What Happened to Hobbies?

It was my first day at my new job. I was nervous, excited, and my head was swimming with all of those I’m-in-over-my-head-what-did-I-get-myself-into feelings that come along with taking the big leap towards career advancement.

A new co-worker, whose desk was next to mine, turned to face me in his swivel-chair.

“So what are you into?” He asked.

I turned to look at him, dumbfounded. “What?” I asked.

“You know, what sort of stuff do you like? What are your hobbies?”

There was a time in my life where I would have been able to answer that question in a matter of seconds. Growing up I loved dance, theater, piano, writing music, writing plays, you name it. I was a quintessential “creative.”

But now I don’t really do any of those things.

“I like to read,” I answered finally, but the answer felt contrived, like something I’d say in a job interview. I mean, I wasn’t lying. I do love to read. But in reality I was lucky to finish a book a month, even when I said I’d finish one a week.

So what was I into? What did I spend all my time doing?

The answer probably won’t surprise you: Social media and Netflix had taken over my free time.

Why are we less productive than we’ve ever been before?

Facebook was by far the worst time-suck of them all. I’d be working on a homework assignment and the moment my brain let its guard down, I’d open Facebook without even thinking about it. I didn’t even have to type in the entire URL anymore; Google recognized where I wanted to go after I typed three letters.

An assignment that should have taken me 45 minutes ended up taking me three hours. By the time I finished, I was too tired to go out and do anything else.

It turns out that this happened most every night. Mindless social media, a few episodes of Netflix, and then it was time for bed. By the time I crawled underneath the covers, scrolling through Instagram for a few minutes seemed far more appealing than picking up the book on my bedside table.

Technology is cool. With new technological advancements, we can complete tasks in seconds that once took all day. Why, then, are we less productive than we’ve ever been before?

Why don’t we seem to have time for hobbies?

The answer isn’t hard to find. Hobbies are, quite simply, a form of entertainment. Who needs to actively pursue their own entertainment anymore, when an endless wealth of it can be found with a click of a button?

It’s easier to mindlessly click from website to website, Facebook post to Facebook post, than it is to say “I like x thing or y thing, I should do this more often” and actually follow through.

We don’t accomplish anything in that place, and we don’t enjoy ourselves either.

I want to be clear: I’m not bashing an evening of relaxation. We all need a movie marathon in our pajamas every now and again. I don’t want to discourage an evening off after a long day of hard work. But I do want to discourage that mindless place we go, as we sit at our computers or on our phones at night that is halfway between work and procrastination. We don’t accomplish anything in that place and we don’t enjoy ourselves either.

Have you ever heard the phrase “Be interested, not interesting?” To me, this phrase means many things. In the traditional sense, the phrase means we should actively listen to others in conversations, rather than just waiting for our turn to talk. However, to me it also means that we should actively pursue our interests and passions, doing the things we love with un-ironic enthusiasm and excitement.

I haven’t been doing that and I don’t feel “interested” or “interesting” at all.

So let me ask you this: What are you into?

I challenge you to think about the things that make you happy. The things you keep saying you want to pursue “when you have more time.”

Are you wasting time on things you don’t even like that much?

Then, pay attention to how you spend your free moments. Are you wasting them on things you don’t even like that much?

Make a plan to incorporate hobbies into your life. Set aside some time each week (it can be 30 minutes or six hours, whatever works for you!) and stick to it. It’s important that you consciously decide to make a practice of what you’re doing, which you can then develop into a passion and a skill.

If you’re feeling stumped, consider the following suggestions:

1. Get moving.

Sign up for a dance or yoga class. Map out nearby hikes you’d like to take on weekends. Finally push yourself to start training for that 10k or half marathon. Consider taking up Crossfit, boxing, or joining a local sports team. Hey, we’ve even heard roller derby can be really fun.

2. Learn another language.

I’ve found that in-person courses work best, but if there isn’t a class offered at your local community college and private tutors are too expensive, there are plenty of other ways to learn. Duolingo is a great website (you can also download the app on your phone) to start teaching yourself!

3. Read.

Like, actually read. Pick a book you think you’ll love and haul it around with you during the day. Why not pop it open while you’re grabbing coffee or on the train instead of browsing Facebook?

4. Make art.

Invest in a few artist supplies, whether it be pencils and a sketchbook or paint and canvas. Even if you’re not a natural-born artist, Pinterest has a wealth of art tutorials available. Teach yourself!

5. Cook.

Sign up for a few cooking classes or get your friends together for a wine and cheese tasting. Start collecting recipes you’d like to try and make them on the weekends when you have more time. Cooking can be incredibly relaxing when you treat it like an art form instead of a chore.

Bottom line: It doesn’t really matter what you choose to do, as long as it’s something you love. Give yourself the time to be interested in something.

You deserve it.