The Importance of Noise


Hi everyone,

Let’s imagine a world where language does not exist. No one speaks. Our thoughts are not in words. There is absolute silence. Can we bear with it? I know I can’t.

We humans need some noise (not the bad city kind of noise). Maybe this gives us a feeling that we are not alone. After all, we are community creatures. We need people so we can feel safe and protected. The noise made by our loved ones around serves as a signal that there are people who protect us.

The rise of the modern life style, however, is pushing us towards a direction where we go against our natural community instincts. Now, more people are alone than ever. Some of us because of work, some of us because of other conflicts. Whatever the reason, there are a lot more people setting up a new life away from everyone they know.

Are we able to escape this instinct though? I believe this instinct is too strong to go away in a few generations. Rather, when we are alone and there is no voice around, we resort to things that make noise. The TV in many homes is on even if no one is watching it. Especially if there is only one person living in that home. We turn on the TV because we need the noise to feel we are not alone. Some people also walk with headphones in ears to compensate for the lack of a person to walk with. If there was a person, we would chat and walk. If there is not, then we need some noise. So why not ask a machine to do it?

Are these compensation strategies working? I don’t know. I don’t think so. At least not for our generations because this is probably too new for the human species. What will happen with future generations? Maybe their brain will adapt to the change and will take machine noise as a default safety signal. But maybe it will not.

What do you think? Are we trying to compensate lack of actual human voice with virtual voices so as not to feel that there is no one around us? Do you use any other strategies? Let’s chat about the important of noise.


25 thoughts on “The Importance of Noise

  1. Oh, Betul…
    This is a hard one. Personally, when I lived alone, i was perfectly happy NOT to have other human noise. If I was reading or working in my computer, the sounds around me were sufficient. I still prefer the sounds of most nature to the sounds of humans.

    I do utilize my earbuds in public spaces, mostly to drown out other human voices. Ones that are unpleasant, loud, obnoxious, or rude. Sometimes I listen to music to get me going, pump up the energy. I often use white noise to study or just be alone in. Everyone is different. but I’d rather listen to waves or rain than people.

    1. I think when I lived alone in Istanbul, which is a really crowded city, I also wanted no human noise around because there was already a lot of noise around me (city noise). Then, I searched for silence too. But if I am in a moderately-noisy place, then I do want noise around me. Do you think yours is also situation-specific or it is just what you always want.
      About earbuds, yes some people want to do that. Wanting some noise is just one of the reasons.

      1. I generally want quiet. Sound is like salt for me – it’s easy to add, darned hard to remove.

      2. Nice! I think I need noise. Maybe it is because I grew up in a noisy country, where people talk all the time and there is crowd. That might push me towards noise.

  2. I’m fairly happy with silence, or noise. My hubby has to have the TV on all day, which I find difficult, thus the reason why I now have a studio in the garden where I write and can be happy with silence, or if I want, some music. There’s a small TV in there but as of now I’ve not used it. I’ve lived in the city, a large village, and now I live in a very tiny village where there it’s so small there are no street lights. I love the darkness and the silence at night, and the sounds of the birds singing in the mornings.

    1. One thing that triggers the want for noise is that I don’t have my family with me. So, I think I want some noise to cover up for the fact that they are not here. Would you still want silence if your husband was not there? Would you the turn the TV on?

      1. I’m not sure. I guess I’d put the TV or Radio on if I were actually fully alone (if I knew he wasn’t coming back).

  3. You have but the nail on the head with this post! I think we have become such an solitary society as a whole, we don’t even know out neighbors as in generations past. Gone are the days of chatting at the fence or hedges. Who does live next door? What are their names? Could we knock and borrow something if we were in a jam? I dare say most of us would not.

    Social media has replaced real time interaction…..Our cell phones, tablets, pc’s, keep us company the vast majority of our day. We wonder why depression and anxiety is on the rise and Big Pharma profits from it? Ha! If they had their druthers, they’d keep us all in caged like rats.

    Quiet certainly has its place no question. There is beauty in the stillness. Yet many spend too much time in quiet living lonely lives. There is a pervasive pattern of isolation in society.

    What is sorely missing today isn’t just noise but human connection.

    Kudos to you, great post!

    1. Thank you for the nice comment! I agree that we tend to spend too much time in quiet and we sometimes want to compensate for the lack of sound in the wrong places. But that is the best we can do, given the situation. The sound here is not any sound, we actually look for the sounds of humans we connect with.

  4. I work at school, when I finish my day at five I’m really happy to be silent for a while. I’m not antisocial but it may look like I am. I like my music and nature, they are never intrusive, but people’s voices can be quite annoying at times, especially after a week of working with teenagers

    1. If there is too much of it, we tend to escape from human sound. I used to live in a really crowded city. Then I looked for silence. But if our home is mostly silent, then we want some human sounds.

  5. Hi Betul, a challenging post! My first thought was that (like some other commenters have mentioned) voices in particular can be very distracting for me. But on the other hand, when I lived alone, I would often seek out a space where there were other people talking, even if I went there by myself to read or work on something.

    Your post made me think, also, about “natural” sound — as distinguished from “city” sounds, TV sounds, or just being indoors with the windows closed. In my own experience, it’s been important to spend time in spaces where you hear mostly insects, birds, frogs, wind, water etc.

    1. I agree to the above. I think the real sense of loneliness comes in when we hear artificial sounds without the sounds of the people we connect with. Nature is also our family, so that is possibly different.

  6. I like silence. I like noise. Depends on my mood. Sometimes listening to music cheers me up; other times, it puts me on edge because there’s already too much going on inside my brain and my heart and I can’t take the extra noise.

    Often, though, I think we choose noise over hearing our own hearts, over hearing what God may want to say to us. It’s so much easier to watch TV or chat with someone than to contemplate why I’m feeling bitter toward that woman I just ran into at the grocery store.

    Noise can be a bandage, however, the types of wounds noise can cover won’t heal on their own. They’ll fester until we’re brave enough to be quiet and deal with them.

    You may enjoy my article on enjoying my favorite noiseless place:

    1. Thank you for the nice comment! I agree with you that sometimes we overdo noise so we do not focus on ourselves. Indeed, even the city noise is overdoing it. I think the main problem is that we fill ourselves with wrong kinds of sounds. Also, I will check your post!

  7. Hi, Betul. Very interesting piece that’s got me thinking. I think the need for “noise” and human contact is very much tied to culture. In America, for instance, most young folks move away from home at an early age–at 18. This means that a good many Americans put some distance between themselves and family while they are still very young. This craving of independence sets them up to live a life that could potentially be much more solitary than the lives lived by many others who live in more “traditional” societies and countries. I lived in Egypt for many years and am married to an Egyptian. Though it is hard to make sweeping statements about whole societies and countries, the Egyptians are much more tied to family and to people in general. They are more verbal which mean they both create “noise” and enjoy hearing others create it. Americans are quieter but they are also much more alone (and perhaps even sadder). Like I said, this is a very interesting read. Thanks so much for putting it out there.

    1. Hi Troy! Thank you for the comment! I agree with you. When I spend a lot of time with my family in Turkey, we all make a lot of noise and I like it. When I am there, I start craving for some silence at times, but only to rest my brain a little. Otherwise, I do not want that silence to continue. When I am in the US, I start looking for noise because my family is not here. I do think there is a connection here.

  8. Most of the people now a days want to life in a virtual world. Where he will have noises but none will judging him. Yes we love noise, it makes us feel we r not alone. But the problem with this society is that they want noises but don’t want to listen. That make them a robot.
    I guess we should appreciate human noises more that the machines. That will make us more full of vitality.

  9. I like the noise, but it purely depends on my mood. One should also accept this fact that when you are on cloud9, you feel happy to talk to anyone, not just about that joy, but yes you feel good at that time, things don’t make you irritated as well as the talks. while sometimes when you are sad as well as not in good mood, silence is all that you need. I call it ME TIME.

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