Hi, my name is Phoebe and I am addicted to podcasts. I must admit before I began my addictive tendencies I tried to have several people explain to me what podcasts were. I am not sure what seemed so unclear about them to me, but it almost seemed too simple of a concept. So they are just a radio show?
Like any good addiction mine started with a gateway drug. I heard lots of people talking about the podcast Serial and figured a “hit podcast” could be my way into this podcast world. Serial kept me company during long car rides and I would start to look forward to getting in the car.
I am no foreigner to car ride entertainment as I grew up listening to “books on tape.” I continued this well into my life and just thought it was something everyone did. I realized this was one of my nerdier habits when I started driving to visit my college boyfriend and when his friends would ask me how the trip was I would say, “It was great I listened to a book on CD the whole time so it flew by.” Their reactions made me realize that perhaps not everyone spends long car rides listening to a book read to them. One summer Shaun and I were doing a lot of traveling and I suggested we listen to a mystery book on CD. Despite my initial frustration that he needed to hear every detail and I had to rewind it if we missed something this experience made the car trip so memorable. Throughout the vacation we would talk about the characters and try to solve the crime. We even contemplated sitting in the car to listen to the rest of the book because we did not have a CD player at home. Woo Wyman, the main character of the book, is still something we reference in conversations. For the record, I think it was a pretty bad book, but it made a regular long car ride an experience and an adventure.
But back to my addiction, the topic of Serial was fascinating, but what really drew me in was the narrator. I felt drawn to her and the way she was so easily able to talk to anyone like a friend. I brought Shaun into my addiction and he would fall asleep listening it. Then I introduced my sister to the podcast and got frequent texts proclaiming the innocence of the main character. Shaun and I listened to the final episode one night on our couch. Neither one of us could quite figure out where to look during that hour.
After Serial I expanded my podcast repertoire. Now my iphone is too full because I can’t stop subscribing to new podcasts. I listen to advice podcasts (“Dear Sugar”), comedy podcasts, inspirational podcasts (Tim Ferris), and now my newest find is health podcasts. There is something so comforting about being talked to and feeling like someone is speaking to exactly what you are thinking, reading, or questioning. The voices of these “podcasters”(?) give me such comfort. I can tell it seems boring as an outsider to watch me just listening to someone drone on while I doing the dishes or painting my nails on the porch. Some of the podcasts are people talking about the most mundane things. However, this new art form is able to reach me in a way that I am always searching for. The feeling of connecting with someone which I search for in literature, movies, and tv shows. I am always searching for the new “romcom” or “chicklit” book because for some reason I am able to connect with these genres better than any other art form.
Maybe the podcast is retro. It is like listening to radio programs decades ago. But this time there is a plethora of choice. The amount of podcasts out there is overwhelming. It makes it hard to listen to one too long if you feel bored. Additionally, you start to feel like you have relationships with the podcasters. You learn their history and routines. I even listen to one comic who I don’t even know if I particularly like, but I am so comforted by the familiarity of her voice and her honesty that I can’t pull myself away.
I have always had some source of comfort in stressful times. Whether it was the days when I would watch Sex and the City on repeat and my mom got used to hearing the theme song reverberate through our house and knowing it meant I needed soothing. Or the books and memoirs that I read because something about the main character made me feel like I could relate to them or their lives. Or just because I felt like they were speaking to me as a reader.
I recently took a visitor to my childhood home which of course makes you notice the little things you never gave much thought to. I noticed a quote from Catcher in the Rye that I had up on my wall since high school. Salinger writes,
“What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn’t happen much, though.”