Confession: I am a serial hobbyist. I’m 23, so I’m in the phase of life marked by struggles to know who I am and what I like. Therefore, I’ve tried a lot of different hobbies: learning to play bass guitar; writing poetry and short stories; making zines; embroidery, crochet, jewelry; playing video games … I always manage to find something new to try.
While I consistently dip into and out of hobbies without firmly committing to any for a long period of time, I’ve come to realize that I am always at my best when I am regularly engaging with whichever hobby of the month I have. When I’m spending my free time instead on Netflix, social media, or some other passive screen-based activity, I feel like a shell of a person, someone who has no discernible identity outside of the content they consume. Needless to say, it feels like shit. I don’t think this is just a “me” thing. Many of my friends say they feel the same way, and yet almost every time we hang out, we commiserate about how much time we’ve been spending on TikTok.
Even though it can be difficult to force ourselves to do it, regularly engaging with a hobby has a ton of benefits. It’s good for your mental health, it’s a nonaddictive or harmless way of spending time, and it allows for self-exploration and self-expression. As seen from some of the articles in this issue, shared hobbies also create space for connection, community, and cooperation.
There is a misconception that hobbies are only realistic for privileged people — people who have ample free time and disposable income to spend on expensive classes and materials. Of course, privilege always makes things easier and more accessible, but even taking an hour a week to do something you love is beneficial. As for funds, there are plenty of hobbies that don’t require a lot of money. In fact, having a hobby you regularly engage in can also offer some solace from the harsh realities of capitalism.
In an episode of her podcast, The Happiness Lab, cognitive scientist Dr. Laurie Santos explains that choosing an activity that is fun, engaging, and encourages “flow” (that all-encompassing feeling of focus that makes time fly) over lounging around on Netflix is a more meaningful way of recharging outside of work. That’s because we view the opposite of work as rest when, in reality, it’s play.
When we aren’t working, we should be playing. Knitting a sweater, playing a game of basketball, doing a puzzle — whatever it is that makes you feel present and engaged in childlike fun and flow — is energizing and nutritious. It reaffirms your humanity and identity outside of your job, which, in a system determined to make you a mindless worker and consumer, can be a radical act. When we’re burned out, it’s tempting to just veg out on TV and TikTok and avoid using any brain power whatsoever. But you won’t come out of that day feeling rested and ready to work again. Chances are, like me, you’ll feel empty, stale, guilty, and just all-around gross.
However, if you find yourself spending most of your free time on social media or streaming services, but don’t have the nerve to delete them, you can simply adjust the way you engage: plan a fun photoshoot with your friends to post, do a creative makeup look and post a selfie, or watch a new movie with the intention of writing an in-depth Letterboxd review. If you participate mindfully, social media and TV can be much less draining and way more fun.
In short, hobbies are for everyone, regardless of interest, ability, or means. Everyone should be allowed to pursue their passions and regularly have some fun — including you. So, put down your phone, turn off the TV, read through this issue and maybe you’ll be inspired to pursue a pastime that’ll bring a little bit more pleasure into your life.