What Happened To Hobbies?

This week I want to start a conversation here about hobbies.  Hobbies, in a lot of ways, seem to be in decline.  I want to talk about why that is, and also why it is a worthwhile thing to pursue a hobby.  I don't think hobbies are insignificant or meaningless, and I want to see if I can articulate my thoughts on the subject.

First, let's talk about what a hobby is.  This would be my definition:

A hobby is an activity that is done for enjoyment and produces something, and is not done on a professional level in exchange for money.

I'm defining a hobby this way because I think once an activity is done in exchange for money, it becomes a business or profession.  That's not to say that it's any less worthwhile if you get paid for your hobby - in fact, I think if you can turn a hobby you enjoy into a profession, you are a very blessed person!  And I think that even if you make your hobby your business, it can still be a hobby in essence if there are aspects you still do purely for the enjoyment of it (for example, if you have a photography business, but you still take photos that you aren't getting paid for, just because you love it).  But if your hobby is turned into a business, and you now only do it on a professional level, that changes the dynamic a bit, I think.

The other part of my definition is that an activity qualifies as a hobby if it is producing something.  An activity that is done for enjoyment and does not produce something would be a pastime.  Pastimes can certainly still be a valuable and enriching use of time, such as reading or traveling or playing sports (though I'm sure you can think of a bunch of pastimes that are really wastes of time too!). Pastimes are fun, but hobbies have to involve creating something.

It's not a perfect definition, and a lot of things are hard to categorize, but let's just work with it for the sake of this post.

I don't think there are a lot of people, especially young people, doing hobbies that are just hobbies anymore.  Personally I think there are two reasons for this.

1.There is a lot of pressure to "go professional" with your hobbies.

I think there is this idea in our culture right now that if you are producing something, it's not truly valuable unless you are making money from it.  

I find this a lot with blogging for example.  I tend to avoid telling people that I have a blog, because there is a sense in which running a blog is looked down upon if your blog is not a certain size and bringing in an income.  Personally, I reject that view of blogging.  Writing is certainly producing something, and practicing translating your thoughts into the written word is a worthwhile pursuit in my book.    Blogging and writing is not worth less because you decide to keep it in the hobby category instead of going professional with it.  

Photography is another personal example.  I enjoy photography and creating beautiful portraits of my kids at the different stages of their life.  I enjoy paying attention to the light and capturing a candid moment, just for the fun of it.  It adds a lot of happiness to my life and is a way of keeping my memories.  Is that worth less because I'm not earning money from it?  I don't think so.  

I also know, because of photo sessions I've done for other people, that turning photography into a business would completely change the game for me.  There would always be aspects that I enjoy, but adding the stress of setting up an actual business and pleasing customers changes it from a hobby into something else.  

It's okay to consider carefully whether "going professional" would steal the fun out of your hobby.  And if you think it would, it's okay to reject the pressure to go professional.  It's okay to have something that you do purely for the joy of it.

2. There are a lot of ways to waste time these days.

I think another reason why hobbies, true hobbies according to my imperfect definition, are on the decline is because there are so many distractions and time-wasters in this day and age.  And I'm saying that with no judgement, because I spend 2-4 hours per day on my phone. 

I know that even if I threw my phone away tomorrow, I wouldn't all of a sudden have a 2-4 hour chunk of time on my hands.  The time on my phone is spent in snatches.  But if I didn't have that distraction constantly pulling at me, would I be able to finish the essential tasks faster?  Would being more efficient allow me to be able to schedule more time to produce something of value, instead of scrolling and consuming on my phone?

It probably would.  And insert whatever distraction you want here, it all applies.  Watching videos.  Listening to podcasts. Checking social media. Who has time for hobbies with all the things we could be watching or listening to?

Note: Somebody will say that social media or podcasts or Youtube can be a hobby, but I want to make a distinction - those platforms are not hobbies, but they can be a way to showcase hobbies.  Writing and photography is the hobby, and that is showcased on Instagram (or a blog).  Making videos is the hobby, and that is showcased on Youtube. And think about the podcasts you listen to - a lot of them are based around the speaker's hobbies or interests, aren't they?  You should take ownership of the actual hobby - writing, photography, producing videos, speaking about something that interests you - and don't minimize what you do by substituting the platform for the skill.  (And if all you do is consume or re-post on those platforms - that's not a hobby according to my imperfect definition, remember?)

Just to clarify, I don't think there is anything wrong with spending a reasonable amount of time doing the things I mentioned above.  A lot can be learned from podcasts and videos, and I would never fault someone for checking in on social media and using it to interact with family and friends.  But there is something important in producing something, instead of alway just consuming.  Constantly consuming without ever using what we glean to produce something...well, I don't think it's good for the soul.

I think about the older people I have known in my life, the ones I've known who are free from the pull and distraction of technology because it wasn't something that had become a habit for them.  Most of them had hobbies, or pastimes that were worthwhile.  Most of them produced something that can be handed down to their children and grandchildren.  And so many of them were/are truly interesting and happy people because of it.

I think we are missing something with all these distractions, something small perhaps, but nevertheless significant.  I think we need to get back to hobbies.

Do you have a hobby? Do you agree with my definition? What do you think, is there a decline of hobbies in the younger set?

(Note: Dennis Prager's video about hobbies is what first started getting me thinking about the subject, and he has an interesting theory about why they are in decline!)

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Bekah said...

I love your definitions! In fact, as I read, I wished I would have thought it all out as thoroughly as you have! :) I abbbbbbbbbbbbbsolutely agree with you about the pressure (intended or not) to turn hobbies into businesses these days. In fact, I notice that pretty much as soon as some of my friends start to like something, I should expect a business page invitation and a statement of "I'm pleased to announce that I have decided to start selling _____." And I'm noticing a lot of my friends introducing their kids' business pages too. So it's starting early!

My hobby of writing has become a side business too - with some books and paid articles. But I have backed off from that because the business side of writing is so aggressive, and it tends to take the enjoyment out of writing for me. I take pictures for fun and memory making. Now and then, I take pictures for friends, and they do compensate me, but I have no desire for it to ever be a full business. The one thing that I do dearly love to do for a hobby is scrapbooking. That is where I devote most of my spare time now. I treasure every single book. (I did look into doing this as a business but hated pushing it, so I went back to just doing it for a hobby.)

Michelle said...

I totally agree with this. I actually think about this a lot. It saddens me that people think every hobby needs to be turned into a way to make money. I will say, I see why you would categorize reading as a pastime, but I personally consider it a hobby :) It’s enriching in a way that watching TV is not, and I learn from it. I think hobbies are so important. I would love to have more once the season of young kids is over.

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