Our culture is sharing. Not sharing, with respect to giving to others, but sharing online. We tweet about how our days are going and subtweet about things, or people, that bother us. We post pictures showing the major events of our lives on Facebook, and we snapchat the mundane or mildly entertaining aspects of our lives. Different platforms of sharing technology allow me to feel like I am up-to-date not only on the lives of my closest friends but those of my faintest acquaintances. How else but through social media would I know that Will Thomas from 1st grade is a biochemistry major at The Ohio State University, is minoring in business and has been with his girlfriend Anna for 3 years (they met during freshman orientation)?
Sharing through technology makes us feel connected—that there’s a common experience and narrative between vast, diverse groups of people. I might not get to interact with my entire social network in person, but through technology we can share ideas and common interests that I might not be able to discuss with them in person.
But is it possible that we share too much? I can’t even count the number of times my mother has asked me why I posted a picture on Facebook from a night out, or that someone has shared about someone else airing their dirty laundry on Twitter. Social media has the immense power to bring us together—make us feel like we’re not alone—but also to negatively impact our lives and our relationships.
Radio producer-turned-podcast host Andrea Silenzi uses the power of media technology to connect others by sharing common experiences. As the host of the weekly Panoply podcast WHY OH WHY, Silenzi explores the intersection of love and modern technology. She does this by conducting one-on-one interviews with acquaintances, experts, and strangers on the street; hosting focus groups; and most interestingly, turning the mic on herself. Throughout the podcast’s run, Silenzi prompts others to share about their romantic entanglements, disappointments and hopes for the future. In the midst of it all, she weaves a complex narrative with herself at the center. Along with the people she interviews, Silenzi shares intimate details from her own personal life. She clues us into the intimate details of ending a long-term relationship as well as the aftermath, which includes her entry into online dating. In the episode “Muscle Thrasher,” Silenzi revisits an old podcast idea she had had four years prior: setting up blind dates and recording them on wireless mics. In her reminiscing she finds an old Google Doc filled with the potential daters’ responses about what they wanted out of their romantic lives. Fast-forward four years; it turns out that most of the people she interviewed for the Google Doc are either married or engaged—and Silenzi can’t help but wonder why she’s the only one who’s “back at square one”. She selects a still-single woman named Robynn from the document for an interview, trying to figure out if she too has questions about where the last four years have gone. In this episode we get to listen to Silenzi as she realizes the successes in her failures: a friendship and an even more successful podcast. Not only that, but in Silenzi’s’ discussion with Robynn we learn about the effects of stereotyping, gender roles, racism and sexual assault on modern-day relationships.
In general, Silenzi is incredibly honest and doesn’t hold anything back. She is not afraid to tell her listeners that she herself is still figuring things out; she questions herself, and sometimes, even her subjects question her. For example, another incredibly striking episode is “Do I Hate Men?” a follow-up to a previous episode in which, after being approached by a man at a bar—she refuses, citing a recent breakup—Silenzi gets asked by her would be suitor if she “hate[s] men”. Here we see Silenzi reflect on the moment not only to question herself, but also to dive into a discussion about the Women’s March and feminism in general.
I think one of the reasons why WHY OH WHY is so compelling is that it is as organic as real life. Silenzi doesn’t force things together; she lets them happen naturally, sometimes with varying results. The podcast is so relatable because Silenzi is able to get her subjects, along with herself, to share so much about their lives—and what they do share is incredibly real. As a listener I feel a meaningful connection to Silenzi; although she is a bit older than me, we share many of the same hopes and fears for the future. Silenzi’s discussion of technology in conjunction with our love lives is incredibly fascinating, but what speaks louder to me is how much she shares on her podcasts. Just as social media and other new forms of technology connect us by using common denominators, Silenzi focuses on individual stories to craft a universal narrative. Although sharing, especially when it becomes oversharing, may benefit from some self-moderation, sometimes it does pay to show other people that they are never truly alone.