Social Question

tom_g's avatar

How comfortable are you with silence?

Asked by tom_g (16635points) February 24th, 2012

When you are alone, do you find that you turn towards silence or push it away? Are you more comfortable with background music or tv on, or do you welcome silence when it is available?

Many people (including myself) grew up with the tv on at all times. It became a soundtrack to our life. Some people I know seem to continue this trend or fill the silence with music whenever possible, while others seek and celebrate the silence.

A friend of mine once told me that silence makes her anxious. She grew up in a noisy neighborhood near the airport in a noisy family, so silence “just doesn’t feel right”, and she avoids it if possible.

So, what is your response to silence? And do you feel your upbringing had anything to do with it?

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47 Answers

Blackberry's avatar

I’m completely fine with it. I live alone so I frequently turn off electronics and sit on my floor, looking outside the sliding glass door or at the ceiling or something. (I obviously sit outside in the Summer).

The only time silence is awkward is when I feel I have to talk to someone else so they don’t think I’m weird.

TexasDude's avatar

Like you, tom_g, I grew up with the tv on all the time. Most of my family needs background noise to do pretty much anything, even sleep. I, on the other hand, welcome or prefer silence most of the time.

cookieman's avatar

I covet silence. I love it. Conversely, I don’t enjoy a lot of noise and confusion.

I am an only child and spent a lot of time alone growing up.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Depends on my mood. I usually have music on but not now. I’m soaking up the silence.

ucme's avatar

I love mucking around with the kids, playing loud tunes & com-pu-tah games, but I cherish those oh so brief moments when everyone bar me trots off to bed, bliss.

thorninmud's avatar

Pretty darned comfortable. I go through silent meditation retreats lasting several days 7 or 8 times a year. I don’t own an mp3 player, or watch TV.

The most challenging kind of silence is internal silence. When people find themselves without some form of noise coming in from the outside, they quickly fill that void with internal chatter. That is stubbornly persistent stuff, because it’s the ego’s way of maintaining its footing in the world. When the chatter does drop away, in moments of intense concentration for instance, that internal silence can seem quite threatening, like a taste of death. Getting comfortable with that takes some time.

Hain_roo's avatar

I need dark and silence at night to sleep. I had a roommate who couldn’t sleep w/o his tv on, drove me nuts. During the day I like to have music in the background. Right now it’s just the wind chimes and an occasional truck off in the distance.

OpryLeigh's avatar

I’m fine with silence. I’m used to background noise most of the time but I feel perfectly happy in silence too.

janbb's avatar

I’m happy with silence in the house and have a great deal of it these days. I miss the clatter of my boys opening and closing cupboard and refrigerator doors and the “Hi Mom” as they come in the house, but otherwise, I feel at peace. I do find at times at night the “internal chatter” that @thorninmud speaks of can be deafening and often destructive. At those times, a phone call to a friend or music can be helpful. I grew up in a somewhat over-intense family but the television was only on at watching times and view it rarely myself.

tom_g's avatar

@WillWorkForChocolate – perfect :)

Admittedly, I am a silence junkie. I also feel quite anxious and over-stimulated when there is incessant noise. As @thorninmud mentioned, I did learn that my mind won’t shut his damn mouth. That became especially evident when I started meditating.

It’s interesting to me that many people here enjoy silence. My incorrect assumption was that most people avoid it like the plague.

Keep_on_running's avatar

Pretty comfortable. I don’t love it or hate it either way, it just is.

muppetish's avatar

Noise bothers me especially when I’m in a place packed with people talking. It makes me feel claustrophobic. Silence usually only bothers me when I’m at someone else’s house. It has an eerier vibe than when it’s, say, the library at school or my room.

Mariah's avatar

I don’t have problems with silence whatsoever. On the other hand, certain kinds of noise are really bothersome to me. I was playing video games with a friend last week and he said the video game music reminded him of a song he knows. He proceeded to pull out his phone and blast that song…on top of the video game music….music on top of music is the worst! It made me so irritable. I also really hate when people around me are talking during lecture. Ignoring some voices in order to listen to one is hard for me. So, yeah….silence is a-okay with me.

My parents tend to get annoyed by noise very easily – my dad gets irritable with us if we don’t mute our commercials, for instance – so probably my upbringing has something to do with it.

picante's avatar

I love silence. Until I stop loving silence. I certainly don’t need background noise, and it is very offputting to me to walk through a house that has a television blaring in every room. It actually makes me a bit dizzy.

But when I realize that silence is largely the product of not hearing the voices or the laughter of those whom I’d love to hear, then it frightens me a bit. But I’ve got a grandchild on the way, so I can imagine many wonderful moments of magical noises. The kind I love.

JilltheTooth's avatar

@tom_g : Your assumption about most people avoiding silence like the plague is not necessarily incorrect, it’s just unlikely that the silence avoiders would weigh in on this Q, or probably anywhere, for that matter. In my experience I have noticed that there is a general trend (not necessarily just on Fluther, in real life as well) to disparage those who like to have background noise most of the time. Music is often acceptable, TV rarely. I have the TV on for background noise at certain times of the day I don’t know why, just mostly because the voices sound kind of “homey” to me and sometimes I have music on, and sometimes it’s quiet. When people call and hear the TV in the background they often make critical remarks, it’s rather off-putting. I’ll be interested to see how many of those who really dislike silence will post here.

Sunny2's avatar

I’m fine with silence. I’m NOT okay with cacophony. Too much loud sound bothers me too, but if i can’t get away from it, like at a concert, I fall asleep.

SpatzieLover's avatar

^I’m Here @JilltheTooth ;)

So, I grew up in a bar. There were multiple TV’s on, the juke box was going & people were chatting. At home, when I was really little, I had a teen sis in the home. She blared her tunes, always had a group of friends over and was often playing pool (hitting ball noises).

As a grew up, I realized other homes were often deadly silent. For some reason I was always put off by the silence. Why? It sounds to me like no one is at home…there’s little life going on.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love to hike or sit at the beach….but I don’t hear silence in those situations. I hear nature.

The nature just outside my home today is just as loud as my TV is. Yep, Nate Berkus is on as background noise today The geese and ducks are talking away. The flock of starlings are tweeting away. The snow droping off the branches is fairly ploppy.

When I leave for erranding, the TV is on for the dogs. Otherwise, sitting in the quiet, they tend to over focus on the neighborhood noise. One of my dogs, in particular, will then just sit on the back of the couch and bark away at every little thing she hears. When the TV is left on (usually on classical music or HGTV) she sleeps as she would if I were at home.

Most of my family members have a TV on when they are home. My grandparents almost always had a radio on when they were in the house, too. It’s rare to step into a silent home in my family.

JilltheTooth's avatar

@SpatzieLover : Good on you! I always leave the TV on for Zuppy when I go out, as well. Do you find that people are kind of rude about background noise at your house? Maybe it’s a regional thing, I don’t know, but I do get a bit fed up with folks questioning my choice to have noise when they wouldn’t. I have to have absolute silence to read, sleep and a few other times during the day, but I would be comfortable in your house!
Just FYI, we have ploppy snow today, too.

xnightflowerx's avatar

I really appreciate silence and have no problem with it. The reason I became such a night owl when I was younger was to have some peaceful quiet time in my life because my house was absolutely insane. I find silence comforting.

I’m also a music lover. And I like to have music playing a lot of the time. But I don’t NEED it on. Working alone at home doing a job that doesn’t require my absolute focus, I like having other things to occupy my mind while my hands do their thing, so music, TV/Youtube on my computer or listening to podcasts/lectures on ItuneU and stuff like that is nice.

I love the nice silence of taking late night bike rides around town though. Those are the best.

tom_g's avatar

@JilltheTooth: ” I have the TV on for background noise at certain times of the day I don’t know why, just mostly because the voices sound kind of “homey” to me and sometimes I have music on, and sometimes it’s quiet. When people call and hear the TV in the background they often make critical remarks, it’s rather off-putting.”

Wow. You could respond with a “hmmm…you want silence, huh?” [click – hang up]. They call you and complain that you have a tv on in your house? I’m thinking the only noise problem you might have is the rubbish coming from these phone calls.

I am not judgmental (or hope not) about people who have noisy environments (tv on all the time). Rather, I have a physiological response of increased stress and distraction when I enter a house like that. For example, for years I would go visit my mother and try to figure out why I was instantly stressed out. Finally, I realized it was the tv noise.

gailcalled's avatar

I have always craved some quiet moments, even as a kid. My mother was an incessant chatterer with a voice that carried; she used to announce what she was doing, and it drove me nuts. “I“m going upstairs now to go to the bathroom and then get dressed.”

For many years the children and I were part of a Quaker school community that treasured the silence and used it as a technique for problem-solving and soul-searching.

I grew up with some classical music on the old record player and special TV shows on Sunday night and radio soap operas when I was, rarely, sick.

My kids and step-kids had special times for TV and music only in their rooms.

For many years my kids and my step-sons all spent the summers together in a big, old house on Lake Placid that had no TV, no radio reception and no road. We played songs on the piano and sang or had raucous games of Trivial Pursuit where everyone was free to shriek or shout imprecations at anyone on the opposing team.

I have finally, most of the time, learned how to turn off the internal monologue. I pay attention to the noises of the wind, rain, birds, the plashing of my little stream and finally the sounds of silence.

SpatzieLover's avatar

@JilltheTooth Yes, people ask us why the TV is on.

Whenever one SIL used to come over, she’d pick up the remote and ask me to turn it off. I found it very off putting. Mostly because I’d turn it on prior to her arrival. We have digital music channels. She has a multitude of rather noisy small children. The music would keep the animals at ease. When her family comes for holiday meals, she passive aggressively looks toward my TV ;) as I always have soft tunes on for meals.

She is no longer invited ;) because my son can’t take her family noise.

I’ve had people call and ask if they were disturbing me while I was watching TV. Usually, I’ll just walk myself into the dining room. Then they can hardly hear me over my parakeets twittering. As I type this, they are LOUDLY discussing important matters with one another, over a nice meal of millet, of course

JilltheTooth's avatar

@tom_g, the comments are rarely meant rudely, they are mostly along the lines of “Oh, you have the TV on, now?” or “Gee, I hate the sound of the TV during the day.” These are not worth blowing off my friends or making a fuss, like I said, they’re just a bit off-putting. Certainly not a hill worth dying on.
Often, however, a discussion out in the world will turn to how pathetic it is that someone usually a disliked MIL or family member “has” to have the TV on all the time, as if someone’s ambient noise preference is worthy of judgement.
@SpatzieLover : I love that you walk into a room with birds. Nobody is louder than a chatty bird! ;-)

SpatzieLover's avatar

Yep @JilltheTooth, as if someone’s ambient noise preference is worthy of judgement, that’s how I’d describe it, too. As if somehow anything but the choice of sitting in silence is somehow wrong or not quite right.

It’s passive agressive. Instead of being really rude (or clearly communicating their opinion) and asking “Do you sit and watch TV all day?” They say “Oh you have the TV on?”

Blackberry's avatar

@thorninmud Ah, so that’s why when I’m alone in silence, I eventually start a downward spiral of: “Will I have a good life? Why am I here? Have I been making the right decisions? Am I a good person? Should I be doing more to help? Should I make a change right now? What should I do? What can I do? Will it matter?”


thorninmud's avatar

@Blackberry If that’s what your internal chatter sounds like, then I’d say you’ve got a leg up on most of the human race. That some pretty reflective questioning. I don’t think the typical person’s chatter usually rises to that level.

JilltheTooth's avatar

I feel so cheap. My internal chatter is usually about what to have for dinner.

downtide's avatar

Most of the time I don’t have any preference either way.

Brian1946's avatar

I’m drawn to an ambivalent position between Simon and Garfoonkel, and The Tremeloes. ;-)

gailcalled's avatar

In this morning’s silence, I heard the redwing blackbird sing its “konkaree.” This is one of the early sigs of spring and very welcome although unseasonably early by several weeks due to warm winter.

Sunny2's avatar

This is all very interesting, but I have to turn on the TV. It’s time for the news .

Aqua's avatar

When I’m alone, as long as I’m not doing something that requires a lot of thought, I usually like to listen to music. As an introvert, however, it’s important for me to have some quiet time every so often. I definitely appreciate the moments when I can have some silence. This article is a good read on the importance of quiet.

Blackberry's avatar

@JilltheTooth @thorninmud It starts at what I should eat, then ends there :)

Esedess's avatar

I like silence. Many days after I get home from work I catch myself hours later having just sat there thinking or playing a game without any sound on. I would even go as far to say I have an aversion to noise. If TV, music, or loud people are too loud in my apartment I’m always uneasy. I never understood people who have a small group of friends over and the music blaring, or people who basically yell when there’s absolutely no reason to be so loud. A few times in my life I’ve actually walked around with ear plugs in all day. You can still hear everything, but it’s like having the volume turned down. Very relaxing.

flutherother's avatar

I am 50% silence, 30% music and 20% talk.

cookieman's avatar

My wife and I enjoy our quiet so much, we only have the television on when we’re watching a specific program, and we mute all commercials.

Jeruba's avatar

I was going to post my favorite quote on the subject and then found I already had.

Dead, airless, utterly deaf silence is disturbing. The tiny sounds of air movement, house noises, faint birdsounds. distant traffic, and my own breathing are welcome. That’s enough. I keep the computer sound off (even when watching the occasional movie trailer or YouTube video), don’t care for background music, and don’t like to hear the noise from any TV, especially a neighbor’s. A loud radio while someone works on a car in a driveway or does yard work nearby is torture. My father used to say that all he wanted was “a little piece of quiet,” and I didn’t understand that as a child, but now I do. It’s balm to the soul.

Jeruba's avatar

I see that the link to quotations in my old post is dead. Here’s a new one. Ironically (at least in my browser), the format is noisy: an error in the display has caused some quotes to overprint others.

wilma's avatar

I need some silence in my life. Not all the time, but often during the day.

lonelydragon's avatar

In the morning, it’s silence, but for the rest of the day, I generally like to have soft background music playing.

mrrich724's avatar

I prefer silence. Unless I prefer not to inflect. Then I prefer a few drinks and some background music.

Mama_Cakes's avatar

I love it.

augustlan's avatar

I voluntarily spend a good portion of my time in silence, and I have to have at least some every day (night). Overly loud or busy environments give me a panic attack. It seems like every noise (and sight, too) comes at me with the same intensity, and I can’t sift the important stuff from the background stuff, so I just get overwhelmed and freak out. I keep my computer sound off for everything but IMing or watching a short video. The noises my computer games make would drive me insane otherwise. I do like white noise when going to sleep, so I run a fan for that.

The only time I like to listen to music is when I’m driving or doing carpentry work, and I like it loud at those times. I do have a constant inner monologue, so I think it may have something to do with the level of concentration those tasks require. If my brain is quiet, I can handle some outside noise. ;)

I was an only child, but I always had the TV or stereo on when I was younger… up until around high school, when the anxiety hit.

mattbrowne's avatar

I’d say about 8 on a scale of 1 to 10. My score was much lower in the past.

gailcalled's avatar

@mattbrowne: And the scale is 1 or 10 for high? You are now more or less comfortable with silence?

mattbrowne's avatar

@gailcalled – Yes, I meant 10 to be very comfortable and 1 very uncomfortable.

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