What Are Hobbies and Interests?

An examination of the essences of hobbies and interests and why that's helpful to you/how to put it into practice.

This article was tagged with: Living Better

There are 1528 words in this article, and it will probably take you less than 8 minutes to read it.

This article was published 2023-11-10 00:00:00 -0500, which makes this post and me old when I published it.


Why does any of this matter?

I think that there is a need for a precise definition because it allows people to better reason about what their hobbies are, or can help them think about what they like and how to turn that into a hobby. I think a lot of people feel shame for not having traditional hobbies or for “not having” hobbies, but I think that this framework for defining hobbies should give some reassurance to those people.

What is (and isn’t) a hobby?

I think that a hobby is something that you:

  1. somewhat consistently do for the purpose of some kind of enjoyment
  2. choose to do as a hobby

On Point #1, I don’t think that you have to enjoy every second of your hobby, but I think it’s something you do have to do in general/on the whole because enjoyment out of it rather than doing something for enjoyment.

On Point #2, it could make the definition circular, but I think that it is still a useful part. I think that you have to have the intention of doing something as a hobby for it to be a hobby, otherwise it is just something that you do. An interesting side effect of this view is that something magically becomes your hobby as you decide it, which I think is a totally acceptable consequence. I think you will have to accept a lot of hobbies that aren’t really traditionally recognized as such like laying down and doing nothing or more colloquially known as rotting. But if you’re doing it as a hobby, I don’t see why it can’t be classified as a hobby, it’s something that you enjoy doing consistently on purpose.

I think that when drawing these distinctions it is best to look at examples. Consider the following:

  1. If you code, you can do that as a job as a Software Engineer or you can decide to do it as a hobby, or both. Even if you are a Software Engineer, I think that you can still code as a hobby, you just have to make time outside of work to do personal projects that are for fun.
  2. Something that you need to do live, like cooking for example, can absolutely be a hobby. However, I think that even if cooking is your hobby, not every single act of cooking is engaging in cooking as a hobby. Some cooking is “for survival” like you are just whipping something up real quick to eat vs seeking out a new recipe to try to perfect.
  3. A hobby is not just something that you enjoy doing, you can enjoy things for what they are and nothing more like drinking alcohol or being complimented.
  4. Just because you do something frequently, that doesn’t make it a hobby. You could work out a lot, but that doesn’t mean that you do it for fun or as a hobby, you could do it expressly to stay in shape. I certainly think that working out can be a hobby, but I only mean to cite this as an example to show that something can just be a habit rather than a hobby.
  5. I feel like reading has always been seen as a hobby, but watching TV has historically been not viewed as one, or at least it took some unlearning on my part. I think that this is because watching TV is less of an “intellectual” pursuit, so it is seen as less of a hobby. I think that if you are intentional about setting time aside for watching TV and keeping up with your programs that its 100% a hobby.

What are the various types of hobbies?

I absolutely believe that everyone should have varied hobbies. However, with that being said, I also don’t think that anyone should ever feel guilty for having/not having a certain hobby. I think that having diverse hobbies really allows yourself to nurture various parts of yourself, learn new things, and meet all kinds of interesting people, but at the end of the day, you can’t force yourself to like something, so don’t try to.

The following are the groupings of hobbies as I know/have conceived, but I am 100% open to redrawing boundaries, adding, or subtracting categories of hobbies; this ontology is absolutely not fixed.

Movement

A popular piece of advice is to have a hobby that keeps you active wherein you move your body. I think that this is because it is more convenient/easy when you can have a two-for-one activity like that where it makes you both happy and healthy. While I think that this is certainly important to keep you happy and healthy, I don’t think that it is necessary. Of course I think that everyone should have a type of movement that they like, but I don’t know if it is necessary to be enjoyment-oriented towards exercise.

Examples:

  • Hiking
  • Pickleball
  • Roller Skating
  • Biking
  • Yoga
  • Martial Arts

Creation

This doesn’t mean that it has to be artistic, there are functional creative hobbies like woodworking or pottery. Although the creation of things is inextricably linked to art, art is about expression and so if you’re creating in a way that is not primarily about expression, I think you are making vs creating. This is not an etymological distinction that I am relying on, but rather creating a conceptual one and using these two terms as shorthand.

Examples:

  • Pottery
  • Music Production
  • Writing
  • Woodworking
  • Interior Design
  • Whittling

Art/Media Consumption

Media consumption is different than taking in information for the sake of research because I think a lot of people tend to consume art/media for a different purpose; like entertainment or to experience different emotions.

Perhaps controversially, but I think that watching TikTok could be a hobby. I know that a lot of social media checking is more of a habit because there are a lot of small checks throughout the day to see who posted what. However with YouTube and TikTok and User-Generated Content from people that you don’t know, the engagement time there is usually for longer periods of time. I think you can watch content from these platforms just as a way to pass the time, but there can also be a sense of intention behind taking some time to watch TikToks. I think that a lot of the discourse around social media tends to be about addiction or not wanting to be there but feeling like you have to be, and while that may be true for a lot of people, I don’t think that it is for everyone.

Examples:

  • Listening to Podcasts
  • Watching YouTube Video Essays
  • Reading Comic Books
  • Going to Art Galleries

Collection

I think my notion of collections may be different than other people because I believe that you can collect experiences as well. Much like trying to collect coins from 50 states you could try to go to concerts in 50 states or go down the list of the 100 best rated movies of all time. There is some discourse about collections versus hyperconsumerism, and I think that some collections do tow that line, while others are immune to it; like people who collect things that do not cost money, or experiences.

Examples:

  • Stamps
  • Climbing the Tallest Mountains
  • Weapons
  • Riding The Scariest Roller Coasters
  • Shot Glasses
  • Eating at Michelin Starred Restaurants

What is an interest?

I actually don’t think that interests and hobbies are all that different, in fact, I think that an interest is just a type of hobby. Specifically, I think that an interest is a knowledge-seeking hobby in a particular topic.

I think that the main confusion comes about because we sometimes mix up related hobbies and topics. Photography and cameras are two separate hobbies/interests, but they are intertwined. You could be really into photography and taking pictures as your hobby, but you could do it all on your iPhone and not really know much about cameras. Inversely, you could really be interested in cameras, about how they work, the various types of them, the history of the development of photography, without ever taking a single photograph.

I think that we also mix up hobbies too and sometimes lump related hobbies together. One friend of mine does disc golf as a hobby, and on the side he also had another related hobby, which was a collection-based hobby of collecting various discs, in something that I think is most similar to vinyl collection. These are distinct hobbies but they bleed into each other because you don’t have to collect discs to play disc golf, you could really play with only one or two different discs if you wanted to.

I think that you can actually have a hobby and interest in the same thing, but that they are separate entities. Take reading for example, you can watch videos about people talking about books or authors. You are not partaking in the hobby of reading when consuming “book-ish” content, but rather you are collecting knowledge about your hobby, making it an interest as well as a hobby.


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