Dear Good Media Manners,

I can’t believe you haven’t tackled one of the great scourges of our society yet – people who listen to music so loud that it bleeds through their headphones so everyone around can hear it. I have to deal with this every day on public transportation, usually more than once. Please, is there a right way to tell folks who are listening to music that loud that they need to turn it down?


Jack W.


Dear Jack,



Good Media Manners

Okay, Jack, sorry, I kid, but not really. There is no good way to tell people listening to music that loud to turn it down, at least not if you care for yourself and your well being.

You see, here’s the problem – you don’t know the individual(s) in question. Therefore, you can’t really judge how they’re going to take it.

I am sure that many of these folks are well-meaning people who simply do not realize that they’re making themselves into one of the most hated people in the world. But, a small percentage may not be so nice and may cause you a great deal of problems should you attempt to show them the error of their ways.

There is no good rubric for defining which individual will inflict bodily harm on you for daring to suggest they turn their music down. It may be difficult if you have to deal with it everyday, but deal with it you must.

Now, when I was unfortunate enough to have to take multiple forms of public transportation to work everyday, I would have classical music on my iPod (it was that long ago) just to drown out the noise and then read a book. Today, I might buy super-expensive noise-cancelling headphones and read my Kindle.

The point is that it is incumbent upon you to find a way around the problem and to not confront it head on. If you know the person, sure, say something kind and gentle about it, but if you don’t, let it go.

What you can also do is take solace in the fact that there is a special circle in Hell reserved for people who listen to music so loud the whole train/subway car can hear. Sure, they may be doing it unintentionally, but that simply ensures their place at the edge of the circle instead of near the center.

Good Media Manners has said it before and we’ll say it again. In fact, it may be our cardinal rule – your (media) rights end where someone else’s begins. Do what you want as long as it isn’t affecting other people, once it starts to affect them, rethink your actions. Ask yourself: is it worth ending up in a specific circle of Hell for this; aren’t there things for which I’d rather end up spending eternity burning?*

*It should be noted here that all mentions of “Hell” and “spending eternity burning” do not necessarily mean that Good Media Manners subscribes to any Judeo-Christian belief in Heaven, Hell, an afterlife, or a grand deity. All such mentions are merely hyperbolic statements meant to illustrate a point. We have no specific knowledge of what happens after someone dies. Theories? Sure, we have those, but no specific knowledge. What we know about is Good Media Manners, and that is (just about) all.

So, Jack, there is the long-winded version of the answer which essentially boils down to that original short one – you just have to deal with it. Find ways to make the whole thing less painful (perhaps winning the lottery would eliminate your need to commute?), but avoid the confrontation.

Wishing you peace and quiet,

Good Media Manners

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