The Death of the Hobby

19 July 2016

This won’t be the first article ever brought into being by way of Tinder musings but I’m in a contemplative mood and as I swipe my way through today’s crop I notice a pattern.

“Beers,” one bio lists. “Socialising.”

“Seeing the bros. Chilling,” another announces.

I am pleased by what I see. I, too, like to drink, chill and socialise, sometimes engaging in all three activities simultaneously. With these refreshingly honest, laid-back men, I share a total lack of any discernible hobbies.

It’s quite reassuring that things such as ‘socialising’ and ‘relaxing’ are now accepted not just as essential human behaviours but as activities worthy of defining yourself by. I really mean that. I think we’re all chasing that elusive Well-Rounded Individual status and so for a long time, I’ve found my no-hobby syndrome to be personally embarrassing.

Examining myself, I remember that some of my pastimes do go beyond basic survival and social interaction. These include going for walks, bird-spotting and baking lackluster things while pretending I’m on The Great British Bake Off. Yet although I get plenty of enjoyment out of these activities, I won’t list them as my hobbies. The same goes for other stuff I like – reading, watching movies, drawing. Clearly, there’s more to a hobby than simply liking it.

The concept of the Hobby brings first to my mind a Little House On The Prairie vision of sisters quietly embroidering, or some other fiddly thing. The classic hobbyist is very good at what they do and engages in their chosen activity frequently. They spend years polishing their craft, the true ideal of industrious leisure. Meanwhile, my own interests fail to produce anything spectacular and I lack the perseverance required to take to any single activity with such determination. There is no expertise or routine frequency about my non-hobbies and perhaps that’s where all of us are being held back. Fear of commitment, with a side of ineptness.   

It’s a given that no one does lacework anymore, nor stamp-collecting, nor most other “classic” hobbies. Nonetheless, perhaps the true modern hobby has to be a bit wacky. I think of my friend Jess, who does roller-derby – quite possibly the quintessential hobby, fitting all my predetermined criteria: it’s unexpected, it’s frequent and, involving a mob of speedy people on roller-skates trying to beat one other to the ground, it definitely requires a set of skills lacked by the average person. Jess should have the dirt on what defines a hobby – what’s her secret? She says, “Having an end goal.”

A purpose! Perhaps this is what I’m lacking, not to get too real all of a sudden. In fact, I see that this is what differentiates me from friends who engage more devotedly in some of my vague pastimes. I watch a movie and say “Oh that was nice”; my friend watches one and rips it to shreds on their film blog. Most of my friends who draw do commissions; I sometimes manage a birthday card. I observe bakers honing their abilities into a veritable craft and book-readers collecting favourite passages like they’re stamps. Inspiring stuff for the mere mortals among us. Also bloody daunting.

It’s not as if we’re actually failing anyone, since most of us aren’t robots assigned to one task. It all has to come back to personal fulfilment. We identify with what we see meaning in, which isn’t always derived from a tangible fruit of our labours or even from an obvious purpose. As a true expert in relaxing, drinking and socialising, I believe these activities really can be as personally fulfilling as any productive pastime and that they fall under an all-new, all-inclusive, modern definition of the Hobby. Or maybe I simply want this to be true, because I’m guilty of being both boring and uncommitted to an end goal.

I consult my German 3 textbook. If anyone knows how to put things definitively into boxes, it’s the Germans. I find the “hobbies” grid. Briefmarken sammeln, stamp collecting, is there, I notice with a sinking heart. But suddenly my heart lifts: here’s Bier trinken (drinking beer)! And Freunden besuchen (visiting friends)! I’m relieved. My banal daily activities are reaffirmed as hobbies worthy of special mention, maybe even an entire article. Now I can rest easy in my inability to engage in my interests without one iota of dedication or skill. Should still get around to reading more though.


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