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Earphones etiquette

When it comes to earphones, I have one for every need.

My RAZER 7.1 Chroma is permanently hooked to my home PC, enabling me to unleash the beast when I’m gaming without having my neighbors Earphonescomplain about the guttural shriek of eviscerated monsters. My BOSE over-ear headphones always come with my office laptop to make sure I don’t bother my teammates beside me when it’s crunch time and I need to beat those pesky deadlines. When I run during weekends, my trusty SONY waterproof sports headphones keep me company as I pound the road – and I can also use them when I swim. And when I’m just walking in the mall or waiting for my ride home, my LG stereo headsets are wirelessly tethered to my phone as I enjoy the soothing dissonance of Frank Sinatra’s cool tunes amid the chaotic backdrop of chaos in the city.

There’s a reason why I always have earphones with me wherever I go. An earphone in my ear is my shield, my bubble, my cocoon. With it, I protect myself from boredom, from annoying interruptions, and from awkward small talk. Conversely, I protect the world by not subjecting them to my music, my games, and the videos I watch to pass the time.

But like all tools, proper usage of earphones take time, place, and context into consideration. To make sure you’re using your headphones appropriately, we’ve prepared a short guide of Earphone Etiquette:


In today’s open, shared office space, the struggle is real – you have a lot of people talking around you, gossip, jokes, various distractions abound, and your To Do list doesn’t get shorter.The temptation to just plug in your headphones and drive away distractions is strong. And it should be ok – after all, you just want to make sure you meet your deliverables, right?

While individual productivity may rise (there is some debate to this), overall company benefit may actually dip when employees are jacked in 9 to 5. Being lost in your own world means you’re not on hand to soak in and absorb information that may be critical to your job. You will also lose the chance to capitalize on opportunities. People around you may be talking about a project that would be perfect to advance your career; but since you’re nodding off to your jam, the opportunity will pass you by.

Retreating into your own bubble also makes it harder for the company to develop a community with a unified purpose. You’re more than a drone who is just required to clock in at work. Your company also values you as a person in its goal to develop a well-rounded organization. So when you’re at work, better to minimize the earphone usage and engage your team.


While you’re in public transport is actually one of the instances when you should be wearing earphones. No matter how cool you think your playlist is, that’s still no reason to inflict your fellow travelers with your curated tunes. We all have different tastes – what keeps your head bobbing may be absolute trash for me. Furthermore, a lot of people would just prefer to sleep while going through traffic. Your music (no matter how well intentioned) may be a hindrance to that much-needed rest.

So when you’re using public transportation, heed these three things. First, be mindful that your music isn’t loud enough to bleed off your earphones. Second, for the love of all that is holy, don’t sing along. Forget all the praises your mother heaped upon you. Just don’t do it. And third, make sure you’re still aware of your surroundings at all times. Not only do you need to stay safe, you also need to be considerate of that person on the jeepney hoping that you’d stretch your arm and help him get his payment to the driver.


It doesn’t matter how short or inconsequential the conversation is – the moment you start talking to someone, you have to take your headphones off.

I see this all the time – people ordering fast food, answering questions from strangers on the street, telling the elevator attendant which floor they’ll get off – it’s all the same. The length of your conversation is irrelevant. Your enthusiasm for the music currently playing is inconsequential. Even the relative insignificance of the conversation pales in comparison to the most important aspect of the act: the other person. Once you engage someone in conversation (or someone engages you), prioritize that person.

Even if you’re perfectly able to hear the other party, keeping your earphones on tell the other person that they don’t deserve your full attention. That is why keeping just one on is still a no-no. An earphone serves as a shield – an additional obstruction that a person needs to hurdle to connect with you. Do the decent thing and take them off when talking to anyone.


Even if you’re not talking to someone, there are still situations when you should never wear your earphones. Examples include classrooms, meeting rooms (even if you’re still waiting for the actual meeting to start), churches, and funerals. Context is king. If your whole attention is required or if you’re in a situation where you need to be extra sensitive to the feelings of others, forego the earphones.


If you’re travelling with your group, it might be ok to drown in your earphones. Of course, you have to consider that doing so deprives you of the opportunity to bond with your friends/family/colleagues. If you’re the lone passenger of a friend, then absolutely ditch the earphone. He’s not your chauffeur – be a good passenger and keep your friend engaged.

If you’re the one driving, then this is a no-brainer. NO. NO. NO. You’re risking your life and the lives of everyone else on the street if your senses are diminished by earphone usage.

Take it from one who loves using earphones – I understand the temptation to keep them on at all times. Nevertheless, we must always show maturity and proper decorum by being considerate of those around us, even in an act as ordinary as wearing earphones. Music, after all, should never be prioritized over people.