"I’ll admit that I have occasionally been gripped by false memories as a result of podcasts — been briefly sure that I’d seen a TV show I’d never watched, or convinced that it was a friend, not a professional producer, who told me some great anecdote. But on the whole, my concern is less that I am being brainwashed and more that I’m indulging in something deeply avoidant: filling my head with ideas without actually having to do the messy, repetitive, boring, or anxious work of making meaning for myself. It’s like downloading a prefabbed stream of consciousness and then insisting it’s DIY. The effect is twofold: a podcast distracts me from the tedium of being alone with myself, while also convincingly building a rich, highly-produced version of my inner life."
(Suzannah Showler, 2019)
I often listen to podcasts late at night, eyes closed, lying in my bed, in total darkness. Podcasts are fairy tales - or even lullabies - for grown ups. They merge with my dreams, becoming the building blocks of my subconscious. Showler is spot on: these recorded dialogues have replaced my train of thought as well. In a sense, they help me not to think. Or, rather, it is as if, through podcasts, I have delegated the burden of thinking to someone else: podcasts are the ultimate form of interpassivity. Through podcasts you absorb information via (an almost) direct neuronal connection. A 21c gimmick reminiscent of that Peanuts strip in which Linus (or Charlie Brown, I can't remember) tries to memorize the entire content of a book by putting it under his pillow and sleeping on it: osmosis-based learning? Podcasts are the simulacrum of the "perfect conversation": always interesting, ever engaging, devoid of empty fillers and banal chatter, with "high production values" and "clever sound design". Podcast hosts and their guests are the friends that I wish I had IRL. They perform my "aspirational" discussions with gusto, save the moment when the host suddenly starts promoting with fake enthusiasm products and services in the middle of the conversation: the uncanny "native ads" reveal the artifice, break the illusion, shatter the reality effect [double tap on the airpods to skip thirty seconds]. Podcasts are perhaps the ultimate form of parasocial interaction brought forth by the internet. My friends talk to me all the time but don't listen to what I am saying.