At Metafiler, Pastabagel writes that he believes some people require constant background noise (where noise is defined not just as auditory, but also visual, etc.) in order to escape self-reflection. That is, some people are so afraid of self-examination that they do everything they can to avoid it by cluttering their life with a chaos of sight and sound:
Have you ever known people who have to turn on a TV or a radio the moment they enter a room, or can’t stand to do work without some sound on? These are people who are desperately afraid of confronting some truth about themselves, so they try to drown it out with constant distractions. And people like this tend to congregate (because they all like the noise the others are putting out), which is why whole neighborhoods are like this. The noise is clamourous and demanding of your attention, and therefore it’s safe. They can deal with the street, they can’t deal with what’s in their heads.
The background noise doesn’t have to be auditory either. Clutter and general messiness are optical versions of the same background noise. People will buy junk and never throw anything away because they are creating a visual garden of distractions. Their eye can dance over a room for hours and see different things in the clutter each of which triggers some superficial memory. But the mind is so busy processing what the eye sees and recalling the seen objects context that theirs no time for thinking the thought “Why do I collect all this stuff?” The classic case here is the suburban family that fills their house with junk, or the teenager who plasters their room with posters, etc.
The noise can also be mental — constant text messaging, video game playing, etc to fill up the isolated islands to downtime in everyone’s day. The point is not simply that they like the noise, it’s that they create the noise. The turmoil they create out here mirrors the turmoil in their mind, and drowns it out.
I know people like this. In many ways, I am one myself. (To some extent, we all are.) But I find that the times I am most relaxed, am happiest, are the times the background noise is absent. Why do I love being alone in the woods? No background noise of any kind. Everything is a blank slate.