AirPods have ruined the headphone-sharing game, and I for one refuse to stay silent while decades of adorable eye-gazing, face-bumping, and shoulder-resting memories fade away.
I recently tried Apple’s wireless ear buds for the first time, and while they may offer a certain sense of freedom and convenience, they’ve completely killed the intimacy that existed between two people sharing a single pair of wired headphones.
Sharing wired headphones with someone isn’t just a kind gesture — it’s a personal experience that connects two people through sound, but also in a literal sense.
With AirPods, headphone sharing has transformed into a cold, detached act that provides zero change in atmosphere. It gets the job done, sure, but gives people the opportunity to wander feet away from each other in the process. Appalling.
The heartbreaking moment of truth
I get that I’m a year late to Apple’s wireless party, but after they killed the headphone jack I decided to stick with my iPhone 6S and wired headphones. To use AirPods meant having to try someone else’s out, which didn’t occur until a recent train ride with my male friend (who may or not have been a crush at one point in time, okay?).
After spending hours together at a concert in Central Park, we settled beside each other for the train ride home, doing what any dedicated music nerds would do while still riding their post-concert high: listening to the same songs we just heard performed live and gushing over them.
My friend handed me his right AirPod, fastened his left one into his own ear, and together we embarked on my first wireless listening experience. Initially, I’ll admit I was impressed. I felt lighter, different, even cooler in a sense. But it soon hit me as I was freely staring out the train window with my head turned away from him that the two of us weren’t physically connected.
Were we both enjoying the music simultaneously? Sure. But were we in a position that made our shoulders touch? That forced us to be cautious of our every movement so as not to tug the other’s headphone out? That gave me the butterflies I’ve gotten so many times before when sharing wired headphones with a crush in the past? Definitely not.
The point is, the moment could have been much more meaningful, much cuter — and if we were using old-school wired headphones I’m convinced it would’ve been.
That’s when I realized not only had AirPods changed this classic experience, but they had the power to completely erase it from society.
The magic of sharing wired headphones
From bus rides on middle school field trips to Netflix viewing parties for two on a laptop in college, the close proximity of connected ear buds helped create countless magical moments in my life.
Growing up, sharing wired headphones was seen as a classic way to flirt. If someone offered to share headphones it essentially meant they liked you enough to have their head tethered to yours by a wire that’s around two and a half feet long. It might not sound like much but if you’re a tad socially awkward and unable to confidently flirt it can really set the mood.
In a way, it’s almost like the wire acted as the world’s most innocent wingman, drawing two people closer together, giving them the perfect excuse to simply be near each other for a while.
And it’s not just me — six of the eight people (woah) who cared enough about this topic to take a Twitter poll have shared headphones with a crush and found the experience to be ~magical~. (Those other two must not live every day like they’re in a rom com and are 100 percent missing out.)
Have you ever shared headphones with a crush?
— Nicole Gallucci (@nicolemichele5) October 9, 2017
In fact, sharing wired headphones is a bonding experience so powerful that it’s made its way on-screen in several movies and television shows.
The Office‘s Jim Halpert and Pam Beesley had a sweet headphone-sharing moment in season two that no doubt played a role in their future romantic relationship.
Michael B. Jordan and Tessa Thompson’s characters in Creed cuddled connected by a headphone wire to listen to a song she had written him, and Laura Prepon and Taylor Schilling huddled close together to listen to a radio on Orange Is The New Black.
Had AirPods been introduced to us sooner would any of these intimate interactions have even existed?
The repercussions of going wireless
Of course this applies to all the wireless ear buds out there — from Sony’s and Motorola’s to Samsung’s and more — but most of the people in my life are Apple fans and as more and more upgrade their iPhones I fear these AirPods will become ubiquitous.
And these things can work really far apart. My co-worker, Senior Tech Correspondent Ray Wong, gave me his right AirPod while he took the left and played a song for us on his iPhone. He walked backwards until he reached the other side of the office, and at two opposite ends of the room we both still clearly heard music through each AirPod.
When it comes to AirPod-sharing in relationships, “no wires attached” feels almost as non-committal as “no strings attached.” You can listen together without even having to physically be together. You’re each free to do your own thing.
AirPods seem designed to create a deeply individual experience — one so deep that when they’re shared, rather than bringing people together, they split to offer two different personal journeys.
And it breaks my heart to think future generations might never know the wonders of sharing wired headphones.