Podcasts: How to engage by listening


My walk to class is 20 minutes. That’s 20 more minutes I could have slept, exercised, stood in the coffee line, read another chapter in my book. Needless to say, 20 minutes is a long time, and in a 20-minute walk, I get bored.

I started wearing headphones on the way to class like many of my peers, but after a while, I still got bored. I listened to the same songs on the same walk over and over again.

Then, I started calling my mom. I’d give her updates on what I was doing, what my friends were doing and yes, even what I was eating. It wasn’t me this time — she got bored.

When my mom began having “meetings” at 9 am, I tried something new to entertain myself — podcasts.

Podcasts became the perfect solution. With podcasts, I can learn something on my way to class — and about whatever topic I choose. I was fascinated by Brian Reed’s story of S-Town on my way to the Chemistry building. And in Alix Spiegel and Hanna Rosin’s Invisibilia, I learned about emotions on my way to English class, which came to be the topic for my term paper.

I found myself in this same boredom dilemma while performing ordinary tasks around my apartment. Life is different without a cable subscription. For example, every morning, while cooking eggs, I listen to The Daily.

Podcasts became consistent subject matter for my essays in many classes, and their topics began feeding into my everyday conversations. “So, I listened to this podcast and…” became my tagline at the lunch table and everyone’s cue to tune me out for 10 minutes.

I talked with an old friend from high school who shares a similar obsession, and when discussing the latest Serial episode, he interrupted my rant on the ending of the season.

“What do you do with yourself while you’re listening to them?” Will said.

“Other things, I guess,” I responded. “Cooking, cleaning, walking, driving, I don’t know.”

But Will had apparently listened to the entire season of Serial, laying on his bed, face up, staring at the ceiling. Understandably, it took him a while to complete the season.

While I use podcasts to evade boredom, I’m always multitasking when listening to an episode. I think this speaks to my generation in its strong desire to always be doing something interactive or engaging.

When the radio was invented, surely people had the same issue — unsure where to look or what to do with their hands, but this wasn’t a spoken problem. People weren’t accustomed to being overly stimulated.

With the development of technology, people want to be immersed even when they put down the phone, turn from Netflix and close the laptop. Podcasts are both a regression in technology from this overly stimulated formula and a progression with a portable, on-demand radio, enabling efficient multitasking.

Podcasts entertain me on my walk to class and that’s all I’m asking for.

And now, here’s a brief list of a few of my favorite podcasts.

  1. The Daily
  2. Still Processing
  3. Invisibilia
  4. S-Town
  5. 36 Questions — The Podcast Musical
  6. The New Yorker: Radio Hour
  7. Modern Love
  8. The New Yorker: Fiction
  9. Unscrewed
  10. Serial

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