I'm back in my hometown for the holidays. Last night I met up with an old friend from high school and we went to the bar district — our common annual ritual. After several drinks we were sitting at the bar when someone came up from behind us and put his hands on our shoulders. We both turned around to see Andrew — a face I recognized from my high school class, though I didn't remember his name until much later.
It's always weird to see people from high school after decades have passed. But it was a pleasant surprise! We shared some shallow talk until my old friend asked, “Do you do podcasts?”
Andrew enthused, “Do I do podcasts!”
Here, as their phones emerged and they tried to figure out which podcasts they both listen to, I mentally evacuated the situation.
Now, I get that some people have long commutes, and would rather listen to humans talk at them than to music or the sound of the world while they putter down the highway. Everyone has their own preferences for what they want in their ear holes.
The real problem I have, I suppose, is with people who “listen to podcasts” and think they are somehow imbued with superior intelligence. That by the virtue of listening to people talk through a mechanical speaker they become as knowledgeable as someone who put in the same time reading a book on a subject, experimenting and writing about it, playing with it in the real world, or even making a damn podcast about it.
Also, in general, I'm very uninterested in people who can't stand silence. Anyone who spends their entire day filling their senses with the thoughts of others just doesn't do it for me. Where's the original research? The anecdotal evidence? The personal lived experience? How do you stand out from the herd?
Spending your day listening to podcasts and telling everyone “I listen to a lot of podcasts” doesn't make you an intriguing person anymore than if you say “I watch a lot of TV.” The only difference from watching TV is that podcasts help you ignore your environment wherever you may be, whether driving, walking, riding on the subway, hiking, or hang gliding.
This isn't to say people who listen to podcasts are “bad”. It's just that these confounded things are not for me, and being in the presence of them when I'd rather have non-mechanical sounds fill my ears makes my blood pressure rise.
And if you're someone who enjoys listening to podcasts because of how much trivia you learn, you can safely know that no one cares about what podcasts you listen to. We don't care that you were entertained by Murder Mystery Podcast #521 and we should really listen to it. We care about how your apparently intensive studies affect your actions or your usefulness to the people around you. We care about who it makes you as a person. And if you, too, care about that, maybe try removing the earbuds every once in a while. See what original ideas come to you in the mental abyss of silence, with that brain full of minutiae — what you discover may surprise you.