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Pop Culture Corner: Avoiding Making Hobbies a Chore

Just enjoy what you enjoy, dude

Book village Mühlbeck
Books at an antiquarian bookstore
Photo by Klaus-Dietmar Gabbert/picture alliance via Getty Images

Last week, a friend of mine was in town for a work trip. Over lunch, we were discussing our shared love of books—what we had read, what we were looking forward to, and what some of our recent favorites were.

We also discussed how we kept track of our read books as part of the discussion. I enjoy reading as one of my hobbies, but she’s an even more avid reader than I am, and she called my method of keeping track of my reading list on my phone as “old school.” My friend proceeded to tell me about StoryGraph. Now, this app provides your book reading statistics in the form of pie charts and bar graphs, and is a place where you can keep your to be read (or “TBR”) pile digitally. Plus, you know, invite friends on the app so you can see what they’re up to.

Both of us are aware that we are weird nerds when it comes to this stuff. The fact of the matter is that most people don’t keep track of the things that we read, watch, or play. I imagine that my “old school” approach of keeping notes on my phone of all the stuff that I read, watch, and play is unusual in and of itself, let alone the usage of an app like StoryGraph or Goodreads or Letterboxd or whatever.

I enjoy keeping track of what media I’m consuming, and keeping a list of “oh hey I’d like to get to that too” helps provide a neverending list of things to get to next. There’s always another book to read, or a game to play, or a movie to watch, and that’s pretty cool.

However, at the same time, this way of thinking can be dangerous because an unhealthy obsession with tracking a hobby (as opposed to a healthy one that deepens your enjoyment of the hobby) can result in what I call the chore-ification of your hobby. That’s because, even if you limit your hobby to one form of media consumption, there’s an infinite amount of content available.

None of us will ever get to every piece of media we want to consume. There will inevitably be things we can’t get to but want to get to. And what I’ve ran into myself is the feeling that either A) I’m not choosing to read/watch/play what I should or B) I’m not using my free time productively if I’m not actively working through the items on my list.

For those of us who are also sports fans, this can also include a fear of missing out since sports contests are so temporal and fleeting. Yeah, we can talk about it afterwards, but unlike a book or a movie, a sports game is most relevant for one night. And there are a lot of sports games. Are they leisure activities for us or chores that we have to show up to out of obligation?

My recommendation is to try your hardest to not worry about the opportunity cost of choosing to experience any piece of media. If it’s what you want to do at the time, do it. There’s no medal for watching every TV show ever. If you want to rewatch something, go for it. Who cares? Do what makes you happy, and only worry about tracking your consumption if it makes you happy.

...speaking of which, I should probably sign up for StoryGraph. It’s just the kind of nerdy I like.