© Illustration by INJECTION - Mia Hatch
Has the internet ruined the concept of 'traditional' hobbies?
When I was younger, I went to so many clubs. Theatre, tap dance, and ballet, art and guitar lessons and creative writing, even athletics and cricket; I wanted to try a bit of everything. I would go to the library after school, borrow as many books as I could carry, and read them all before returning them the next week. I still claim to love reading, but the reality is that it’s a miracle if I manage to read a single page in a week. Outside of work, I feel like I spend most of my time doing a whole lot of nothing.
I have interests, I have things I enjoy doing. I have things I enjoy learning about. Occasionally, I’ll be briefly inspired to take up some sort of craft or hobby, but the moment is almost always fleeting as I realise that pursuing this activity will either cost me money or will take a great deal of practice to become good at. I see other people start up Etsy stores after taking up some sort of craft, and I will fantasise about doing the same. But nothing sticks: I feel like any hobby isn’t worth pursuing if I’m not immediately good at it or if there’s no financial benefit to it.
It seems to be a recurring theme for people my age, in that many of us don’t have traditional hobbies. We spend our free time watching Netflix, or going out to clubs, but we don’t pursue activities that stimulate the mind or let us explore creatively. Why is this? Is it due to financial pressures? Lack of free-time? Are our attention spans too decimated by the digital age?
I know for many of my friends financial issues play a big factor into why they no longer have hobbies in the same way they did when they were young. One friend of mine had to give up their musical classes, because they were too expensive to keep up with. Others find it difficult to find room in their budgets for hobbies after paying for things like rent, bills, and education.
We live in a culture where work and ‘the grind’ is always encouraged - so much so, that we begin to feel that unless something is helping us progress in our careers, or helping us financially, then it isn’t worth doing. Pursuing things purely for our own pleasure and creative freedom can feel selfish, but really it’s important to have a way to unwind with no pressure. To undergo something creative, to engage a part of your brain that doesn’t get exercised when binging the latest Netflix Original. Hobbies - whether they are crafts based or something like stamp-collecting - not only allow us to learn new skills and do something stress-free to relax, but they can also introduce us to wider communities and new people. Traditional hobbies, including sports, have an assortment of clubs and teams and groups for people of any skill level to attend, whether this be online or in person. ‘New’, ‘digital’ hobbies - watching TV, scrolling through social media, watching YouTube videos - tend to be solo activities. These digital hobbies unique to the technological era, however, have the advantage of being easily accessible, affordable, and appealing to a wide variety of audiences.
These digital hobbies act as an obstacle to ‘real’ hobbies - at least in my own experience. Why bother learning something new when it’s easier to just open up YouTube and watch somebody else do their hobby instead? When I try to pursue some sort of craft or hobby myself, I just get frustrated with myself that I didn’t start years earlier like the people in the videos I watch. I feel bad doing anything that is just for myself and not for any bigger reason, making hobbies stressful in my experience.
I do believe it’s important for people to have a hobby. I envy those who have been playing a specific sport for years, or those who are confident playing an instrument. But even these people seem to be at a loss - I know people who are in sports teams and other clubs but find it difficult to find the time to do these things, as it eats into their time for studying or working. “I try and make time for them as a way to destress,” someone told me, “which definitely eats into my uni time but I think it’s a worthwhile sacrifice for my own sanity”.
Most people my age that I’ve spoken to seem to want a hobby, but feel that they just don’t have the time. Is this the choice we have to make? Spending enough time studying, or being able to pursue a hobby? I believe there must be a way for us to have both, but we must overcome our fear of failure that goes hand-in-hand with trying new things, and we must overcome the burnout and exhaustion that our generation seems to be experiencing. We may feel like we only have the energy to watch Netflix or to scroll through Twitter, but the more we do this the more we fall into these habits. And although we may feel like we can’t afford to have a hobby, there are definitely hobbies that are affordable and more accessible - reading, for example, and drawing. There’s a whole natural world that’s free to explore, through hiking and bird-watching and foraging. There’s little encouragement to get started in these hobbies, and I think a lot of people nowadays hear the word ‘hobby’ and think of expensive craft supplies, expensive tools, expensive classes. The idea of having a hobby comes with the thought of spending lots of money and time on developing a skill, and I think this puts people off, so I think it’s important to remember that there are hobbies out there which are enriching without costing a bomb.