“What are your hobbies?” is a commonly asked question. It was an essay prompt in Class 2, now asked in job interviews, applications and some awkward first dates. Yet, it feels harder to answer each time. That comes as no surprise as we read this on the 6th hour (today) of staring at our phone screens. We have all been told off with the refrain, “Ekhonkar bachchara toh phone chara choltei pareh na”.
Do memes count?
Our current state of leisure and learning may have a lot to do with the routine of an average 16-year-old in Dhaka who spends half the day at school, and the rest of the half bouncing around from coachings to tutors to coachings has two hours before bed for homework. With little space (or time) to actually relax, our interactions are limited to the same screens, through video games or WhatsApp. Unless you play sports through school, you probably don’t get to run around and be active. So it’s really no wonder that those wee hours at 3 am are spent awake, but tired and dozing off in front of Brooklyn Nine-Nine or BoJack Horseman.
In fact, isn’t it about time “laughing at memes” counts as a hobby? If a hobby is whatever you do in your free time then that definition should undoubtedly change with changing effects of technology on social lives. Sharing quality memes and watching Vine compilations should definitely count as a legitimate hobby.
Now that we’ve classified memes as a hobby…
What does that say about us as a generation? Most of our hobbies seem to rotate around either communication through or passive consumption of technology. All our other hobbies are just socializing with peers. What did people do before the age of smartphones, Netflix and the scroll of death? Are we ever bored? Are we always bored?
Socializing, not social media
What did our parents do every day? Unsurprisingly, the majority of the answers was “go out and socialize”.
Firstly, it was easier to go out and play with friends every day after school before cities were crammed with buildings. There were open spaces where kids played cricket or football with their neighbors. This was a major component of growing up. This reality may seem too alien to a teenager or child now. Cultural events were more prevalent. The common people and not just a niche group enjoyed events like film shows to local plays. These events united people through entertainment, no one had access to films in every household the way we do now.
So what do we do?
Books. Films. Learning anything, anytime.
In fact, our generation has a much wider range of hobbies to choose from or develop than any other generation before us.
Love filmmaking? Watch a bunch of film analysis videos for free on YouTube, then use your phone to create a short film for little to no cost. Interested in photography? Your phone camera and Instagram are probably your best friends. Fascinated by how apps work? Take up coding for free through hundreds of online courses available on the internet. Anything you could remotely be interested in can probably, if not definitely, be learned on the internet and executed by your phone.
Find out and go to the many events happening in the city. Use Jete Chao, Facebook Local, and Facebook event pages, there are MUNs, Open Mic Nights to Art Biennales (where no one really understands anything).
Of course, partake in the cafe culture (don’t know how you could avoid it even if you tried). Go to any cafe after 12 pm and join the many teenagers and young people sipping 400 taka Cappuccinos. Moreover, with the increasing number of restaurants in Dhaka, there are more food chains such as Takeout and Yum Cha District. The cuisine, decor, and marketing are mostly directed and catered to the tastes of young people.
There has also been a recent growth of gaming arcades providing karaoke and bowling (such as at JFP), and movie theatres such as Star Cineplex that run predominantly on Hollywood movies targeted towards the youth.
The same way our parent’s generation had the bookworms and comic lovers, so do we. We all know those kids who spend their days reading books or sketching cartoon strips. There has always been and there always will be folks who take an interest in writing or music regularly.
Use technology as an enabler of your new hobby
With drastic technological changes, population growth and urbanization, it is no surprise that our day-to-day hobbies are so different from our parents’ when they were our age. Although this is frequently posed as both a failure and a threat to the future of our generation, it doesn’t have to be either of those. It’s not our fault that we have no open fields to play Kabaddi in the afternoons, or that we’d rather lay in bed watching Brooklyn Nine-Nine after an exhausting day of coachings. Neither is it harmful to us that technology now takes up so much of our time. If you personally have an interest in anything, whatever generation you belong to, you’ll find ways to devote your time to it. Whether that is creatively stimulating or innovative enough depends on your own preferences entirely.