The first time I heard about Conversations with People Who Hate Me, I opened my podcast player and subscribed. I mean, who wouldn’t be intrigued by a title like that?
As of today, I’ve listened to the first five episodes of Conversations with People Who Hate Me (which I’ll also refer to as simply, Conversations).
About halfway through Episode 4, I decided to write a review.
Except, I wasn’t sure that I could write an unbiased review. Because, I like this podcast A LOT. For so many reasons. Reasons I don’t want to give away, because I want you to listen for yourself.
So, my podcast review has turned into a podcast recommendation. And (are you ready for this?) I’m recommending this podcast for EVERYONE.
Yes: Everyone. Well, all adults and teenagers. Maybe not young kids, as some episodes contain language, and references to sexuality that you might not have taught your youngsters yet.
I honestly feel like everyone should listen to at least one or two episodes of Conversations. Then, if you don’t like it, move on.
The Concept of Conversations with People Who Hate Me
Seriously, the title says it all. The host of the show, Dylan Marron, has telephone conversations with people who have written hurtful and hateful comments about (or at) him online.
Dylan’s goal is to have productive conversations with the comment writers, as opposed to online back-and-forths. He hopes that they can hash out their differences in a polite and civil manner, and maybe come to some sort of understanding.
All of the “guests” (the comment writers) have been contacted by Dylan in advance of the phone call, and they’ve agreed to have the call recorded and used for the podcast.
Here’s a snippet of Dylan explaining his feelings to his guest in Episode 3:
Who The Heck Is Dylan Marron?
I had no idea who Dylan was before I listened to Conversations. Thankfully, he’s aware that some listeners don’t know him, so he gives you just enough background to understand what he and his guests are talking about.
Here are some quick facts about Dylan. He’s a:
- Video maker
- Married gay man
The first three facts are why Dylan is recognized online and in the media. The last two facts have been publicly acknowledged and talked about by Dylan himself.
When you put all those facts together, you get the reason why Dylan has become a controversial figure online: he speaks out about social justice and political issues, and some people hate that.
Below is one of Dylan’s videos. It’s a parody of those popular “unboxing” videos that you see online. The ones in which people open and review a new gadget. This video is part of a series Dylan does on unboxing intangible ideologies:
Videos like these hit a nerve with people who disagree with Dylan, and lead to the hateful comments that they discuss in the podcast.
Hate the video? Don’t worry: The podcast is different.
In the “unboxing” video, Dylan pours on the sarcasm. That’s the point of a parody. But in the podcast, he’s the total opposite. He drops the sarcasm and comes across as a level-headed, genuinely nice guy.
Dylan takes the goal of the podcast to heart: to have productive conversations. He never calls his guests “internet trolls”, even though that’s what most people would dub them.
He lets the guests speak. He gets to know them a little, and tries to understand how their experiences have influenced their viewpoints. Most of the guests do the same, which isn’t what you’d expect after hearing what they wrote about Dylan online.
Now, I’m not saying that there aren’t moments when it can seem like Dylan is being judgemental.
Occasionally, he punctuates the end of a guest’s statement with a quick “hmm”, a sound effect that I think could be potentially harmful to the show.
To me, Dylan unintentionally uses “hmm” when he’s stunned by what the guest just said. I feel like this is his way of taking a moment to think. Remember: this is both a podcast and a telephone conversation, so he can’t just sit there silently. But I do cringe every time he utters “hmm”, because I think it can be perceived as judgemental.
You’ll have to listen and judge for yourself.
I Love the Honesty
Both Dylan and his guests get real and honest. They unpack a lot of feelings and opinions. Even though Dylan’s running the show, the guests ask him questions and force him to explain his viewpoints, too.
At some point, Dylan asks each guest two specific questions:
- What sparked you to write the comment/message?
- Did you think that I would read the comment?
It’s interesting to hear the responses. In hindsight, some guests realize that they were just looking for someone to lash out at. Dylan just happened to be the guy they found online that day.
Other guests stand by the negative comments that they targeted at Dylan, but they have some regret about their choice of hateful words.
As I listen, it’s hard to figure out if the guests are backpedaling because they are being recorded for the podcast, or if they genuinely feel remorse for being so mean. I’m sure that, at the very least, they regret showing the worst sides of themselves and being called out for it.
It’s A Breath of Fresh Air
Conversations with People Who Hate Me is appealing to me because Dylan Marron isn’t setting out to judge or accuse his guests. He’s trying to get at the root of the differences between him and them.
He wants to identify the trigger that caused someone to write – with their real names – hateful things online. (Haven’t we all wondered what makes those people so mad?)
And he’s trying to do it without shouting or name-calling. How can you not respect this approach? I find it so refreshing.
Listen, I don’t agree with everything that Dylan Marron says. You might not either. You may despise his viewpoints and lifestyle. Either that, or you’ll get angry listening to his guests.
And that’s the reason why I think you should listen to this podcast. Because these days, there’s a lot of talking going on, but not as much listening.Listen to this podcast. These days, there's a lot of talking going on, but not much listening. Click To Tweet
It’s true that part of the reason I love this podcast is because I think it, and Dylan’s videos, are unique, creative, and thought-provoking. I wish I had come up with such great concepts.
But most importantly, I love this podcast because:
- It doesn’t go down the rabbit hole of 22K comments to a single tweet
- It’s not the fiery point-counterpoint discussion you get on CNN, in which no one is allowed to finish a sentence
- There are no angry rants
- People from opposing viewpoints just…talk
If that sounds interesting and reasonable to you, then you’ll like this podcast, too. And if you hate it…well, you can leave me a comment here on the blog. A polite, civil one, I hope.
For More Like This
If you like Conversations with People Who Hate Me, check out these podcast episodes:
From This American Life:
545: If You Don’t Have Anything Nice To Say, SAY IT ALL IN CAPS
(this is one of my all-time fave podcast episodes)
From the IRL podcast:
Episode 4: The Care and Feeding of Your Troll
Have you listened to Conversations with People Who Hate Me, or one of the other recommendations? Let me know by leaving a comment below.