The iPod Generation: Born to be Separated



I came across this advertisement while the newest version of iTunes was installing in to my computer.

At first I thought these two healthy specimens were listening to two different iPods, which is probably how they met. But they are sharing a single device. Both walking along, audible world turned off, matching Gap denim. Nature and marketing taking their course.

The young woman looks at you, and has her hand gently and suggestively on the thin cord. They are outdoors – a rarity nowadays. But the sounds of the world are coming in mono, sans the production value of the sounds in the other. The suspension bridge intersects with her eyes and the kiss being delivered to her ear by a mostly obscured male interest. Maybe he’s trying to whisper the words of the song, or smells the sea in her hair.

She pinches a little tighter on the cable, the absurdity that dominates the image. Creating a snaking white line from her ass, traversing the belly and into her shaped hand, it then appropriately splits, traveling to opposing ears of the two supposed lovers.

In a few years this advertisement will date itself very precisely. Not because of the clothes or the graphical design. It will date itself because of the cord. Like the decayed plants and animals that run our cars, the cord shows just how crude the technology still is. A cord? But as the cable and the product disappear into chips in our heads (or asses), the image becomes all-important. Who it allows us to be, since most of our personalities are the color of moldy brown Play-Doh.

The image seduces. It says: we’re carefree. We’re outdoors; we’re in San Francisco, not some craphole like Atlanta or Houston, where it smell like pesticides rather than herbal essences and salt water.

If we accept this condition, this splitting, this dual monaural soloing, maybe there’s something we can make of it. Musicians could start making recordings for people who share their iPods. Maybe both channels are the same. Maybe they are completely different, like in early stereo recordings by the Beatles.

Maybe they are themed, or simply reflect different tastes. The guy can listen to something abrasive, the girl can listen to something romantic. Or they can switch, or mix and match. Or they can hear pre-recorded versions of things they would like to say directly but are too shy to perform. Or maybe some expert communicator can record appropriate phrases for them. Little nothings.

At least that way they will remain in their comfort zone of mutual isolation, back to when they were just silhouettes in the previous ads. Indistinct, separate. Random. Dancing alone.