The addictive power of good podcasts

Photo by Sara Schmitt

Like many millennials, the idea of podcasts did not appeal to me at first. Why would I want strangers talking in my ears? With so many image-based platforms, a medium based solely on spoken words, not even written ones, seemed uninteresting.

Then “Serial” happened. In the fall of 2014, the investigative, non-fiction story told by Sarah Koenig (“This American Life”) week by week captivated listeners from all walks of life. Eventually a friend convinced me to give it a listen, and I was soon hooked. I binge-listened while knitting or sitting by the
Christmas tree.

Maybe it was because my first podcast experience was such high quality (“Serial” won a Peabody Award in 2015), but it was the only one that held my attention. I had had my first taste of podcasts but had no idea of the love affair to come.

Fast forward two years, and again a friend is offering recommendations. I decided to dive back into this aural world, and now I cannot get the water out of my ears. The appeal of podcasts was clear: I could listen while doing nearly anything else. Instead of being a stand-alone entertainment form, they could be a companion while walking to class, cooking dinner and even falling asleep. Soon my Spotify account felt lonely.

As a self-diagnosed television addict, I had frequently resolved to watch less or even none. Eventually I realized that if I did not replace watching TV with an alternate activity, I would keep falling into my wonderful, time-wasting habit.

To curb my procrastination, I began listening to podcasts whenever I would usually reach for the virtual remote. This simple switch helped enormously with avoiding the slippery slide of streaming and opened myself up to more innovative and engaging forms of entertainment. (Admittedly, sometimes the podcasts are about TV, but that doesn’t count, right?)

I have discovered that podcasts are truly an introvert’s best friend. If you choose the right one, it feels just like the bliss of hanging out with a very talkative person when you are just in the mood to listen.

Besides talk and advice show styles, podcasts can be excellent sources of information. With all the reading I do for class, I know I am not going to sift through economics papers or discover hidden stories in history, but someone with a pleasant voice has already done that for me.

No matter what your interests are, there are podcasts out there for you. I even figured out that I could slow down the playback speed and listen to some Spanish podcasts.

If you want to lend an ear, my recommendations — in a particular order — are Modern Love; My Brother, My Brother, and Me; Freakonomics; Fresh Air; Real Talk Radio with Nicole Antoinette; Revisionist History; and Sawbones.