Monday, March 9, 2009

Is technology destroying "the hobby"?

When I say "the hobby", I don't necessarily mean one in particular, but any hobby that isn't focused on technology. The reason I ask? Facebook. In the interests an hobbies sections, I find less and less hobbies listed by people that aren't technological.

I suppose I should clarify. As a kid, I remember a lot of my friends used to have all sorts of hobbies. Some liked to read, some liked to do scale models, some liked to paint and/or sketch, some liked to do embroidery or sew. I'm sure you get what I mean and probably had a hobby of your own.

Now what do I see listed more often than not as hobbies? Watching television and movies and playing video games. Okay, so reading is still a big one, but what happened to crafts? Do kids just not do crafts anymore?

Having a teenager at home, and knowing all of his friends I can tell you that most of them don't. Their lives are focused either around the computer or around the television. Instead of showing up at each others' houses to hangout, they'll talk about hanging out on MSN. Often for hours. And guess what? They don't actually end up hanging out, because by the time they've discussed the idea with everyone on their buddy list, there isn't any time left to actually do anything.

I CAN tell you for a fact that technology has destroyed two things in our youth. The ability to spell, and the ability to do simple math. My son leaves me notes, written down on paper, and actually writes things like LOL and BRB. And in school projects, his spelling and grammar are atrocious. He will either use internet shortforms or common misspellings that you find in text messages, or he uses the spellchecker instead of actually proofreading and lets it autocorrect. Well in Canada, we have different spellings of words than in US. However, our Wordprocessor is in US English, so it will often correct things that don't need correcting. What I find terribly distressing is that I find teacher comments on his work in American spelling as well. As far as math goes, and I see this almost everyday, ask a teenager to figure out the sales tax on a simple purchase, and then watch their face take on a seriously puzzled look. Oh dear, how can one figure these things out without a calculator?? I can, and I could by the time I was about ten, probably earlier. I wasn't allowed a calculator in math or science class until high school, by which point the basics were pretty well engraved in my skull. My son was allowed a calculator by grade 3. Why? Because with this new curriculum, there is too much to learn to spend time reviewing the basics, like addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. That's what his teachers tell me. This is a load of crap. The teachers end up spending more time than they should on things which 90% of kids will never use after they leave school, and not enough time on things that they will use everyday. But I digress...

So, with all of these wonderful technological inventions, do kids actually spend time creating anything other than logfiles and saved games? Not many from what I've seen. They talk at great length about the things they're going to do, but not many actually get around to doing them.

One of my son's best friends is female. They've been friends since they were about 7, and even though they've both moved far from where they met, they still keep in touch and still visit each other a couple of times a year. A few years ago, on one of her visits, this young lady showed a keen interest in my needlework and asked me to teach her how to do it. I spent the better part of the weekend working with her on how to make her basic stitches, made up a care package for her of some patterns, fabric, and floss and off she went. For a few months I would get updates from her in my email, with pictures of what she had accomplished. This last year or two, I ask her what she's working on and suddenly she doesn't have time. She has a part time job which she works at 1 night a week and Saturdays. Most nights she is logged into MSN and chatting with my son, so I know it's not that she really doesn't have time, it's that she chooses to use her time on other things.

Here's another little rant, perhaps a little off topic, but I feel it's still connected in some way. I'll use my son as an example, but I KNOW that this is not just something that I've had to deal with and is something that most parents have heard. To what am I referring? Two words. "I'm bored." Sure, as kids we were all bored at some point or another, but we most often found something to do. However, I hear these words from my son almost every day. He has lots of friends to do things with. He has several guitars to play. He has an enormous library of music - hundreds of CDs worth of every kind of music you can think of. He has a hundreds of DVDs at his disposal, as I'm quite a movie buff and enjoying watching them while I stitch. He has an Xbox 360, a PS3 and a computer of his own, all with several games. He has ten times more to do than I ever did at his age, yet he's always bored, and I never was. Why???? I'll tell you what I think, and I may be wrong, I often am, but here goes. Why is he bored? Because he never really does anything. He'll fiddle on the guitar - while logged onto MSN. He'll play a video game, while either logged onto MSN, or, chatting with his online buddies (most of whom he sees every day at school). He'll listen to music - while logged onto MSN. He'll talk on the phone - while logged onto MSN. My solution? GET RID OF MSN!!! Talk to your friends face to face!! Do something instead of typing about it!!! Do you know when he's NOT bored? When one of his friends comes over or he goes to their house. When MSN is not involved. MSN, text messaging, Facebook... they totally kill real life, because it's too easy to get caught up in drama online that in real life would seem pretty trivial. They've destroyed our social graces. Who the heck has a party on Facebook???? Stop talking about life and start living it!

Okay so back to my original thought. Has technology destroyed hobbies? Maybe. At least it has changed what is considered a hobby. I suppose that playing video games could be considered a hobby, it requires hand-eye co-ordination and mental agility. On the other hand, it produces nothing tangible.

On the flipside, the internet has also boosted hobbies among the older generations. I speak from experience when I say that if not for the internet, I would surely not still be stitching, let alone designing. There's a wealth of information to be found about so many different things, and people of my generation and those before me are re-discovering things they enjoyed years ago because of it. My fear is this: what happens when these generations are gone?

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