Have you ever had someone ask you to borrow your earbuds? It's gross, right? I typically say yes, but I'm always skeeved out, and reach for the alcohol wipes afterward. Bottom line: earbud sharing is not acceptable social behaviour.
Here's an example. Most of the Gizmodo US staff is in New York. I'm based in San Francisco. But in July, I flew out to work for a week at Gawker HQ in Manhattan. One day, I realised I'd left my earbuds behind. So I asked around for some, thinking, "it's Gizmodo. There must be an unused pair of earbuds around somewhere."
Oddly, there were not. But I immediately got offers from about three people to borrow their earbuds. (Thanks, Kyle, Joe and Joel!)
No sir! No thank you! I don't want to borrow your skanky earbuds! I'll just sit here without any music and think quietly to myself. And it's a two way street. I don't want to share my ear canals with your filthy wax-dwelling foulness, either. Your ears are gross.
This is nothing personal. Mine are gross too, probably. Everyone's are. The earhole is a nasty place I don't want to know about. I love sharing music, digitally. But physically sharing something that's been in one of your orifices is out of the question.
Think about it like this: Any part of the body that secretes something is a part of the body that doesn't lend itself to gear-sharing. I'm not sharing sweaty used socks, or a toothbrush, or a neti pot either. I don't even share earbuds with my wife (even though we do even occasionally share toothbrushes). When you hand me back my buds, if there's any trace of your body left over, they pretty much belong to you at that point. Merry Christmaschauncha!
And look, it isn't purely even about it being gross. It's not just earwax. I actually can catch your cooties. In many hospitals, for example, the practice is to use disposable covers for over the ear headphones precisely to prevent disease transmission. Imagine what kind of germs are swimming around inside your ear canals.
Or here, I'll just give you a list: influenza, otitis externa (swimmer's ear, gotten by passing along bacteria), ear mites, ear fungus, even maggots. Maggots! OK, granted, the maggots are very unlikely. But that it's even a possibility should preclude your sharing earbuds.
Now maybe you have an extra set of bud covers. OK, I can deal with that. Maybe. If I know you and respect your hygiene levels. But I'm not typically packing those. So, no, you can't use mine.
That's just gross, Kyle. It's gross.