Loner patrol.


Today Gabe is wearing a grey sweatshirt, a teal jacket, khaki pants, and brown shoes.

Look at those chompers! Gabe went to the dentist, and he had (almost) no cavities. Not bad, eh?

As someone who works at home, I find myself going out of my way to interact with other people whenever I can. Even though I’m kind of a loner at heart, I make a point of getting out as often as possible and seeing as many new people as I can. Because working at home, even when Gabe is at home, I find that sitting in my office without any ambient noise or coworkers wandering around making conversation can still feel a little bit isolated.

One way that I combat this is by listening to podcasts.

I first started listening to them when I was an art major, spending long hours alone in my studio, working on some time-consuming task like developing photos or mixing plaster. It was really nice to be able to work with my hands and learn about news or science or just listen to something funny while I did it. Even though now I can’t podcast while I work (writing and listening are pretty impossible to do at the same time) I still love a good podcast when I go on a run or am doing chores.

It’s like having a couple of friends around, except they’re having a conversation inside your earbuds, but when it’s done well it’s so engaging and can really lift my spirits even when I’m by myself.

I read this piece on the Awl recently, where a reporter went to MaxFunCon, which is a get-together hosted by maybe-my-favorite podcast network, Maximum Fun. It had a quote from one attendee who rather gloomily described listening to podcasts this way:

“No one listens to podcasts because they’re happy.”

I think he may be right about a lot of podcast listeners (people who are withdrawn, anxious, and have a hard time talking to people usually still want to connect to other people, and podcasts are a way build these weirdly intimate audio bonds between yourself and the broadcasters) and I think for people who work at home or are otherwise isolated in some way, podcasts are this unique tool for staying connected. With people you’ve never met, but who talk right into your ears once a week.

It reminds me of something I read a few years ago saying that people who watched serial TV shows, ones with the same characters season after season, that these people felt the same connections with those characters and got the same positive feedback in their brains from those connections as people do with their real-life friends.

It gave me the willies to think about, but I think that maybe it’s actually not all bad. If you’re blocked from having those connections with real people, for whatever reason, maybe it’s still okay to get them from somewhere else.

Most people who know me know that I really like podcasts, but also most people who know me don’t listen to podcasts themselves. I think that’s okay.



  1. redharparts

    I don’t necessarily agree that “No one listens to podcasts because they’re happy.” For one thing, I use podcasts to time-shift my NPR listening. Mostly I listen to fairly educational ones. If the hosts gets to tangential for too many episodes, I drop the ‘cast. I listen to them, as you do/did, when I’m doing tasks that keep my hands busy but my mind a bit bored……. sewing, some kinds of art projects, exercise, driving (instead of regular radio), etc. I get bored easily.

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