As people adjust to the new lifestyle dictated by the pandemic, podcasts have taken on a new type of relevance. Because of the broad topic selection and versatility, listeners are able to use podcasts to cope in these troubling times.
Math Department Chair Lee Goldman observed that because people have more time, all forms of media are especially relevant right now, but podcasts offer certain unique advantages. Goldman enjoys podcasts as a way to take a break from staring at her device: “We spend all day in our jobs or in our school life on screens, and the last thing I want to do is look at more screens,” she said.
Goldman also finds that she can multitask when listening to podcasts. During lockdown, she has been walking a lot more “for sanity and for exercise” and often listens to podcasts while doing so.
Sophomore Maya Stutman-Shaw points out that in addition to the versatility of the medium itself, its wide variety of content allows people to use it for what they need. She said podcasts “can keep you preoccupied, and make you feel what you want to feel in that moment.”
Goldman sees podcasts as a form of escapism. “The most interesting ones are the ones that take you away from what’s happening in the world.” When listening to podcasts she finds herself skipping COVID-19 related episodes and instead sees greater value in podcasts that can offer a distraction.
Stutman-Shaw likes to find a balance between heavy news-based channels and lighter story-based ones. She compared two podcasts by the New York Times that she likes to switch between. One podcast, The Daily, contains interviews about current events that Stutman-Shaw says can sometimes be disheartening; the other, Modern Love, is an uplifting podcast that features true stories of love performed by actors.
Some podcasts achieve both relevance and entertainment, according to Stutman-Shaw. She describes the NPR podcast Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!, which Goldman is a fan of as well, as being both informative and fun to listen to. The podcast is a humorous weekly quiz show that covers the week’s news.
Everyone experiences the effects of the pandemic in different ways, and podcasts possess the versatility to help people grapple with them. “You can choose whether you want to be updated on reality or escape from it completely,” Stutman-Shaw explained, “and I think that is a really great tool.”