While podcasts have been a part of modern news and media consumption ever since the early 2000s, the way the current wave of podcast listeners engage with podcasts is (from my observable experience) is actually detrimental.
A common phrase I hear (especially among college students I engage with) begins with "I was listening to this podcast the other day..." After of which, the person I am speaking to will fumble through a rough, general outline of a point or phrase that came from the podcast episode they are referring to.
After sensing a general (and problematic) theme from the discussions and observations I made, I decided to sit down and listen to my very first podcast: Tim Mackie's "Science and Faith" talk from "Exploring My Strange Bible."
Immediately, I was blown away: in one sense, by Mackie's way of engaging the audience and delivering God-spoken Wisdom...but, at the same time, I was blown away by knowing how college students my age were engaging with podcasts, in light of now knowing how much knowledge and wisdom a podcast truly communicates.
Now, I'm not saying every single podcast in existence is a deeply theological power lecture. But what I think is important to recognize is that the genre of the podcast (in its current existence) invites engagement and reflection in so many different aspects and topics of life. When I look at how this generation of podcast listeners engages with this form of knowledge-giving media, I find a key aspect of engagement that could truly influence modern podcast-lovers and elevate their approach:
Taking and reflecting on podcast notes is essential to engaging with podcast media.
Note-taking is a key ingredient that will guide and reshape how you engage with podcasts, and while it may appear as a disservice to have to engage with this media through an "academic" lens...too bad.
Hear me out: people who listen to podcasts while jogging, working out, commuting are cool people; I don't think anyone is a "bad person" for using a podcast in the background or to fill a specific time as they multi-task, but we have to at least admit that that's what's happening when we do listen to podcasts this way.
We need to stop being the "I 'listen' to podcasts" person, and become the "I'm truly seeking, investing, and reflecting on the life experience and knowledge and wisdom I am being presented with" person.
Ultimately, note-taking (from my experience as an avid podcast-listener) does the following:
Writing what you are hearing will not only help you remember what you just listened to, but will jumpstart the process of mentally digesting what is being discussed. Note-taking by hand forces your brain to truly engage with what you are hearing, making you interpret and understand the experiences, knowledge, and wisdom people in the podcast are relaying.
Since you are engaging with the podcast through note-taking, interpreting what is being said, this also gives you a head start on reflecting on the material you collect in your "podcast listening time." Setting aside additional time for reflection and personal application of the ideas you are engaging with is vital to actually learning from what you're listening to. This will prevent you from pulling the "Oh, I was listening to a podcast and it had this one good idea I kind of can obscurely talk about and relate to" routine.
Just from personal testimony, I find that, in light of this more intentional approach, I am better equipped to engage with the conversations that these podcasts are initiating. Listening to podcasts is about seeking and understanding other people's insights on life, relationships, and the world around us.
It should not be treated as the trendy thing to do, or to give an ego boost of feeling that you now know things others don't. This is about sharpening and challenging your worldview, to grow and seek deeper Truth. When we begin to make that fundamental shift in our approach, true appreciation for the engagement with podcast media takes shape.
Happy podcast "listening"!