I don’t listen to podcast. I wish I did, sort of. Some of them seem quite interesting. I try periodically but I find multitasking to them ineffectual; they don’t work as background noise the way music does. You have to pay attention. If I try to multitask while they’re playing, I don’t take in what I’m listening to and the task I’m trying to perform ends up half-assed. I have the same problem with audiobooks. I can’t do anything but listen and since that’s the case, I prefer to read. Sitting and doing nothing but listening is difficult for me.
So, that’s one reason for not embracing the podcast revolution. There is, however, another.
Thinking about trying to slot a podcast into my already full social media schedule makes me feel overwhelmed. I’m nearly maxed out on inputs already. There are so many things I’m “supposed” to keep up with. Seriously, how connected am I supposed to be? What am I ignoring by immersing myself in all things media?
There’s not enough time in the day anymore. We’re overwhelmed by demands but not keeping up is hard on the heart and soul. If you don’t check in you feel out of the loop. Absence means you’re missing something important. Something vital. At least, that’s what it feels like at times.
Do you Pinterest? Do you use filters on Snapchat? Did you link your Facebook and Twitter accounts? Have you tried Hoot Suite, a platform to collect your social media accounts in one place?
Do you blog? On WordPress? Do you cross-post on Tumblr, Medium, or Wix? How many blogs do you follow?
Did you hear Oprah’s last “SuperSoulSunday”? Do you listen to Joe Rogan? You should definitely catch “The Chernobyl Podcast”. Did you watch “The Red Table”?
Do you watch tutorials on YouTube? Do you take courses on-line?
How many hours are there in the day again?
The demands are extreme. You might as well give up on friends, family, and employment. You don’t have time for that anymore. Unless you need them for an Instagram post. Staying in the know and on-trend has become a full-time job. And choosing to disconnect is becoming less and less of an option. You’re nobody if you don’t have a social media presence. You do have followers, right?
I don’t want any more on my plate. I struggle to keep up with the social media platforms I engage with already; they feel like an unwelcome obligation much of the time. Twitter is often a weight around my neck. There are things I want to do, books I want to read, and knowledge I want to acquire. And yet, in spite of feeling overwhelmed, in spite of my general dislike and unease, there is a niggling feeling when I don’t log in that I’m missing out.
The feeling that it’s imperative to be in the loop and connected is not something you’re imagining. We are encouraged to turn ourselves over to online inputs and connections. The push comes from everywhere, the encouragement to connect on social media greets us at every turn. And we can definitely give thanks to that ubiquitous computer we all carry, making disconnection an unnecessary and unthinkable option. The formerly innocuous telephone, once meant only as a means of making and taking calls, now at times a weight around our necks.
How much time do you spend away from your phone? How many apps do you have?
Apps have moved well beyond games. They’re put out by everyone for everything. You’re encouraged by everyone to get on board. They ask you at the grocery store and the corner store. The gas companies and clothing manufacturers offer them too. So does your cell phone provider and the store you buy your shoes at. They want to connect with you. They want you to interact with them. They’ll bring you the latest and the best; sweet offers and “inside” deals. Don’t worry about the terms and conditions, just confirm you’re not a robot and sign away your rights with a click. Do you want to enable notifications? Have you liked them on Facebook, do you follow them on Twitter? Don’t worry about the EULA.
Games are no longer just games either. Did you join the team? Are you part of the associated Facebook group? Do you follow your game on Instagram? It is a weird, weird world.
Vacations offer little in the way of respite anymore. Our phones and the need to monitor all things online comes with us. “Do you have free Wi-Fi?” is now the first question, seemingly more important than beach access or a lovely view.
But what happens if I decide not to play? This has become more challenging. There are social consequences to withdrawing from social media and the consequences now include financial ones. People with the apps get the good deals. You are punished for refusing to play, for refusing to give up even more of yourself to the online world.
Log off and you’re immediately and fairly significantly out of the loop, personally and societally. You don’t hear about community events and birthday parties. You don’t get invited to BBQs and wedding showers. Everything from invitations for coffee to Celebrations of Life to local event announcements happens on line. Whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing is somewhat irrelevant. This is now life.
I wonder if this dependence and exploitation is what the people who imagined an interconnected world dreamed of? When they dreamed of a vast array of knowledge accessible to all, did they think it would come with an unrelenting sales pitch? Did they imagine the ease with which we would sign our rights and our lives away? Did they imagine how quickly online life would take over?
It’s nice to be able to program a population’s interests and behaviours. It makes selling them things easier. And to be honest, we’re pretty easy to direct. Most of us respond well to suggestion. Some people complain about social media platforms being full of dark and ugly. To the creators, that’s irrelevant. They aren’t looking to generate warm, fuzzy feelings. They want interaction. They want engagement. They want us there, being sold this thing or that idea. They want our data so they can sell to us in an even more targeted fashion.
In the end, no matter how we choose to look at social media and no matter how many advantages we can point to, we forget that it isn’t designed to benefit us at our peril. Which is why our connection to it and dependence on it is so ironic.
The platforms are not universal goods and the fact that our connection to them can be unhealthy can be seen in the psychological difficulties many of us encounter when we try to disengage. As for me, my connection to social media comes close to addictive behaviour more often than is comfortable.
Agitation when you can’t get a hit, when you can’t log on to this platform or that, or when the system is down is a telling sign. The inability to walk away even if you think it’s harmful is another. Escalatory behaviour abounds, evidenced in me by this lingering feeling I have that I should be involving myself more. This while knowing absolutely that adding to my social media roster would be a mistake.
So, no podcasts for me. Realistically, I probably won’t cut back on my current level of consumption even while recognizing that at times, it’s problematic. But I’ll continue to think about and feel guilty about it. Until I get distracted by this post or that app. Because if you can’t or don’t want to use the technology to improve society for everyone, then the next best thing is to keep the masses otherwise occupied and heads down.