"Invisibilia" is hosted by Yowei Shaw and Kia Miakka Natisse. courtesy National Public Radio

Podcast Corner

The latest season of “Invisibilia” provides insights on all forms of friendships.

“Invisibilia,” a podcast from NPR, is dedicated to discovering the unseeable forces that dictate human behavior, relationships, ideas and more. The most recent season, which aired between September to November 2021, explores different kinds of friendships in each of its six episodes.

The first episode, “A Friendly Ghost Story” has a somewhat misleading title. Instead of creepy ghost stories, the episode breaks down the phenomena of “ghosting,” or when someone abruptly cuts off all contact with another person. This intriguing first episode takes a hard look at all the ways a seemingly great friendship can dissolve.

Episode two explores what life is like to make friends (or not) in convents and episode four explores how thinking about “friends with benefits” relationships can change the way we think about friendship in general. The anecdotes from the guests are interspersed with comments from psychologists and other experts, making the episode a dynamic listen.

Episodes five and six look at the more uncomfortable parts of friendship, like whether or not you can talk about poop with your friends (the consensus: not everybody can be a “poop friend”) and what happens when two friends experience rough patches.

The sixth episode follows the story of two friends who feel they were drifting apart and sought therapy to fix their relationship, which is an uncommon choice for most people. But that’s what this show does: it provides new ways of thinking about how we can approach friendships.

Episode three is the most intriguing. It tells the story of an anthropologist, Katherine Verdery, who went to Romania in the 1970s to work on a dissertation about communist peasants. She later realized a friend was reporting her activities to the secret police. Through her story, they discuss the complicated nature of friendships when living in a place where citizens are ordered to spy on one another’s activities. Her friend did not want to sabotage Verdery’s work or safety, but had to carefully navigate the constraints placed upon her from the state. It’s not a story we often hear about, so this episode is a must listen.

This season of “Invisibilia” is special because the stories each episode includes are unique. They provide different perspectives for thinking about how we make friends, keep them, lose them and find them again. You’ll find yourself nodding along, laughing and perhaps rewinding the episodes to catch something particularly interesting.

In a culture that does not prioritize friendship as much as it did in the past, it is truly exciting to see so much attention paid to the ins and outs of friendships. The insights from outside scholars and experts add richness and clarity to each episode.

Each episode offers a different viewpoint of the kinds of friendships that people can have along with both historical and modern thoughts about such friendships. Even if you don’t agree with every episode, it is refreshing to hear different ideas about friendship.

The hosts are intelligent and thoughtful, succinctly weaving the stories and research together. Sometimes longer podcast series can be intimidating, but the variety of each episode and the skill of the hosts make for easy and enjoyable listening.

This podcast is available on all streaming platforms.

Post Author: Hana Saad