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It was January 2017 and I just joined a doctorate programme. The nitty-gritty of doing scientific research and longer working hours made me feel overwhelmed at times.

I used to ponder while sleeping, what can I do to make me feel better? Something that can take away the overwhelming feelings sometimes.

I was in particular looking for a personal activity. Personal so that I don’t have to talk to others to make it happen and I can control what, how, and when to do it.

As someone well-versed in writing personal diaries, the thought of writing on the internet instead of pages of a diary seemed an innovative idea. Innovative because I felt archiving your writing (Or any art) is easier on the internet than on paper as paper can get destroyed within a few years (of course, paper has its own charm though).

Fortunately, the idea of having your writings read by thousands or getting famous never occurred to me. Had that thought struck my mind, I would have never been able to continue for long.

I continued writing (without noticing if anyone actually read) primarily for my self-fulfillment. You will find my writings in 2017 sometimes had no particular arrangement. It was like jumping among different thoughts.

In 2024, the number of people who read my writing has increased manifold. What has not changed is the purpose of writing for me. I have observed over the years that some people (even close friends) find it perplexing that I invest my time and money into writing without considering the monetary benefit.

This exact viewpoint led me to think that there has been a huge cultural shift over the last few decades in how we perceive our hobbies or leisure time.

Doing an activity for the sake of joy and contentment is nothing new. Just three or four decades back most people had something they used to enjoy apart from the profession they get money from.

The concept of having a hobby or engaging in activities that bring joy carries deeper implications than it may initially suggest. It’s not merely about filling leisure time with more tasks but about nurturing your mind and soul with something genuinely enjoyable, regardless of any tangible benefits.

That extra enjoyable activity provides another opportunity (Or only opportunity) to be in flow apart from the profession people do for a living. It is well-known by now that we are truly enjoying our time when we are in the flow. 1

But if having a hobby was so popular, why is it dying now?

Welcome to the hustle culture where everything you do will be measured through the material return you get.

To be frank, it’s too tempting not to be part of today’s hustle culture.

Why do something for self-fulfillment when you can earn extra cash by selling it online?

There is nothing inherently wrong about earning some monetary benefit from your hobby. If I can earn some money out of my writing, I might do it someday.

But there are some serious flaws in how we approach a side hustle.

For a hobbyist, the thought process is centered around, “What can I do to immerse myself and find joy? Monetary gain is not my main goal.”

Conversely, for a hustler, it shifts to, “What can I do to earn extra cash? I should do something that people want and sell it to increase my income.”

Both of them have a skill or activity that they enjoy. However, the focus is centered on different outcomes. For one it is more about fulfillment, whereas, the other leans more towards immediate monetary benefit or external validation. It is hard to be in a joyful state when we crave external validation.

Hobbyists find satisfaction intrinsically, less affected by praise or recognition from others, it is more about themselves. But hustler thinks a lot more about others’ approval.

Without social media, hustle culture is hardly possible. Social media accelerates our inner craving to get validated, liked, and approved by others. Anything you do, you can post it online and check people’s reactions. When I say anything, I really mean just anything.

A hobby ideally should be a creative expression of yourself. An expression that gives you joy and might become an integral identity of yours after a certain point. If you are following likes and followers, you stop becoming reflective and creative. Then you are working for others, not for yourself. You are now part of the hustle culture.

But do people have time to keep a hobby in today’s day and age?

Most people assure themselves by saying that they are too busy to make room for another activity (that they find pleasurable). This might be true for some people. For the majority, this is not the case. The problem lies somewhere else, the prevalence of the internet.

The notion of doing something for yourself seems outdated in today’s era when you can monetize everything you do. The internet, especially social media, enables anyone to sell anything they do, provided there’s an audience for it. This democratization is great for individuals with genuine skills who may not have otherwise been noticed on a global scale.

But more people get stuck in a loop of impressing people by hook or crook. It’s easy to observe this trend by simply scrolling through social media feeds and noting the prevalence of content aimed at gaining attention, sometimes at the expense of authenticity or genuine value. Of course, the distinction between valuable or cringe-worthy is subjective and can vary widely based on personal perspectives.

So having a hobby has become less fashionable not because life has become busier but more so due to significant cultural shifts.


Erving Goffman, a sociologist presented the dramaturgical perspective in his book ‘The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life’. He stated that social life is a “performance” carried out by teams of participants in three places: “front stage,” “back stage,” and “off stage.2

People are front stage when they know other people are watching them. So they behave accordingly. Back stage when we are with our family or close friends, free of many expectations and norms that dictate their front stage behavior. Off stage is when people are actually who they are in raw form. People sitting in a closed room alone would behave like they are off stage.

No wonder, Blaise Pascal said-

All of humanity’s problems, stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone

Without any expectation or distraction, people in off stage would be forced to think deeply about the truth of what they feel.

A hobby done with our own fulfillment in mind takes out our off stage feelings. We can pour our hearts out through an activity. That’s why it has a remarkable power to bring joy, harmony, and flow to our lives.

The best moments in our lives rarely involve any monetary gain. They often happen when we are so immersed in an activity that we forget everything else. A hobby, my friend, can give you more of those moments.”

References:

  1. What is Flow in Psychology ↩︎
  2. Goffman’s Front Stage and Back Stage Behavior ↩︎

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4 Thoughts

  • Sakshi Maurya says:

    Thank you for this blog. I barely read any blogs but this one caught my eye and I read it and felt like you said our heart out. I also learn and practice dancing and if got chance I perform dancing. I feel so relaxed and feel top of the world. Posting very rarely on social media platforms gives me almost zero anxiety. I really believe Practicing a hobby really gives you that peace of mind which is currently lost in today’s competitive world.

  • Garima Arya says:

    Nice blog Joy! It not only inspires individuals to explore their hobbies, but it also gives a pause and compels us to think why our attention span is so low in this social media era!

    • Joy says:

      Thanks Garima. Happy to know you like it. I can’t remember but I read somnewhere what you do for yourself could be different than what you do for living.

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