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Bonding Through Shared Earbuds

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Peter Parker: I have a plan! Okay, first I'm going to sit next to MJ on the flight.
Ned Leeds: Uh-huh.
Peter: Second, I’m gonna buy a dual headphone adapter and watch movies with her the whole time.

With the advent of in-ear headphones, one way that characters can be shown to have or develop an emotional connection is to have them listen to the same thing by each taking one of the earpieces. This can also be done with older, more traditional headphones via things like multi-port adapters, but earbuds are a far more common usage due to their ease and comfort.

Note that while this typically is used for a romantic connection between the characters in question, it can just as easily be a moment of friendship, emotional support, or maybe even a pick-me-up for one of the characters.

Technology Marches On as many newer phones and audio devices ship with wireless earbuds that don't require listeners to sit too close together, making this trope likely to be an Unintentional Period Piece.

Compare Umbrella of Togetherness and Sweetheart Sipping. Contrast Headphones Equal Isolation. For a similar romantic moment, see also Romantic Ride Sharing. For playing music together, see Duet Bonding.


Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Dead Dead Demons Dededede Destruction: Played with by "Oba" in regards to the translator devices he reveals in vol. 7. They look like a pair of metal discs that he and the person he wants to talk to each put in one ear.
  • How Do We Relationship?: When Miwa thinks of Shiho, her First Love from high school, this was one of the things they were shown doing.
  • In the Inazuma Eleven manga Heir of Penguins, there's a chapter where Mizukamiya and Haizaki are on the bus, and the former tries bonding with the latter through playing cards, giving him his bottle of water, and eating pocky sticks together, none of which seemed to work. Instead, Haizaki offers him to listen to music together through shared earbuds, which they end up doing.
  • Kaguya-sama: Love Is War: One chapter ends with Kaguya listening in on something that Shirogane took out of the school library (after getting over her fear that his offer had some weird sexual connotation). Except it turns out that he wasn't listening to music, it was lessons on speaking French.
  • My Hero Academia: In the second light novel from the original manga, Jiro & Yaoyorouzu agree to share earphones while listening to music on the class bus ride.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion:
    • In episode 9 of the original anime, during the montage of Shinji and Asuka having to live and train together to synch themselves for the fight against Israfel, there's a brief scene of them sharing earbuds and listening to a music player.
    • A promotional poster for Evangelion 3.0: You Can (Not) Redo calls back to the aforementioned scene by showing Shinji and Kaworu sitting back-to-back and sharing earbuds from Shinji's music player.
  • Orange: At the start of episode 8, Kakeru is listening to music while Saku is pestering him to let him listen as well. Kakeru, however, notices that Naho was looking at him, offers one of the earphones to her, then puts it in her ear. As Kakeru and Saku argue, she watches them and smiles.

    Comic Books 
  • Avengers: The Initiative: During the KIA incident, Ant-Man (Eric O'Grady) and Taskmaster decide, having avoided being killed by the crazed clone, to just sit out the ensuing mayhem and listen to Chuck on Eric's iPod, not even bothering to get medical help for anyone else.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Turning Red, when Mei walks down the hall of her school the day she gets her giant red panda form, a couple extras can be seen sharing a pair of headphones.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Baby Driver, just before the heist with Bats, Buddy, and Darling, Buddy asks Baby if he has Queen's "Brighton Rock" on one of his iPods. He does and they listen to it together in a bonding moment.
  • Begin Again: Dan keeps a headphone splitter in his car as a memory of his first date with his ex-wife — they shared it while listening to her CD as they walked around New York City. He and Gretta later do the same thing with the headphone splitter, and they walk around the city in a montage that culminates in a romantic moment.
  • In Creed, Adonis and Bianca share headphones to listen to a song she wrote for him.
  • The Door into Summer:
    • Riko and Soichiro's closeness is demonstrated when she takes one of the earbuds Soichiro is listening to and plugs it into her own ear.
    • Later Pete the robot does this, showing how he and Soichiro are becoming friends.
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2: A paternal version happens when Peter shares an earbud with a toddler Groot at the end.
  • It's a Wonderful Life: A technology-relevant variant happens when George and Mary have to share a candlestick phone when talking to Sam. For the time period, the small distance between them could be considered too intimate for people who aren't even formally dating.
  • A Quiet Place: In a film where Silence Is Golden because you'll be killed by alien monsters if you make any noise, one of the only pieces of diegetic music plays during a scene where the parents Lee and Evelyn are sharing earbuds in a slow dance in their house. This establishes them as a loving Happily Married couple.
  • Subverted in Spider-Man: Far From Home. Part of Peter's plan to get close to MJ is to sit beside her on the flight to Venice so they can watch the same films through headphones via his dual adapter jack. However, his attempt at seat reshuffling goes awry, and he ends up sitting beside one of the teachers while his rival Brad ends up sharing headphones with MJ.
  • Train to Busan: Jin-hee shares earbuds with Yong-guk when sitting next to him on the train. This sets up their growing relationship throughout the movie.

    Literature 
  • Adrian Mole: In Wilderness Years, Bianca takes off her Sony headset and invites Adrian to listen to her Guns N' Roses tape as they walk along. Presumably, she does this to flirt or bond with him, but he doesn't catch on.
    After five minutes, I handed it back to her. I couldn't stand the din.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Afterparty: Aniq and Yasper are eavesdropping on the cops. Aniq asks Yasper to hand over his AirPod so he and his crush Zoë can listen in together, and Aniq repeatedly pushes Yasper away.
  • Community: Invoked in the second-season premiere, as Jeff and Britta engage in more and more blatant public signals that they are lovers as part of a game of "relationship chicken." One is listening to a song together through a pair of earphones.
  • CSI: NY: During "Indelible," there is a touching flashback to Mac and Claire's last morning together. He joins her on a bus to work and finds her sitting with her earbuds in. He gestures towards them and, without a word, she pulls one out and gives it to him so they can listen to "Here Comes the Sun" together before he gets off at his stop. They wave as the bus pulls away. That was Sept 11, 2001, and she was killed in the attacks an hour or so later, making this the last time Mac ever sees her.
  • When Ga-on in The Devil Judge cries because the man who conned his dead parents out of their money escaped prison, Soo-hyun, his Childhood Friend, puts one earbud in her ear and the other in his ear and plays a sentimental song then hugs him as he cries his heart out.
  • Happens between two pairs in the first series of Heartstopper. Best friends (with a budding romantic interest in each other) Tao and Elle share Tao's earbuds a couple times, then Charlie shares his earbuds with Nick on their beach date in the final episode.
  • In Misfits, Simon and Alisha bond when he shares his earphones with her so she can listen to his music. Alisha's power means she can't touch anyone, so earphone-sharing is about as intimate as they can get while flirting.
  • Ms. Marvel (2022): Kamala has to deal with two girls at school (implied to be a couple) listening to music through wireless earbud phones while standing right in front of her locker.
    Kamala: Y'know what I love about airpods is that you don't actually have to stand that close to each other. Love you guys, rooting for you, favorite couple, yeah.
  • In The Office (US) episode "The Client", part of Jim and Pam's time together has them sharing earbuds and listening to a song on Jim's iPod.
    Pam: You have new music?
    Jim: Yeah. [Pam holds up a hand] Definitely.
    [Jim hands her one of his earbuds and turns up the song]
  • In the Red Dwarf episode "Queeg", Cat is listening to a warped recording of Robert Hardy reading Tess of the D'Urbervilles and turns one cup of his headphones out so Lister can listen in as well.
  • Roswell, New Mexico: Max's memories of his childhood friendship with Liz include several instances of earbud bonding.
  • The third episode of Sharp Objects reveals that while Camille was in psychiatric lockup for her self-harm, she shared a rare moment of hope with Alice, a teenage patient who convinces a nurse to let them listen to music, and they listen to Led Zeppelin's "Thank You" on shared headphones.
    Alice: With these I can get the hell out of here whenever I want.
  • Sense8: Played with in the finale. Riley puts on a Depeche Mode song and the sound is shared by the seven people she shares a Psychic Link with. But to show that their individual significant others (and other members of the inner circle like Daniela and Bug) are part of the True Companions now, headphones are passed around (and Capheus puts it on in the car he's driving with Rajan) so everyone, sensate or no, is jamming to the song at the same time.

    Video Games 
  • Fate/Grand Order: During Kama's interlude, she expresses disappointment that the Protagonist is into relatively tame things like sharing a juice box or sharing headphones to listen to music when on a date rather than more...direct activities.
  • Food Fantasy: One of Salty Tofu's intimacy lines has him offer the Master Attendant to listen to the music he's hearing by putting the other earbud in their ear. A few of his bar stories also involve him sharing the music he's listening to with the MA, but with headphones rather than shared earbuds.
    Salty Tofu: This song I'm listening to is awesome. Lean back a little, I'll put the right-side earphone in your ear.
  • Haven (2020): Discussed when Yu laments not having brought a meloglide, the equivalent of an MP3 player, along to her new home planet in order to split the earbuds with Kay. It's available as Post-End Game Content, however.
  • Life Is Strange: Before the Storm: In Episode 1, while chilling out on the train with Rachel after skipping school, Chloe will pull out her MP3 player and the player gets to choose to either share an earbud with Rachel or to listen to music alone.
  • Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin: Sarah shares a Lufenian device with Jack in a flashback. She enjoys it and looks forward to adapting it to her lute, which turns out to be the opening theme from Final Fantasy. It is during this scene that she confesses her love to him.

    Visual Novels 
  • Little Busters!: In Haruka's route, one of the first quiet and genuinely romantic moments that occurs between her and Riki comes when they sit in a classroom together at sunset and listen to music together through shared earbuds. She even reveals she's made a couple of songs herself and puts them on for him.
  • Monster Prom: If you successfully romance Liam as Brian, their ending polaroid shows them sitting on a bus listening to music through a shared pair of earbuds.

    Web Comics 
  • Ennui GO!:
    • Max plugs multiple earbuds into his computer so he, Bee, and Cricket can listen to "Fuck the Police" instead of the Kidz Bop version, which is a shocking moment for all three.
      Bee: I don't wanna do this anymore! I don't even WANT to know what the real lyrics are!
      Cricket: No! We're learning the truth and we're doing it TOGETHER!
      [they start listening]
      Bee: That's... a LOT of swears.
      Max: [holding hands with both Bee and Cricket] Things are different now.
    • Izzy and her twin sister Adelie, for once, have a calm, peaceful moment at home sharing earbuds and listening to a CD.
  • Penny and Aggie: Early in their friendship, Aggie and Lisa are seen sharing a headset.

    Web Original 
  • A picture by Twitter user YoHomeboyRaps depicts a variation with a giant girl playing music on her proportionately-sized phone and wearing one earbud, while the guy she's hanging out with is sitting next to the other earbud on her knee — "just two pals listening to some music".

    Web Videos 
  • FBE has a recurring segment called "Sharing Buds" hosted by contributor Tori Vasquez, where she and another FBE contributor share earbuds or airbuds and listen to various themed songs. The segments tend to focus on both Tori and the other contributor learning about the genre each segment is themed around and how the songs affect them.

    Western Animation 
  • Flee: Amin has a flirty moment in the strangest setting, sharing his headphones with a handsome boy and thinking "I've got a crush on him," as the two are in the back of a smuggler's van being taken to Ukraine. (They are undocumented immigrants who are being smuggled into Western Europe.)

    Real Life 
  • The original Sony Walkman invoked this with two earphone jacks and a "hotline" button that activated a microphone and lowered the music volume to allow two people using the device to talk to each other while the music was playing. This was mainly to head off concerns that using headphones in public was anti-social.


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