Generation AirPod: The Avoidants

Ira Israel
5 min readJul 11, 2022


“Burnout, which often precedes depression, does not point to a sovereign individual who has come to lack the power to be the “master of himself.” Rather, burnout represents the pathological consequence of voluntary self-exploitation.” ~ Byung-Chul Han

Thesis: avoidant attachment dynamics exacerbated by a plethora of fatuous Internet personas incessantly hawking their wares, compiled with the pandemic, has caused people to further withdraw resulting in a rise in cases of depression as adduced by the 337.1 million prescriptions written for antidepressants in the United States (population 329.5 million) in 2021.

I get it. “L’enfer, c’est les autres.” Hell has become interacting with other people due to the fact that 95% of entreaties by strangers (and even some acquaintances and “friends”) end with them asking for something from you, usually either money or sex. You feel as if you won the lottery when someone only asks for directions to the nearest Whole Foods.

When you politely decline the offer to purchase shamanistic coaching services guaranteed to optimize your life, your dispirited interlocutor walks off but you remain engulfed in a slime of disingenuousness.

Everyone in the gig economy is perpetually selling themselves. Do you ever feel like a wallet with legs? What percentage of emails do you receive eventually solicit you to buy an online course or try to psychologically manipulate you (into a sales funnel) to participate in a “summit” — tempting you with free and worthless ebooks — as if one could scale the Himalayas via Zoom? And now they’re doing it by text message too!

“This course was originally (and arbitrarily) priced $14,000 (by me) but today it is yours for only $497! You will be literally losing $13,000 of my midwestern community-college wisdom if you don’t sign up today! Act now and it comes with a set of Ginzu steak knives!”

When I sit in cafes I hear people talking about their “clients”… clients, as if they wouldn’t interact with these people if there was not a fee involved. I wait in vain for someone to inquire, “Do you not have any friends, motherfucker, people with whom you do zero business/busyness, where there’s even no nepotism involved like having your ‘friend’ send an introductory email to her publisher about how they should publish your book on overcoming trauma with binaural beats???” Cha-ching!

The Internet eliminated all barriers to entry so now everyone is a self-proclaimed Founder, CEO, Public Figure, International Speaker, Thought Leader, Visionary, Spiritual Advisor, Shaman, Zen Consultant and Bestselling Author — a service provider, a provider of services, somebody selling something. These services claim to improve your life, make the world a better place, allow you access to an inner circle of fellow sheep, yada yada yada.

Job titles are irrelevant at best and fictitious at worst — except for the fact that most people now publicly identify as human doings rather than human beings. Try “I am a human being. To earn money I am employed as a psychotherapist.” As opposed to “I am a psychotherapist.”

So many people announce their curriculum vitae and their latest micro-accomplishment as they fist-bump you. Does anyone’s tax return have “Thought Leader” or “Visionary” in the line next to “Occupation” (besides Ray Kurzweil and Jaron Lanier)? And if there are so many Thought Leaders and Visionaries working so fearlessly then why is our society regressing back to indigenous tribal groupings, experiencing daily mass murders and increased random acts of violence??? Oh yeah, we are also on the brink of World War III as well as a second American Civil War if any of these Public Figures aren’t too busy selling their online courses to notice.

I guess there are valid reasons to avoid giving the hoi polloi access to your precious time. And why waste any of that valuable time just doing one thing when you could be multi-tasking, getting shit done?! You cured leukemia AND cancer last week just by your amazing TikTok ditties! Bravo!!!

Police cars roll with windows down because sound is essential, hearing what is going on around you is essential to all animals’ and most humans’ survival.

I don’t see anyone walking around with roses shoved up their noses.

When people are in public and have AirPods in, they are closing off a large percentage of outside reality. And I daresay that people wearing AirPods walking down the street are less likely to make eye-contact and say “Hello” to passers-by.

Sometimes when I walk in big cities it feels as if I have entered the Zombie Apocalypse. Everyone is in their own separate world, tending to their imaginary mental farm, egregiously refusing to interact with unvetted fellow travelers.

When Mary Ainsworth conducted her original “Strange Situation” experiments in 1969 she found that approximately 20% of babies exhibited avoidant attachment dynamics. 53 years later it appears as if so many people have become used to swiping left on their devices that they do the same IRL, namely “avoiding.”

Wearing AirPods in public equals swiping left.

You are effectively deleting/avoiding all real-life humans save the digital voice or music streaming directly into your ears. Real life is analog.

Your prejudices may be warranted. But what if you miss meeting the love of your life or reconnecting with an old friend because you couldn’t hear someone trying to get your attention?

I would guess that avoidant attachment style can be found in the majority of contemporary adults today.

As a psychotherapist for the last 15 years I have treated countless patients needlessly suffering from depression and anxiety. Needlessly, I say, because aside from putative chemical imbalances such as a biological dearth of serotonin, there are what I refer to as “lifestyle choices,” such as multitasking, spending an inordinate amount of time with your head at a 45 degree angle peering into a piece of glass, sitting alone in restaurants with AirPods in, being too afraid of being judged to interact IRL with other humans, being too afraid of being outted as the imposter that you fear you are, hypocritically being a Public Figure whose personal life is a fucking disaster, being so afraid of being poor (again) that you have to achieve, achieve, achieve…

Ask yourself, have you been duped into believing that you were put on earth to be “productive” — constantly achieve shit — and that whirling your thumbs around your iPhone for 18 hours per day is making the world a better place?

The only thing that corresponds strongly with happiness is the quality of your intimate IRL relationships, how you connect with and attach to other human beings. Not on social media but when they are standing or sitting in front of you.

Do you want to be happy? Do you want to ameliorate your depression and anxiety?

Then take out the AirPods, put down your phone, and give someone a hug.



Ira Israel

Psychotherapist, Career Counselor, Relationship Coach, Author, Esalen & Kripalu Happiness Workshop Facilitator