How iTunes Radio is Bad for Your Soul


Apple’s answer to Pandora hasn’t produced a spike in music sales like some predicted. According to a new report by Music Forecasting, iTunes Radio listeners use the service for a “lean back” listening experience and don’t want anything—even purchasing a song—to interrupt it. Having recently relocated to New York City—the earbud capital of the world—I’ve learned to “lean back” with regularity. Walking to the coffee shop where I write. To and from the subway. Even standing in my kitchen making a sandwich. Apple's curated tunes have become a ubiquitous presence in my life, helping me block out the world by flooding my head with something more melodic and presumably more gratifying than noises I might otherwise encounter.

That's why I’ve come to believe that iTunes Radio is actually bad for our souls.

Dutch sonographer Floris Van Manen argues that noise is a drug that modern society is feverishly addicted to. It stimulates, distracts, whisks us away to another place and time. From commercials to street sounds to 24-hour news channels blaring in every airport and doctor’s office waiting room, we’re almost never without it. When we open the app, select a genre, and push play, we're able to take the reins and dictate the sounds we're subjected to.

One overlooked spiritual consequence of our noise addiction is a failure to hear spontaneous sounds. By tightly controlling and curating what we hear, we may block out everything else and muffle the God-messages sewn throughout the fabric of the world.

As I shuffle through the city bobbing my head to the latest hits, I rarely notice the sounds of chirping birds or cooing pigeons as I pass a park. But I'm also avoiding the feathery reminders that I serve a detail-oriented God. If God notices when a single fowl falls, how much more does that God watch over me?

The autumn leaves fall and rustle as the wind whips, but I’m unaware of their presence. I’ve got Local Natives blaring in my head, stiff-arming a spiritual lesson about divine rhythms: God uses death to bring life. When I’m forced to release a self-centered aspiration or unhealthy habit, it hurts. Maybe the pain would be mitigated by receiving the spontaneous sounds swirling around me.

This works in the opposite direction as well, chasing away the undesirable sounds. Thanks to Apple’s Top 50 playlist, I don’t have to hear the cries of that woman at the table next to me who needs someone to stop and listen. I’m not subjected to the barrage of homeless people asking for money or food. If I don’t hear their pleas, I don’t feel guilty for not helping. Goodbye, inconvenience. With the push of a button, I’m able to live a day free from conviction and obligation.


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