I have an embarrassing secret.
I listen to podcasts on one-and-a-half speed.
To be honest, you don’t notice it after a while – your brain just switches into gear and it becomes the new normal. You only recognise how strange it all sounds when you accidentally leave the earphone plug halfway out and the tinny voices start jabbering into the no-mans-land of social etiquette that is the supermarket aisle.
Startled heads turn and you frantically paw at your coat pocket to put your thumb over the offending speaker which you know is 50% faster and more efficient at reaching something truly embarrassing and potentially reportable when heard out of context. Like the end of a Moth story, or an investigative news interview about ISIS practices, or – worst of all – a Joe Rogan rant.
It’s about efficiency. The 1 1/2 speed. Considering most of my podcasts of interest are about information transfer, it means I can be 1 1/2 times more informed and knowledgeable than I otherwise would. Or so the theory goes….
… which falls to pieces when I stumble across a good version of one of the ‘other’ types of podcasts, which I guiltily listen to for no other reason than because it is fun (“what a waste of time huh?” my frontal cortex says in a mock-ironic tone to my lizard brain, which doesn’t get the joke).
Listen to an emotional Moth podcast at 1.5 speed and you’ll get the info alright, and you’ll get the gist of the emotion. But try listening to 1.5 speed podcasts for weeks and then one memorable Moth at normal speed. What comes back? Inflection. Tone. The sound of the speaker’s breathing changing as their throat tightens. What you get back most of all is the understanding that the gaps between the words is the most important part, or the sound of a hesitation mid-sentence. Or the chill you share with the invisible audience when the ambient noise you had all but tuned out reduces and you take a collective breath to give the person at the microphone space to say that one… small…. comment, that you knew was coming but which hits you like an electric current. Because at that moment it was not about transfer of a packet of information from the speaker to the hearer. They were just being the moment, the moment crystalised again in front of you, lived again through that channel of an individual, and you all – speaker, audience, podcast listener, were all just along for the ride.