I know a lot of people who do not have any real interests or hobbies.
Looking back, this seems to be somewhat of a recent trend, at least within the environments that I grew up in. During my high school years, for instance, many of my classmates were involved in various forms of sports clubs – soccer, volleyball, gymnastics and such. In fact, Vereine of this sort have always been popular in Germany.
Then, life happened, I suppose. University. Work. One had to learn the intricacies of time-management now, all alone and without the overzealous help of helicopter parents. That’s what it means to grow up. Around that time – I remember vividly how in 2011, when I was 16-17, Twitter was still seen as this novel and strange experiment among some people in my school – social media took off. And with that, many people my age stopped to pursue any sort of interest or hobby.
They spent their leisure time scrolling through various social media websites like Facebook and Twitter instead. I suppose there wouldn’t be so many drawbacks associated with this if it were just a fleeting activity to pass the boredom of waiting for the bus to school or work. But people in my age bracket seem to spend a lot of time starring at their screens: If you have an iPhone, you can easily check out just how much time you spend being glued to your phone.
This article mentions the results of research that indicates an average time of 3 hours and 15 minutes, with the top 20% spending upwards of four and a half hours. I know of people who sometimes even spend around 10 hours on their phones. (I know this for sure because I was once annoyed that a friend of mine kept scrolling through social media incessantly, so I took a look at that friend’s screen time recorded in the iPhone settings – with permission, of course.)
Some people believe that concern about this tendency to spend countless hours glued to screens, often becoming addicted to the vitriolic and divisive altercations on social media is akin to embracing a form of neo-luddism. As someone who is very enthusiastic about technological innovation, I have always found this line of thinking ridiculous. One can criticise potentially harmful aspects of a technology, while still acknowledging its benefits, such as the possibility of connection and collaboration with interesting people around the world. I don’t even know how someone can seriously create such an artificial dichotomy in the vein of “either you believe that everything about social media and technology, in general, is invariably laudable, or you are an archaic Luddite, perhaps like those people in the 18th century who made a fuss about fiction novels – a newly emerging medium at that time.”
This is a ridiculous dichotomy, but actually not the focus of my post. Or not entirely.
One thing that I am concerned about is the fact that many of those rather useless hours spent scrolling around could be spent in the pursuit of really any activity that gives people joy, something they love to immerse themselves in, something to temporarily forget about deadlines, being productive, work and all these utilitarian aspects of life.
Which leads me to my main point: So many people seem to shy away from doing something that is only fun. Something that for once does not have any practical purpose, related to one’s career or anything in that matter. Just pure and innocently useless joy; leisure in its truest form. But spending some time, perhaps a few hours a week, for something that fills one with complete joy and simultaneously rids oneself of practical and utilitarian for a short while is absolutely essential.
There really is enough room to ponder about the practicalities of life for most people anyway – we spend most of our lives rummaging about those questions, young people especially: Thinking about our education, careers, future professional goals, and so on. Stepping out of this all-encompassing utilitarian mindset, at least for a while, clears and recharges the mind.
This is why it is rather detrimental to spend all of one’s leisure time reading practical self-help books, or books related to one’s professional aspirations. Books of this kind are certainly useful, but due to their inherently utilitarian nature, reading them does not really count as true leisure. One should always spend a substantial time reading books solely for the sake of enjoying them, without looking for any use derived from them. At least, that is what I believe.
And as much as I love reading books, all sorts of high literature, for the most part, I believe it is worth to pursue additional hobbies and activities in the outside world. Many of us spend most of our time working in front of computer screens, so using our senses for fulfilling activities is quite a beneficial compensation to that. I started practicing archery when I was in St Andrews, for instance, and it shortly became my favourite sport, for it required a soothing combination of concentration and calmness. Oh and I do recommend playing video games, especially those with complex and immersive settings.
Basically, everyone should do some “useless” stuff from time to time. I believe that doing so makes people more content and paradoxically, more productive than neurotically pursuing activities for the sake of endless self-optimisation