Let me start off by saying that my life is not representative of most Americans’ lives, and definitely not of the lives of most people around the world. That said, I have observed a new behavior in my interactions with friends in the North East, and have watched it happen between countless people in NYC.

Let me set the scene. You’re walking to a meet a friend in Madison Square park for a walk and talk, you agree to meet in front of Shake Shack. As you approach the smell of fries and delicious grease, you spot the friend you’re supposed to meet. A moment later your friend sees you, and you both non-verbally acknowledge that you’ve spotted one another. In the past, this moment of mutual recognition would prompt putting your phone in your pocket, and walking directly to your friend. There is now an emerging and subtle change in these interactions. That moment of mutual recognition is increasingly prompting both parties to remove their AirPods from their ears and return them home into their cases to recharge. I know headphones have been pervasive for quite some time, but this new behavior really stood out to me. Someone tweeted that AirPods are like Do Not Disturb signs for the physical body, and it feels more true everyday. More of us are moving through very public spaces in our own bubbles, only removing them when it’s time to explicitly connect with another human. Whether it was wired headphones, staring down at our phones, or now AirPods, it has been an interesting evolution to observe.

You finish the walk around the park with your friend, you say your goodbyes, you both walk in separate directions. You reach for your phone, see what notifications popped up during your short break from checking, and you easily pop your AirPods back in, and continue on with your day. These aren’t major insights or observations from me, but they also don’t feel insignificant.