In Filling the Silence with Digital Noise, Kate Moran and Kim Flaherty share some research-based findings on how people use digital background noise to make sure it’s never quiet around them:
While many participants reported feeling the need to have some sort of audio in the background during their silent moments, others reported a more intense version of this phenomenon: the need to fill all the empty moments in their lives with some activity to avoid boredom or downtime. This behavior fills the ‘silence’ in a figurative way — people use their devices to keep their minds constantly occupied.
I read this article with interest, because I also do this—albeit for a different reason. I have a condition called tinnitus, which is a consistent ringing in the ears. There is no cure for it—the only way to deal with it is to learn to manage and be ok with it. For those of us who suffer from tinnitus, silence is torture. Because there is no silence. Your only choices are (1) the sounds/noises you put on around you, or (2) a loud ringing in your head that comes from nowhere and everywhere and never goes away.
Guess which option we usually go for…