And now, a word or two about Bluetooth headphone usage

I’d like to take a few moments today to talk to those who have recently hopped on the Bluetooth Headphone bandwagon. Apparently its become socially acceptable and, frankly, chic for the general populace to wear a Bluetooth headphone for times other than a casual conversation. I frequently pass people in public who have a chunk of silicon and plastic stuffed in their ear, and invariably, they’re not actually using it. It’s become a fashion accessory.
Having said that, I’d like to hop up on the soapbox and toss out some basic etiquette suggestions on this topic – not only related to fashion, but also addressing simple social graces…
Please, Mister Businessman who has taken to using Panera as his own personal office. Take into consideration the volume you’re speaking when using your headphone. Yes, it may be necessary to speak above normal conversational levels to be heard, but to everyone around you, you’re just a loud, annoying person in a restaurant where simply moving out of range is not an immediate, convenient option. Take a moment to think about if you were talking to someone next to you at the table. Would you speak at that volume? Probably not. You’d certainly notice someone next to you doing it, and would likely be uncomfortable, if not actively complaining.
To the hip geek who just got your first headphone. Yes, we all see it, yes it’s geeky, and yes you can absolutely take calls anytime just by touching your ear! Congratulations, welcome to 2003. But everyone who would likely call you are all sitting around you right now, including your family, friends, and your manager. We got it, you have a headphone. Yay for you.
In that vein, people who have headphones should think about what they’re saying to the people they’re with. If I’m in an earnest and direct conversation with someone, I try and remember to take my headphone off and put it away. It seems that leaving the headphone online and stuffed in your ear is a way of saying “I’m listening to you, but I want to LEAP onto any possible interruption that comes along!” I find the headphones enormously convenient when driving in the car, or when walking around in public (I frequently don’t hear the phone ring on my belt), but seriously folks, when you’re sitting with a friend or a loved one, show some respect. Unplug.
And lets talk for a moment about blinking lights. What is it with blinking LEDs on headphones? Who are they signaling? Some of these suckers outshine traffic lights, and light up the inside of a car. The purpose of an LED on a headset should be so that the owner can look at it, in their hand, and see if it is turned on or not. Pretty simple. A small, muted LED is all that’s needed to do this. Not something that looks like it came out of some gamers casemod, and threatens to send random passersby into epileptic fits.
And lastly, to the manufacturers. Is it really necessary to make these things so ridiculously ugly? Of all the headphones I’ve seen, only the one I’m using now (A Jabra 500) doesn’t scream to everyone nearby I HAVE A BLUETOOTH HEADPHONE, SEE!?!? I like the subtle approach, where the headphone is as invisible as possible, but for the most part, it appears Jabra is the only company pursuing that design.
On a meta-level, I see BT headphones as the next step in acceptable ‘functional’ enhancements for people. Eyeglasses (chunks of metal and glass sitting on your face) are normal, even though they have a direct impact on a persons’ presentation. BT headphones are likely just the next step, but not until the bling bling lights are muted, the technical glitches are ironed out, and people get a slightly wider clue on how much their little piece of technology affects those around them.
Personally, I’m ready for direct wireless implants. Mounted right on the mastoid bone. No bit of tech widgetry hanging on the earlobe affecting normal hearing, it should all be inboard.
Ah well.


A wandering geek. Toys, shiny things, pursuits and distractions.

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3 thoughts on “And now, a word or two about Bluetooth headphone usage

  1. Speaking of eyeglasses, are there BT headsets for folks who wear eyeglasses?
    You know what would be cool for geekster senior citizens? A combo BT headset/hearing aid!!

  2. @eschamp
    Well, I wear glasses, and my Jabra works just fine. I’ve heard folks say there’s problems with glasses, but I’ve tried many many headphoens (both music and BT) and never had a problem. Dunno if that’ sjust because my glasses are very simple wireframes…

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