Gyms were once communal places. Nobody wore headphones. People helped each other out and talked between sets.
Today, things have changed. Everybody is plugged into their own virtual reality world where they craft their desired mood and intensity level, which definitely gives them a productivity boost.
But headphones come at the cost of human connection. Lifting weights has become a solo endeavor instead of a communal one. Instead of talking between sets, most people text. Others are opting out entirely and working out at home instead. That way, they can be efficient and avoid the inconveniences of dealing with other people.
Now that everybody plays their own music, there’s even a stigma associated with talking to others at the gym. People sweat together every day, but don’t even say hello or know each other’s names.
Headphones at the gym are a good metaphor for modern individualism. We’re optimizing for individual productivity at the expense of community and communication. Though I relish my trusty AirPods and the EDM sets that pump me up, I lament the lack of social interaction.
The tradeoffs might be worth it, but we should make them consciously.