I’m addicted to Spotify. Barely a minute goes by in my waking weekday life that Spotify isn’t at least playing softly in the background, if not loudly through my earbuds on a run or through the speakers in my car. At some point, though, I started yearning for more, something in addition to music, that would expand my worldview. Enter: podcasts.
Podcasts have been around for a while, but it’s taken me years to really get into them, and I think I have finally figured out the reason why. We live in an age of information overload, when it’s not that knowledge isn’t available to us, but there is too much knowledge to sift through to get to the “good” parts. It’s not a dystopian, George Orwellian “1984” world we’re living in. No, what we’re experiencing is much closer to Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” of overstimulation.
With this data dump, though, there is a silver lining. Educators, pop culture experts, historians, professionals and novices alike have gotten way better at the whole podcast game. Better yet, our limited attention spans can actually accommodate them, if we at least have the time to find the right ones. In the last two or three years, podcasts have not only increased in popularity but also blown up in sheer quantities and varieties of genre. I argue there is now truly at least one out there for each of us.
The purpose of this column is to convince you to listen to more podcasts, to go outside your comfort zone and hear a different perspective each day, to understand the educational and social benefits of these magical audio clips in all areas of your life. I’ll take you through a few of my personal favorites and fill you in on some of the benefits of listening on the way.
One of the huge advantages to podcasts as opposed to other information outlets like newspapers (sorry) and television shows is a balance of quick response to current events provided by multiple perspectives. What do I mean by that?
Well, take one of my favorite podcasts, “Pod Save America.” It’s a podcast built on progressive political commentary and interviews put out every Monday and Thursday by Crooked Media. Because it airs twice weekly, listeners don’t have to wait long to hear from the hosts, who were aides to former President Barack Obama. That said, because it isn’t distributed every day, the commentary is more composed, sounds thought-out and hits straight to the heart of the political topics at hand rather than discussing every news bit that happened that day.
Podcasts also afford you the opportunity to educate yourself on issues in bite-sized chunks, whether you’re looking to learn more about history and crime or technology and philosophy. The educational benefits of podcasts aren’t limited to more standard topics and fields, either.
For example, just look at another one of my favorites, “Still Processing.” This podcast, run by Wesley Morris and Jenna Wortham of The New York Times, takes an in-depth look at popular culture in the U.S. in order to address issues of race, class, gender and everything in between. When you’ve got two cultured writers teamed up on one podcast like this, the content goes beyond surface-level celebrity gossip; Morris and Wortham will make you think critically and question the world around you — a true podcast education.
If you can, take advantage of podcast libraries, student-discounted Spotify accounts to gain your own little education on-the-go. Broaden your horizons as you drive your morning commute, walk to class or hit the gym. And if you’ve got any good podcast suggestions, I fully expect you to tweet me your recommendations.
Mia Gettenberg is a UF criminology and philosophy senior. Her column focuses on education.