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  • Digital Detangler

The Death of Hobbies

Having (mostly) lived through the loss of my firstborn, I think about death fairly often. I say that to explain why I was reading obituaries aloud to my wife a few weeks ago. Two men in my neighborhood had died within days of each other. As I read their obituaries, I noticed something. Both of them had hobbies I had not known about. One had an extensive arrowhead collection; the other had founded several community organizations and had a brother who was a doctor/sculptor. I began to think about my friends and our hobbies. At the risk of stating the obvious, hobbies take place during our personal time. Adam Atler, author of Irresistible, suggests that we are witnessing the digitization of personal time. He created the following graphic to show how in a few years, our personal time has moved to screens almost exclusively:

Red represents the personal time we spend with screens.(1)

This isn't only bad. There are some great tools that involve screens. Ultimately though, if we let all of our personal time migrate to a screen, that limits the types of experiences we can take part in. It also funnels us toward a handful of most popular, trending options. Any esoteric interests you did have become little more than personality branding, since you're too busy to engage in them. Your sentences often take the shape: "did you see [internet/social media thing]?" You've seen all of the latest Netflix specials but haven't used your skis this year. Your garden is overtaken with weeds because you are too busy watching British people baking (this one is me). You know political minutiae regarding DACA but haven't bothered to meet your neighbors. At some point, the true answer to "what are your hobbies?" becomes "watching television and looking at my phone." If you don't believe you are watching much television – considering that the average American spends 4.5 hours a day watching TV, you probably are(2) – use and your Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon viewing activity to be sure. allows you to type in the various shows and seasons you've watched while keeping a running total of how much that television time adds up to. The links to your viewing activity on Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon will serve to jog your memory in case you forgot about all those hours watching the Full House reboot that you'll never get back. If you want to take back your personal time, start by turning off the television. It will drive you crazy at first, but pretty soon you'll cook dinner from scratch or play a board game or reach out to an old friend or join a sports league or brew your own beer or collect rare coins or get on the treadmill or write a book or read a novel or install shelves or volunteer. The possibilities are endless; the world is still full of interesting activities you can explore.


  1. Alter, A. (2018). Why our screens make us less happy. Retrieved 24 January 2018, from

  2. Jacqueline Howard, C. (2018). Americans at more than 10 hours a day on screens. CNN. Retrieved 31 January 2018, from

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