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10 Things That Scare Me

With a different person every episode, 10 Things That Scare Me lists ten fears across a huge range of figures, both famous and not, in short episodes. We sent our writers off to Spotify to find out more, and see if the bite-size podcast format works for them (spooky).

Tobin and Kathy stand in front of a yellow wall with rainbow balloons, bubbles and a rainbow umbrella. They are both dressed in black, and smiling.
Not too scary (Photo credit: Billboard.com)

Jayne

As an avid podcast listener, I was very intrigued by the premise of 10 things that scare me. The premise of encouraging people to simply list ten things that scare them, irrational or rational, in no particular order and explore why those things specifically scare them, is right up my alley. As both a listener who is always looking for new shows to support and as a person who is endlessly intrigued by the human psyche, listening to someone discuss fears is a rare peek into their subconscious.

Excited to dive in, I listened to a few episodes in order to try and get a good feel for what the podcast was trying to do. These episodes being Tobin Low, Sarah, and Hank. 

It got off to a jarring start for me, being that there is no real introduction to the topic or what you are listening to. The speaker simply starts listing their fears. In some ways this is an interesting choice: it does not allow for distraction and forces focus on the uncomfortable honesty of the guest that week. In many ways, it is a choice I can appreciate. The simplicity of the setup allows for a more thorough appreciation of the content. But as a new listener coming to this podcast with fresh ears, it caught me very off guard.

Not only that but I quickly discovered that in these episodes it was a singular voice talking at us the listener. It is a fascinating set up, certainly more impactful I think, to simply let someone talk about their fears in an open and free manner. Though I did find that without a second person to guide the conversation and perhaps ask further questions I was left wanting a little more. A disappointment that often struck as guests spoke of poignant concerns that I feel could have benefitted further exploration. One example is Sarah, who boldly confesses a fear that we ‘prefer comfortable lies over the truth’. Statements like that I wish were discussed further.

The episodes themselves are only short snapshots. Between five and eight minutes of what could be considered monologuing, and the sound design is again a combination of interesting and yet in some instances confusing. Occasionally, it works in favour of the speaker, like Sarah who spoke of one of her fears being going deaf and the cut to background silence was tantalising. But in other episodes there seemed to be chatter in the background and sound effects that I found less helpful and more distracting. It could be the intention to create a strange environment for listening but genuinely I would have preferred less of the background noise to better take in what was being discussed.

Overall, the concept of the podcast is a strong one, and it is something I found fascinating. There were moments that stuck out to me as thought-provoking and yet due to this being a one person show, were not explored to the depth I would have liked. I think from a listener’s perspective, it has not grabbed me enough to be something I return to. 

Sarah, a brown-skinned woman, is mid speech giving a talk.
Sarah looking suitably scared while talking at the Aus Skeptics convention 2017

Amy

I am terrified of most things; falling down the gap between the train and the platform at Bank station, falling down anywhere, death, ghosts, things that look like ghosts, weather that’s too hot, weather that’s too cold, crying in public, someone near me crying in public – or worse – crying and expecting me to comfort them in public. So this podcast was perfect for me, until, horror of horrors, JOHN fucking GREEN pops up at the end of the episode ‘Hank’.

Someone could have at least warned me that this awful man would invade my personal listening space but no – I was sitting there enjoying my train ride home because no one was sitting near me, and then all of a sudden JOHN GREEN. 

10 things you’re afraid of? How about 10 things I’m afraid of and all of them are you and your writing style John Green – define what it means to be ‘not like other girls’ in a podcast, how about that? Seeing as you write it in every one of your ‘books’, more like hellscapes. God damn you John Green!

John Green is apparently afraid of the internet slowly melting his mind – wow, you’re so edgy John Green, that was a really good point, thanks for pointing out something that anyone who has ever used the internet for more than five minutes is also afraid of. 

He also said he’s scared that we’re the last generation of humans which I don’t believe is a real fear, it gave me creepy Ansel Elgort saying ‘oblivion’ vibes. If we’re the last generation of humans, yeah I guess that’s kind of sad, but it’s also pretty sick. We’re all pretty funky, why not go out with a bang? Think about it – we came up with all sorts of fun things like TikTok and an unattainable housing market. Imagine if the Medieval people were the last generation of humans? They did nothing, they just walked around everywhere and talked about God. 

John Green, I don’t believe you are afraid of anything. Judging by The Fault In Our Stars, you don’t care what anyone thinks, nor did you think about the repercussions of your shocking teenage girl narratives. Don’t tell me you’re worried about everyone dying in some terrible natural disaster, what you should be worried about is the casting in film adaptation of one of your best known works (and yes, I’m looking at you two, creepy guy who’s name I will not write twice in one article, and the girl who declared on the front cover of a magazine that she doesn’t have a basic understanding of Feminism).

Anyway, the other episodes I listened to were very good. Although in the episode ‘Sarah’, Sarah says that she’s afraid that people are afraid to hurt her – like damn girl I wish I had the same fears. People (ex boyfriends) seem to be hell-bent on hurting me, they go out of their way to make my life hard and my days a misery, I wish I had the luxury of sitting around thinking ‘Wow, he’s being so nice to me, today, if anything…a little too nice? My god, what if he…doesn’t want to upset me? He’s obviously a filthy liar!’. But she did counter that with some very real fears that I’m glad I don’t have to deal with.

I sadly listened to the wrong episodes and instead of listening to ‘Tobin Low’, I listened to ‘Ida an Noa’ which was adorable because I think they’re both about 6 years old. Ida lost me at one point though because she said she’s afraid of dogs that aren’t on the leash and I thought uh-oh baby Karen alert, but then she described her fear of bees and I thought, this kid is wise beyond her years.

Anyway, overall, it’s a very good listen, would have been better sans John Green.

Hank Green, a thirty-something white man with glasses, is on stage at Vidcon 2012 in Anaheim, California. He is wearing a hoodies and a 'Brony' shirt.
Hank looking this young scares me to be honest…

Eve

The first big issue I faced with listening to 10 Things That Scare Me was that I wasn’t exactly sure when I’d find the time to listen to it. Now that seems ironic, considering most of the episodes average out at 7 minutes long, but this podcast’s shortness seemed to be its exact problem. This is in part down to my personal preference. I like to listen to podcasts when I’m already doing something – getting ready for work in the morning, walking into the city, cooking dinner, going on a run – none of which takes less than 10 minutes, meaning it never felt worthwhile to put on a podcast that I knew I was going to be over just as I was getting into it.

In the end, I listened to three of the episodes on a walk and had finished them all before I was even home. Each episode left me unfulfilled, like I was mid-conversation with someone and just as we got past the pleasantries, they’d just walked away without even saying goodbye. The podcast’s format left very little room to actually go in depth about anything, and I think both the length and content of the episodes would have been majorly improved if there was a host who interviewed each guest. While the guests often did give a little bit of background to some of their fears, having another person asking questions, either as they listed the ten things that scared them or afterwards, could have helped paint a better picture of where some of these fears came from.

It also would have been nice if there had been another person there to call out the guests on their occasional bullshit. For instance, two of Hank Green’s fears are that he’s “said something dumb on the internet” and that “people will think I’m a douche because I’m rich.” It would have been interesting to have someone else there to further discuss how legitimate these fears are and also how they speak to Hank’s privilege as a wealthy, white, straight man living in a world built for wealthy, white, straight men. Afterall, his fears seem kind of self-centred when you consider that 1 in 5 women experience online harassment and the pandemic has wiped out millions of people’s incomes across the globe, and it would have been better to have further discussion on this.

Unfortunately, instead of a host, the producers have bulked out the content of each episode with a series of sound effects, usually correlating with what fears the guests were talking about. Now, no one ever got hurt by a little bit of atmospheric music in the background or between segments. In fact, I think it can often be used effectively to create structure in audio-based content. However, these sounds were downright distracting and would probably have been better placed on an ASMR YouTube channel.

Perhaps this would be a nice podcast to binge listen to, as there are a range of episodes from different people that could become interesting once you’re used to the format. But if you’ve only got a spare five minutes and are looking for a deeper dive, I’d recommend scrolling on and finding something else.

10 Things That Scare Me is available to stream on Spotify.

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