By Aatish Nath
A show, actually a podcast, that’s “about the internet” (those are their words, not ours) might not sound like an interesting listen. After all, our lives are consumed by the net - we work, we network, we read, we de-stress, all looking into a screen that seems to consume more and more of our time. Heck, you’re reading this piece on the internet right now.
So why would you want to devote your time to Reply All? For one there’s the friendship and more than playful ribbing between the hosts, PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman. For another, it’s the fact that the show sells itself short, way short. The show isn’t about the internet, but instead about how the technology is often a part of the subjects lives, in ways that don’t define these people, but allow them to see how it plays a role, good or bad, helpful or hurtful.
For the most part, you can expect to listen to an episode in which the hosts talk to aGuatemalean grandmother, who’s Facebook post inspires a protest that ultimately overthrows the vice-President, or there’s another where they take to Jennifer Ringley -- the woman who started Jennicam, a 1996 website that broadcast her life on the internet, 24/7 (talk about being prescient!). There’s also one in which PJ, without telling Alex decides to micro-dose on LSD for a week because it’s supposed to raise productivity and focus the mind. The common thread between all these episodes, if there is one, is the way the show manages to find stories that are internet-adjacent, without the jargon and headline grabbing numbers that seems to permeate the stories about our increasingly tech-driven global economy.
In each episode, the co-hosts search for the human stories behind the memes, cat videos and endless content that seem to have taken over the internet. A favourite episode is a quietly devastating one from earlier this year, called ‘The Cathedral’. It is about the parents of a boy who is diagnosed with cancer, who decide that the experience should be a video game - give it a listen, and you won’t be disappointed.
As a regular listener, you notice the recurring segments, like ‘Yes, Yes, No’ where the duo take questions from their boss Alex Blumberg about Twitter controversies (they’re almost always that) and other tech-related stuff that he doesn’t understand.
The informal tone, more the breezy repartee and depth of topics chosen means that this is one show where you literally have no idea what you’re going to get to listen to every week, but its always enjoyable, entertaining and usually eye-opening.