, iPod Nano, iPod Video, and iPod Shuffle. What was once a product only compatible with Mac computers is now available to Windows users as well. This evolution of the iPod is important due to the fact that its progression is largely responsible its strong impact on our society.
If the iPod were accessible to Mac users exclusively, the phenomenon that has turned the iPod into an icon most likely wouldn’t have impacted our culture so significantly. However, since the iPod is available to everyone and anyone (who is willing to pay $200-$400 for the mp3 player), the iPod’s popularity and hype continues to spread at a rate that is astonishing, a rate that most likely wouldn’t be very high had Apple decided not to make their product compatible with Windows as well.
With the advancement, young Americans fell in love with Apple’s product for a variety of reasons. While listening to their iPods “people are able to move in time with their favorite songs as they experience and create a soundtrack to their life” (Dubber 4). With up to 10,000 individually chosen songs available, literally, at their fingertips, iPod owners are able to continuously surround themselves with the sounds they want to hear. To enhance a mood or escape a reality though the vibrations of music, with the touch of a hand is an amazing power over one’s environment, at least in an immediate context. This concept of controlling one’s environment truly is a powerful notion.
For example, while coaching a soccer team earlier in the year, I noticed that while the team warmed up, a majority of the players listened to their iPods. When asked to put them away, the team argued that listening to their iPods during the warm up helped to pump them up for game. Others on the team argued that they should be allowed to wear listen to their iPods during warm up because it helped to calm their nerves. In an environment full of competitiveness, apprehension, and anxiety, the team was able to each individually control their tension and pump themselves up as they each listened to a beat of their choice on their iPod.
Further examples include controlling one’s environment when studying. Some choose to study in complete silence, while others believe the sounds of the ocean or smooth jazz are necessary to keep them from losing control when the atmosphere is overwhelmingly stressful, like when one is studying for an exam. Overall, the ability to enhance a mood or boost motivation according to the environment the listener is in while listening to their iPod is a major explanation as to why iPods have impacted our society so greatly. Consumers love the feeling of being in control and having power over their emotions in any particular situation, surrounding or setting.
People’s iPod love seems to stem from the connotations indicated through the mere ownership of the mp3 player, especially during a time when so much stress is placed upon cultural consumerism. The media-enhanced excitement accompanying the iPod further encourages our society’s hunger for the ownership of one. iPods are definitely one of the most common, yet prominent, status symbols of contemporary culture. In Signs of Life, the authors claim that for every choice we make in the products that we buy,