“By listening, you partially reclaim the lost hours, preserving some ghost of an alternate universe where you don’t have to do what you’re doing, and you’re on the couch reading the old-fashioned way instead.”
– Successful People Listen to Audiobooks, Nora Caplan-Bricker
This article about how audiobooks are marketed as a way to maximize your productivity by occupying your mind at all idle moments, so you never “waste time,” furthering the belief that any moment in which your mind is free to disengage from hyper-efficiency… strongly describes my podcast-listening habits. I’ve fallen into a spiral of subscribing to way too many, and I end up listening to them at double time to get through them all, in every spare moment to which I can devote the mental activity of listening to a thing, so that I’m never alone with my own thoughts.
I can’t retain any of the information I get from podcasts like this–I tune out almost immediately, and when I’m trying to get through a list of episodes as efficiently as I can, it barely registers. I enjoy the distraction in the moment, but it’s absolutely at the cost of being able to let my brain rest, or generate an original thought, or think about tough things I’m ignoring but ultimately need to deal with… It’s avoidance, justified under the guise of productivity.
Jonathan Crary’s book 24/7: Late Capitalism and the End of Sleep is referenced in the article, and I highly recommend it; it’s definitely best read when you are zooming through your life in a constant state of sleep deprivation sedation and viscerally resentful of the fact that your boss owns the majority of your life, when you’re forcing yourself to stay awake out of spite because if you can’t take back any time from your boss, taking it out of sleep is the only other option. Yeah, listening to as many podcasts as possible on my commute to work is my frantic scramble to overwhelm my mind with fun distractions before I arrive at work and am no longer living on my own time.
And this feeling that I have to cram in as much pleasure as I can into the sliver of leisure time I am afforded (lol “40-hour” workweek) is entirely by design. Corporations deliberately engineer a system in which we are kept at work far longer than anyone can be productive, because people who don’t have time to stop and think, to make informed decisions and maybe some healthy life choices, are people who bleed money. See this incredibly grim bit of Relatable Internet Content (seriously, all of it, it’s immensely good, but to quote:
“But the 8-hour workday is too profitable for big business, not because of the amount of work people get done in eight hours (the average office worker gets less than three hours of actual work done in 8 hours) but because it makes for such a purchase-happy public. Keeping free time scarce means people pay a lot more for convenience, gratification, and any other relief they can buy. It keeps them watching television, and its commercials. It keeps them unambitious outside of work.
We’ve been led into a culture that has been engineered to leave us tired, hungry for indulgence, willing to pay a lot for convenience and entertainment, and most importantly, vaguely dissatisfied with our lives so that we continue wanting things we don’t have. We buy so much because it always seems like something is still missing.”)
I guess the opposite of the constantly-plugged-in, deliberately-tuning-out-your-thoughts life is this “mindfulness” I hear so much about, but something about the word immediately turns me off because I see it used in contexts that only further obscure the underlying cause of why we need to be trained on such a basic concept. For all the distractedness and disconnect my brain goes through because I watch too much TV or am constantly checking my phone, it all shares the same root of just not having enough time in the day to have the chance to clear my head and live in the present. Individual solutions might help, but I’m too resentful of the fact that they’re a personal-responsibility band-aid on a capitalist hellscape problem in order for them to do me any good.
Anyway. That was some high-brow nonsense to justify why I listen to a bunch of sped-up podcasts I can’t remember instead of, like, engage my mind creatively. That’s where I’m at right now. Read the shit I linked, it’s incredibly good and may also set you on your own path to becoming a humorless hack such as myself.