For the past few months, I’ve been obsessed with Ottolenghi’s recipes from his Jerusalem cookbook. I’ve cooked perhaps six recipes in a month, spent too much money on unusual spices and ingredients, and each time I cooked a new recipe, I made sure to take a picture and put it on Instagram. Example:
Today I thought: “should I make a blog out of this new passion?” and this question annoyed me, for it revealed a shameful pattern of habits to myself.
I’m a woman of many hobbies. I cook, knit and sew. I love cinema, literature and museums. And all of these interests & hobbies live on my Instagram & Twitter accounts, through stories, posts and tweets. I cannot go to a museum without making a funny comment about a weirdly painted baby. I cannot create a piece of garnement without documenting each step. I twitted once: “I think I’m knitting to get 1. likes on Insta and 2. a useful skill in a post-apocalyptic world.”
It annoyed me, because I quickly wondered: “Why do I always feel the need to showcase every activity on the internet? Am I not able to enjoy things by themselves, without asking for attention?”
Of course, the first answer would be: “if it doesn’t happen on social media, it didn’t really happen.” That is still true, and a lot of people, including myself, are looking for attention through the internet. But the problem here is more specific. I seldom share photos of drinks or parties with friends for example.
Second, there have been discussions recently about how millennials feel compelled to monetize each hobby they have. You can find articles by The Man Repeller (“The Modern Trap of Turning Hobbies Into Hustles” by Molly Conway) or The Cut (“Not Everything Is a Side Hustle” by Ann Friedman). While those two articles are very insightful and liberating, I am not thinking of creating an Etsy shop or becoming a cook. Way too lazy for that. Just making content out of it.
When I was in Junior High school, I had a blog (a Skyblog, the MySpace of France I guess) where I drew “the story of Baba Yaga & Sir Wire”, the story of an evil witch who created a slave, slave who escaped. Then, I wanted to have a better blog for this story, so I learned HTML & CSS and created a website for it. This story could have staid there, but fast forward after high school, this story helped me during college interviews to show how, even though I had a proper humanities background, I also had a digital profile.
During college, I made a blog with friends about fashion at the school. We interviewed students and teachers, we wrote articles about fashion trends, and had a lot of fun. This blog is now over, but it helped me get my first internship by showing employers I could write and manage a project.
When I first wrote articles on Medium, I put them on my resume, and one of my future bosses talked to me about it, and it helped me get my apprenticeship.
Making content out of hobbies is less about strict and direct monetization, and more about opportunities. You leave trace of interesting facts about yourself, and perhaps one day it’ll help. And it usually helped me.
When you’re still young, paradoxically you don’t really have the right to be inexperienced. Studies and good grades are not enough, you have to show that you have a special interest that makes you eligible to schools, colleges, internships or jobs. And it is specifically tricky in France for students in the “prepa” system, where you have to work extensive hours and then make yourself interesting to potential schools. How do you keep a hobby when you have a 6 hours essay each Saturday?
This is not a new problem. My mother told me that at a college interview, the jury asked if she had any hobby, and she said knitting. She failed the interview (in the eighties knitting was boring and people preferred stuff like business cards & killing people with chainsaws). But now you have to leave marks on the internet of your hobby, and find an audience out of it.
Also, the new thing is that this “contentification” of hobbies is also a form of monetization. We’ve all heard stories about influencers who just started by putting some tutorials online and who are now making money out of partnerships & advertisings. When I made my cringy blog in junior high, I did not think for one moment I could earn money out of it (mainly attention from my classmates). Now, each Instagram account has a potential of being a business, if you try hard enough. You just have to be dedicated to your editorial line.
The irony of this article is: I’m making content right now. By criticizing a system where I always feel compelled to make content. So clearly I’m not saying to stop sharing about activities you love! Of course when we are passionate, we want to talk about it and share with our friends or strangers. It feels difficult to find a balance between sharing out of passion and sharing out of obligation. To find this balance, here is a list of questions to ask yourself first:
- JOY: Does it spark some extra joy to your hobby? (Marie Kondo style)
- WORK: Does it help you be more organized and dedicated to your hobby? ( I mostly do stuff when I told friends i’m planning to do it and I don’t want to lose face. I’m lazy like that.)
- AUDIENCE: Does it bore your friends? Will you make new friends? (Your friends are your first, and perhaps last audience. Please don’t bore them too much.)
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