Friday, July 15, 2011

What's a hobby?

Whenever you fill out the profile page at any of the online sites that I visit, like Blogger, Twitter, Facebook, etc., one of the questions is always about hobbies. This one leaves me scratching my head. What, exactly, qualifies as a hobby? Can I list my cats? I spend a lot of time feeding, caring for, cleaning up after, and sitting under my cats, but does that count as a hobby? It's not exactly the same as cross country skiing.

Speaking of cross country skiing, how much time every year does a person have to do something in order for it to count as a hobby? Here in Illinois, there are relatively few days every year when there's enough snow on the ground to cross country ski, and even fewer days when the temperature is above zero, the wind chill won't freeze your nose off your face, and there aren't chunks of ice falling from the sky. In other words, if you want to cross country ski here, you've got about 4.5 days per year when you can do it. Can that qualify as a hobby?

How about completely non-active pastimes that I enjoy and spend a lot of time doing? Like watching TV. Is that a hobby or a bad habit? Same thing with drinking wine or eating chocolate or oversleeping. At what point does one cross the line from being a wine connoisseur (hobby) to being a drunk (bad habit)? And how about comfy clothes? I actually spend time and money looking for comfortable clothing to wear, so shouldn't that count as a hobby?

Here's another one: What about writing? Sure, I spend a lot of time writing, but since the goal there is to make money, does that exclude it from hobby status? But what if I'm writing something that's not designed to make money? You know, like a blog. Or something that I wish would make money but doesn't sell. Does that make me a hobbyist or just a failure?

And how about people who call themselves "buffs" or "aficionados"? At what point does someone go from simply having a hobby of going to see foreign films to becoming a film buff? Is there some particular moment in a person's life when they wake up and realize they have achieved buff status? It reminds me of George Costanza from Seinfeld when he once lamented that he'd like to be a Civil War buff, but he had no concept how to go about it. As it so often happens, George speaks for a whole generation of people, including me.

Now that I've gotten that off my chest, it's time to put on my sweatpants and kick back to watch a TV show about nothing.

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