A few months back, having finally moved our cell phone plan to an unlimited data option (cue angels singing), I was on the hunt for ways to get the most out of my newfound freedom to stream all of the things.
My children set the bar fairly high with their ability to consume seemingly endless quantities of content on some sort of 24/7 schedule that is hard for my brain to comprehend. They aren’t ALWAYS (not 100% always…) staring at their phone, but somehow they are able to burn through more data than I think actually exists in the world on a monthly basis.
Apparently checking Facebook 75,000 times a day is not super data intensive. Running GPS everywhere you go and ignoring all of the suggestions doesn’t seem to take up many gigs and megs either.
I guess I have some sort of weird competitive thing and I didn’t want them to totally leave me in the dust so I was determined to find some way to step up my utilization at least a smidgen so that the unlimitedness was providing more benefit than solely supporting an unhealthy Netflix habit for a couple of teenagers. (I know this is not a race I really need to participate in…and I also know these are very very very first world non-problems.)
Since I do have a job and responsibilities and stuff, I can’t just watch Netflix all day long. My eyes need to do other things most of the time. But my ears, they are unoccupied much of the time.
I had heard a bit of buzz about podcasts, mostly surrounding the whole Serial craze a few years ago, but had never dipped my toe in that pond. It seemed like a reasonable thing to try so I sought out some recommendations for what might be fun to listen to.
I hate talk radio – like HATE it. I just want those people to SHUT UP the whole time they are talking. So I was pretty sure I was not going to be a fan of the podcast genre, which is pretty much hipster talk radio, right?
But I was so very wrong.
My first hard core foray into podcast addiction was S-Town. Holy cow, y’all. I got sucked RIGHT into that one and binged through it in about a day and a half. The characters and the way the story was put together and the cliffhangers. Oh my.
I needed another fix.
I couldn’t find another story like that (boo). Until September, when on a road trip to Connecticut we blew through Homecoming. David Schwimmer has never been so interesting. And then over the next day, season 2 of the same. Which was wildly disappointing, and yet we quickly made our way through all 12 episodes.
But long before that I got hopelessly hooked on 99% Invisible. Oh so very hooked. This one was recommended by my very wise daughter. And she knows her content.
Each episode of 99PI covers a topic loosely related in some way to design. How things and experiences are designed, why they are the way they are, and why we react to them the way we do. Sounds boring. But the first episode I listened to was about solar power and the electricity grid and it was FASCINATING!
Over the summer on a number of lengthy drives (Philly to Toronto and back, Philly to New Hampshire and back, Philly to Nashville…and back…) we listened to approximately 210 (!) episodes of this one. Each one is only about 20 minutes. But still…210.
Topics included sports, architecture, philosophy, traffic, politics, advertising, music, sports bras, math…I can’t even. My favorite episode was either Holdout (which made me cry), or Rajneeshpuram (which was just a whole world of WTF), or maybe The Giftschrank (all about what information people have needed to be protected from over time), or geez…maybe Reefer Madness (because it inspired my college child to text me and say “Mom! I saw a Reefer!”) So much goodness.
Also in pretty much any conversation you will ever have with me from now into perpetuity I will say “I listened to a 99% Invisible episode about that.” I am super fun at parties.
I recently shared on Facebook that I had an ongoing love affair with 99PI as my road trip companion, and a friend suggested that her favorite was Heavyweight. Which is now a new favorite/obsession for me.
I listened to all of the existing episodes when she recommended it and I’m super excited that new ones are coming out now. This one is all about unresolved relationship issues and attempts to resolve them. Sounds heavy, but it is really funny and still deep and fascinating. The first episode is about elderly brothers who are estranged, and the last one I listened to was about a woman who was kicked out of her sorority in college and never knew why. There was one in the middle about helping an old friend spread his father’s ashes on a golf course. It’s good stuff.
Because I am clearly addicted and now only want to listen to podcasts and more podcasts (this listening is almost entirely in the car) I have a number of others in rotation.
I am a bit obsessed with health (reading and listening about it, not necessarily doing it) so I’ve been loving The Feel Good Effect. She interviews different people and talks about how to integrate different health and wellness ideas into real life. Apparently Randy Spelling is now a health coach which is super weird. But everyone else has been super smart and insightful. I mean, Randy was cool, but…what?
A recent find that is sort of like my beloved 99PI, but with food, is Why We Eat What We Eat. There are only 3 episodes so far, but they were great. And one was entirely about Kale. Go figure.
Finally, I have been listening to the For the Love podcast with Jen Hatmaker. I’m not sure how I stumbled across her, as she is a bigtime Christian writer and I am so not that. But I do love her energy and the way she talks to her guests. I have to power through the religion bits, they make me a little squirmy, but that’s probably just me. Mostly she’s great and has amazing guests. She did one with Brene Brown (who I do love), another with Vicki Iovine, who wrote the Girlfriends Guides back in the day, and one with Melissa Hartwig, the founder of the Whole 30, who is wildly awesome even if I will never be able to eat that way.
I’ve also dabbled in:
- Happier with Gretchen Rubin. I want to like her more than I do.
- What’s Wrong With You, which has a fun mix of guests and an interesting premise – “Successful people’s stories of failure.”
- The Good Life Project, the host of this one is Jonathan Fields who once did a online speaking gig (sort of podcast) for one of my employers, so that’s fun.
- Side Hustle School, which talks about different ways that people are making money on the side.
- Ted Radio Hour, I know a lot of people love this one. I think I have just been so caught up in the other stuff that I haven’t spent a lot of time here.
With all of these podcasts in rotation, I am still only up to somewhere around 1/3 of the data usage of the kids. My college child is using less now, either because she has better wifi in her dorm or because she’s actually not watching TV. I am guessing it’s the wifi thing. My home child is tearing it up with all of the YouTube and Netflix that one set of 15 year old eyes can consume. My bonus child seems to be less engaged with the streaming, but she’s only 12 and I’m sure will be ramping up any day now.
So, I haven’t really met my data usage objective, which in retrospect was kind of a stupid goal anyway. I have definitely found a new addiction, one that I think is probably fairly healthy. My brain is filled with new information and stories, and that can’t be bad.
I am pretty sure that every additional episode I listen to increases the possibility that I am going to say, “I listened to a podcast about that” one too many times and end up getting smacked. So there may be some danger in my new hobby.
But I’m willing to risk it.
What are YOU listening to? What should I add to my list??