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Top 5 Podcasts About People

In a world of over 8 billion people, the number of people you know in person is microscopic. The truth is, the world out there is filled with strangers who might not be so different from us. We often hear stories about celebrities, politicians, world-changing go-getters, but there are also stories about nobodies who in spite of their ordinary standings go through extraordinary events. Podcasts come in various genres, but this is a list of non-fiction storytelling podcasts where you get to hear the real-life story of a stranger.

Podcasts are a great way to spend your commute, to liven up your cooking or cleaning tasks, or to listen to when you want a story but your eyes are tired of staring at text or a bright screen. Turn up the volume, curl up under your blanket with a hot drink and enjoy. And the best part about hearing the stories told by strangers who come from different backgrounds is that you just might learn something new.

To expand your horizons and to let you binge on some audio series instead, here are a few choice podcasts to pick from:

1. For the ones looking for love: Modern Love

For the ones looking for love. Modern Love consists of stories about love in all forms, how people who met their significant others, their hardships, their happy – but sometimes unhappy – endings. But Modern Love is also about love in its non-romantic and non-sexual forms. The platonic love between two friends; the love of a parent towards their child, even when parenthood isn’t easy; the love between a man and a woman who marry each other but only so that the guy won’t have to go back to his home country where his homosexuality would not be tolerated. The stories of Modern Love are written by some published writers but also by first-time authors, some college-students. Each episode is brought to life through a reading by an actor or actress.

2. For the ones looking for entertainment: The Moth

Short stories of life, often humorous, sometimes bittersweet, almost always relatable. The Moth Radio Hour has been running since 2009 and specialises in storytelling in front of a live audience. It is worth mentioning that the speakers are telling their own stories in an open mic event similar to a poetry slam, but due to some selection based on performance skills, each story is delivered in a truly engaging way by the person who experienced the story first-hand. From embarrassing school stories to tales from the hair dresser’s, if you are looking for something shorter (around 10 minutes), this might just be the perfect choice. American setting, but ultimately universal.

3. For the ones looking for suspense: This is Actually Happening

What if you were hanging off a 600 ft waterfall? What if you were hunted by the Japanese mafia? These are actually the titles of two of the episodes. The stories are told by people to whom these things have happened. Some of the experiences are more action, some less so, but still suspenseful. For instance, What if you suffered from Tourette’s Syndrome is a story told by a man whose life was changed on a psychological level, being trapped by his own brain, and sometimes something like that can be much scarier than what you can encounter on the street. The effective soundtrack in the background is effective in creating the atmosphere.

4. For the ones looking to learn: The Doc Project

There are lots of educational podcasts out there, but the Doc Project is where you hear about communities, community projects and history, learning about society as you listen to a story. Hosted by Acey Rowe, this podcast based in Canada meets with various people, both as individuals and as groups. One episode tells the story of a girls’ ice hockey team, another discusses the meaning of rape jokes told by comedians, both men and women, who are survivors. A true “doc”, the format mixes interviews with the host with monologue and real footage.

5. For the ones sick of the internet: Conversations with People Who Hate Me

A newcomer on the list of podcasts, this needs a special mention as the pod that tackles the division between left and right political leanings in a unique manner. Instead of shutting out his critics, the host – Dylan Marron, a gay Latino who likes voicing his liberal opinions on his YouTube channel – contacts the people who have sent him hateful messages online. But instead of fighting about opinions, Mr. Marron proposes a dialogue. The “haters” explain why they wrote what they did and the goal is to find common ground or to agree to disagree. Thus, you end up hearing the story of a person you might usually not talk to. Mind you, the “haters” are not always of the stereotypical southern, conservative, white-male Christian kind. And it’s always interesting to know what goes on in the mind of a person who posts hate online – they are just humans who deal with their own share of problems.

Ylva Biri

Helsinki '18

Ylva is a PhD student at the University of Helsinki researching the linguistics of social media discourse. When not studying, procrastinating and overthinking, she enjoys shonen anime and trying out new foods.
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