Are AirPods changing the culture of Fossil Ridge?


Caroline Sears

AirPods quickly became a symbol of wealth in modern culture. A pair of genuine Apple AirPods goes for 159 dollars.

Caroline Sears, Activities Beat Director

AirPods: with two clicks you can stream music from your phone directly to your ears. I used to believe that AirPods were slowly destroying human communication, that they had become a negative symbol in our generation of wealth or even popularity. But, I have never owned or used AirPods, so how could I attest to this? As I examined my bias, I decided to research the purpose of AirPods, as well as their role at Fossil Ridge High School. 

The Fossil Ridge Student Handbook exclusively refers to PCDs, or personal communication devices. Also known as cell phones. The chapter on PCDs states that “Students shall keep PCDs turned off or dormant at all times they are in class and at all times they are participating in or attending education-related activities, unless expressly authorized by the principal or his/her designee.” However, there are no direct rules about earbuds or AirPods. In this case, each teacher is considered a “designee” and has power over their classroom to make the rules.

World History teacher Chris Lake considers himself “pretty flexible” with phones. Lake even

offers students extra credit for putting their phones on the wall during class, an incentive that many teachers have adopted. He understands that “life happens” and allows students to step outside to make a call if necessary.  Lake stated, “I am fine with them being used during work time and other appropriate times. Otherwise, I prefer not to see them” about AirPods. “My thinking is that if they can’t hear me, they aren’t getting the information and the learning process will be more difficult.” 

When you google “AirPods” your screen is flooded with click-bait stating they are a survival tool, or that they are a disgrace to humanity, two dramatically controversial opinions. An opinion from The Atlantic stated, “For Americans who have already joined the office workforce, AirPods serve a different purpose: tuning out your co-workers without looking excessively hostile.” But how do these affect the social climate of Fossil?

Many students have earbuds in during class, occasionally in only one ear. When I first saw this, I was deeply upset that my fellow peers were not paying attention to the teachers or the classroom discussion. However, this is not a discussion of whether or not AirPods are distracting or helpful; it is about the question of why people choose to listen to music in class. People do not press play to tune out the teacher necessarily—instead, they are a way to stay motivated while doing work or focus. 

Sophomore and avid AirPod user Olivia Wang found a balance when it comes to using hers. Wang made a strict rule for herself to put them away during class, “especially during a lesson”. She stated that they can be very distracting when you are trying to focus, but that is just part of listening to music, and they are very easy to use.

As The Guardian reported in 2018, “Students who revised in quiet environments performed more than 60% better in an exam than their peers who revised while listening to music that had lyrics”, but the decision of whether or not they want to listen to music that could potentially distract them during class is up to the student, . However, if they chose to, they are subject to the teacher’s rules on PCDs. 

Lauren Goode, WIRED
“I think of AirPods the same way I think of earbuds so I treat them the same way” said Lake.

When it comes to the cultural impact of AirPods, I now believe that everything in our society has adopted some form of social connotation. When addressing a popular new form of technology, this is inevitable. It came with the first iPhones, iPods, iPads, the comeback of polaroids, or even Amazon Alexas. There is no purpose in avoiding the cultural impact of technology, and learning to understand and appreciate this can give outsiders a peek into our society. AirPods quickly became a symbol of wealth and even a “flex”, but they are only a symbol of the culture that our generation is curating.

Kalhan Rosenblatt wrote for the National Broadcast Company that “Beth DuFault, professor of consumer behavior and marketing, said that the AirPod’s functionality and mockability are key factors in its success” and part of their appeal. Many reports even state that they have gone “viral” over the past few holiday seasons. Effective advertising has led to record-breaking sales. Business Insider.reported that  “sales almost doubled to $6 billion in 2019, and they’re positioned to generate $15 billion in revenue in 2020”.

Throughout this process of understanding AirPods, I came to the conclusion that they, the AirPods themselves, are not changing nor are they mutating the culture of our generation. Instead, they only reflect what is already there.