Matt HealeyTuesday,14 May 2013

The Snap:

The Appalachian Trail is a quiet place. You are out in the woods, so there are little-to-no sources of noise. The loudest thing on the trail is usually a fast moving stream or river. After a month on trail you get used to the silence.

The Download:

When you come off trail for a week as I have done, you realize how loud the world is. We are besieged by a constant barrage of noise. From cars on the road, to blaring horns, to the incessant sound of multimedia advertising, to the non-stop announcements at airports, to the public areas that feel it necessary to play bad music or mindless TV. It goes on and on. It is so prevalent that we hardly even notice anymore. Granted a lot of this noise is a requirement of modern living and can not be prevented. But if you do have the opportunity to experience several weeks of actual quiet you may discover how bad it has become.

So not all of the noise can be eliminated. The question I think we need to ask is, can some of it be curtailed? Have we gotten to a point where there are so many alarms, announcements, and interruptions that they are becoming ineffective? Several years ago I almost missed a plane while sitting in the waiting area. Why? Because there were so many announcements that I had tuned them out. At one point car alarms became so prevalent that when one went off no one would notice, thus defeating the purpose of the alarm.

We listen to so many announcements while on planes, many of them marketing, that by the time the safety briefing comes no one is paying attention. There is growing research that interruptions have a negative effect on productivity and the quality of work output. We can control some of the noise and interruptions, specifically the ones created by our technology. But we can not eliminate the ones created by society and I doubt that advertisers will volunteer to reduce the invasive nature of their ads, so I suspect that we will continue to be buzzed and beeped at, forced to listen to ads in airports and other public spaces, and suffer other interruptions.

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Image Credit: Flickr

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