Yeah, I know, I heard it on a podcast

How an innocent endeavor for easy education became a sonic obsession

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Kate Snyder is a Life Columnist for The Cavalier Daily.

Christina Anton | Cavalier Daily

For me, it started with the dulcet tones of Mr. Ira Glass’ voice. From my inaugural episode of “This American Life,” I swan-dived into the world of WBEZ Chicago, a utopia of bizarre stories and transitional xylophone music. I never came back. “This American Life” proved to be a powerful gateway drug, a slightly-open window that I threw up with abandon, letting every podcast known to man wash over me in a flood of hot-takes and ads for ZipRecruiter. 

I lived there, held prisoner in the podcast-verse, but I wouldn’t have dreamed of launching an escape — I loved my captors as much as they love the quip toothbrush. I was in a complete state of Stockholm syndrome — and I know what that is because I listened to a podcast about it. 

Within a matter of weeks, following the loss of my podcast virginity, my subscription list grew to a staggering number. Every morning, a new slate of episodes popped up in my Spotify feed, all ripe for consumption, each one glistening with that tiny blue dot beside its name — that shining beacon of novelty that whispered, “Come, Kate, a 45-minute-long discussion about the results of the Golden Globes awaits you.” 

Every waking moment became an opportunity to ice-pick my way through my ever-growing library. My concept of time entered a new frame — a walk to class would get me through to the first ad-read of “Armchair Expert.” It takes exactly one “Fresh Air” to cook a whole sweet potato. A new episode of “Who? Weekly?” It must be Tuesday.

From the instant my eyes cracked open, my headphones were in — “The Daily” massaging the synapses of my barely-conscious brain. The day ended in the same state with “My Favorite Murder” set to a 30-minute timer so that I can fall asleep to the sounds of true-crime. When I woke up, it started again. 

Every moment that was once vacant, silent became filled with recordings of political discourse or discussion of current events. Every ounce of free time was an opportunity to supplement my cultural capital. Every commute was a chance for unprecedented entertainment. I think I started to forget what “outside” sounds like — couldn’t hear it over the voice of Marc Maron. 

What had once been a wholesome habit morphed into an unsustainable compulsion. I had taken for granted the importance of silence, of time allotted to cultivate my own independent thought. The effects manifested in a new form of anxiety — my brain was completely oversaturated, filled to the brim with expert opinions and journalistic waffling, and I could only hope for respite.

Sunday is a dead-day in the podcast realm. It’s the day that all the hosts curl up in the corners of their studios, take off their headsets and tuck themselves under a sheet of that bumpy-looking soundproof foam for a long rest before they return on Monday, ready again for witty banter. This is largely speculation, but I’m like 90 percent sure this is what they all do. 

In any event, not a single one of my podcasts uploads a new episode on Sundays. I was usually disciplined enough to prepare for this inevitability, rationing my listening sessions so that I would have enough to get me through the weekend, but I’d run my stores dry. Not a single blue dot remained. I scrolled back through the list, revisiting past episodes at random, checking to see if any of them could hold my interest for a second review, but none would suffice. I’d have to go cold turkey. 

With my mood failing, I launched a last-ditch effort, returning tentatively to the top of my Spotify screen to the section I’d left rotting in disuse. With a timid tap, I selected the “Playlists” option. The titles seemed foreign now, a time-capsule of my tastes in a past life — the mix-tapes of a stranger who had never even heard of Sarah Koenig. I shuffled my most recent playlist, and the song of “I2I,” made famous by “A Goofy Movie,” blared through my headphones. 

The effect was instant. I had a full-on “Risky Business” solo-dance session — I made Ferris Bueller’s “Twist and Shout” moment look like amateur hour. I pumped my fist so hard I almost blew out my shoulder, and all this occurred within the confines of my closet — the only place where my neighbors can’t see me through the window. 

I went through the entire playlist, incidentally entitled “Dancing in my room,” performing a variation of jazzercise and “High School Musical” choreography. For the first time in ages, my free time lived up to its name — devoid of current events and cultural commentary, no mining for interesting talking-points. Just me, ABBA and the shirts hanging in my closet. 

Since then, I’ve made a conscious effort to curtail the voracity of my podcast consumption — no murder-shows before bed, no Terry Gross before I’ve brushed my teeth. I can feel the parts of my brain that were once so relentlessly barraged with rhetoric slowly healing and rebuilding as I reintroduce them to The Allman Brothers Band and Lizzo. 

My love for podcasts is a passionate, ever-enduring love, but impossible to sustain at such sickening levels of consumption. Now, my relationship with the podcast app has changed from one of self-destruction to one of mutual respect, and the passion has faded to a slow burn. “Slow Burn,” incidentally, is another great podcast. I highly recommend. 

Kate Snyder is a Life Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at life@cavalierdaily.com.

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