Law in Contemporary Society

Hustle Culture and the Creator Economy - Lay Your Hobbies to Rest

-- By KarsynArchambeau - 27 Apr 2022

My least favorite question is “what are your hobbies?” My first thought is the typical law student response of having no free time but really, I have some. Usually, I dedicate it to having fact-to-face interactions with my friends and calling my family, but that is a less a hobby and more a healthy work-life balance. The other gaps in my calendar are as good as guaranteed to be filled by nothing all that important. Odds are I am on my phone or watching a show. So, my inevitable answer to that dreaded question is: I don’t really have any.

Prioritization: Productivity Over Personal Value Added

I used to have hobbies. In high school I loved spending hours with pencils and paper. If I wasn’t drawing, I was reading (usually a new book every week). But in college, I convinced myself that such hobbies weren’t productive, in the traditional sense, and I was too busy to waste time. After school, I was so busy and tired from working that the thought of dedicating time to anything but rest was unrealistic. By the time I got to law school, I was so used to dedicating all my energy to being productive or social that any time not committed to one of those two ends was time I just wanted to be still. At some point, I stopped picking up books of my own free will and forgot where I stored my art supplies.

To put it simply, I didn’t prioritize my hobbies. I didn’t see the personal value they held for me, societal blinders allowing only productivity and rest (in order to be more productive) in my line of sight. In truth, my hobbies would have rejuvenated me in ways rest simply couldn’t, but that understanding flies in the face of the message society throws at us by way of our educational system and the hustle culture that social media has indoctrinated my generation into. If we aren’t being bombarded with questions about what we want to be when we grow up or what our plans are post-graduation or retrieving that answer by way of an aptitude test, our would-be-escapist social media apps are assailing us with content creators, or even friends, that have too many side hustles to keep up with. If the pressure of having answers to the aforementioned questions isn’t enough to force constant productivity, the fear of falling behind certainly is.

Burnout: Alienation of What Feeds Us

I had the chance to catch up with an old friend, an artist, a few weeks ago. In college, she turned her hobby into a business and began selling pieces on commission. I asked if she was still drawing, certain of a yes, but she said no, that the creation of art no longer brought her the joy it used to. “Burnout?” I asked. A sad nod, “burnout.” My friend’s burnout was different from mine because it didn’t stem from poor prioritization. Hers came from the monetization of something she loved, which turned it into a job instead of a hobby. So instead of feeling rejuvenated by the art she wanted to create, she felt the burden of demand dictating what she had to make. And her actions are not surprising. With the prevalence of social media and its low barriers to entry, anyone can go viral for anything. Many times, the person going viral is showcasing a particular talent and the comments inevitably reflect one of two common refrains: “where can I buy this,” or, “you should sell this.” Eventually, when your hobby becomes your job, it stops feeding you the same joy that drew you to it in the first place. But I don’t fault creators that follow those refrains and sell their content. I don’t fault the people commenting either. It has become increasingly popular to monetize hobbies as a side hustle for extra income. I fault hustle culture and a society driven by earning potential.

While my own loss of a hobby wasn’t caused by monetizing any skill, it was burnout just the same as my friend’s. Both of us had fallen into the trap of being so productive all the time that we simply couldn’t keep up. For me, that resulted in simply being too tired to keep up with a hobby. For her, it burned away any love she had for one.

The Result: Feeding "It" Instead

The absence of hobbies in my friend and I’s lives is a result of that message ingrained in us from a young age: if it’s not making money or something to put on your resume, then it is time better spent doing one of those things. For my friend, she was convinced that because her skill was marketable, she was obligated to market it, or she might as well not do it. For me, my hobby wasn’t a marketable skill, so my energy was better dedicated to something else. At the end of the day, our hobbies no longer represented the leisure we loved them for; they no longer fed us the way they were meant to.

The result is a mental fatigue so complete it feels physical. So it makes sense, then, that when we get tired of being productive all the time we reach for the most mindless of activities: social media. There’s an irony in it, considering social media harkened the advent of hustle culture. But still, we like, share, and comment until we see one too many posts showcasing another’s accomplishments and are overwhelmed by the need to be productive. And so the cycle goes. It will take a reorienting of the mind, I think, to break that cycle. It will take an understanding that productivity does not always equal work product; that it just means you’ve moved along towards a goal, even if that goal is something as simple as relaxing. Maybe then we can feed ourselves instead.

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r3 - 06 Jun 2022 - 00:36:32 - KarsynArchambeau
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