We are a unique generation in the sense that, for the first time in history, we have access to an incredible variety of tools and products that will entertain us and help us pass our leisure time almost effortlessly. Our cell phones, TVs, video game consoles, and of course, computers, all allow us endless opportunities of entertainment, escape from reality, and the chance to experience what we once thought was impossible. It is truly remarkable that we can experience so many things with these devices, but it’s also making us depressed, lazy, and unproductive.
Before the Millennial generation, you passed your time with a real hobby; one where you had to put in actual work to get a result. There was blood, sweat, tears, and the reward of actually doing something: accomplishment in its various forms. Virtually everyone had a working knowledge of a craft or trade of some sort, whether it was woodworking, gardening, knitting, or hunting. Almost all basic functions and needs of the household could be accomplished by those who inhabited it, and since these skilled trades also happen to be enjoyable hobbies or pastimes, increased happiness and overall self-esteem were present as byproducts. There was a sense of ownership for not just the physical home for which our ancestors dwelled, but also for the wares and other products that filled it.
Today, our hobbies consist of a different assortment; most are time wasters that offer little to no tangible benefit to our lives. Television is the worst offender, with the average North American household spending 5 hours in front of their TVs per day. This number has changed in recent years due to the onset of popular online streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu, but there will gradually be a shift back towards TV sets as more incorporate the services directly into their software.
Online time wasting is the next worst offender. Despite the fact that most Millennials spend more time on their computers than on their TVs, I’ve ranked using the computer as the second largest time waster because email, reading the news, and other useful, productive tasks are also accomplished in conjunction with time wasters like Facebook. That being said, social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest are consistently in the top 20 most visited websites worldwide, so people are spending most of their time on time wasting websites. LinkedIn is not included because it is unique to social media in the sense that almost every function on the site is a productive one that helps fuel the user’s career, whether it be networking, research, or information provided through shared articles.
Video games are also an incredibly unproductive hobby. There are some exceptions: for example, several hospitals have used the game Super Monkey Ball to help train surgical residents to improve their fine motor skills. Some other games teach problem-solving and general intellect, but the vast majority offer an immersive, often times addictive experience that provides little value to the user aside from a temporary escape.
I’m not condoning the use of video games, TV, or wasting time on the Internet entirely. I’m suggesting that we stop making these activities hobbies, and consciously moderate the amount of time spent on each respective platform. Escape and leisure is a necessary and healthy tool for the human mind, but like all things, excessive use is harmful. As a former gamer, I can attest to wasting a large portion of my time on something that ultimately was not that important; despite what I thought at the time, going 20-0 in a game of Dota wasn’t actually more important than my biology homework.
I’ve mostly cut out video games from my life, and I can attest to the benefits of doing so. When I was younger, I used video games, TV, or mindless Internet surfing to waste time and distract from more important things, such as homework or chores. This sort of mindset might make me sound like a hardass, but think about it: by ignoring things that are ultimately more important by taking the easy way out and escaping, what does that say about you as a person, and how will that translate to who you grow up to be? I have fond memories playing video games with my friends, but they are far outweighed by experiences that I actually put in time and effort to achieve.
If you’re currently spending hours each day binging on Netflix marathons, playing COD from the time you get home from work to the time you go to bed, or you spend the better half of 4 hours each day planning your future wedding on Pinterest, perhaps you should consider altering your time usage just a little bit. Effective use of your time can produce so much more value for your life than simply throwing it away on escapist tendencies. It will also improve your mental health.
By using your time to avoid accomplishment and responsibility, you are creating unnecessary stress in your life. Although you may think that spending a whole day watching Game of Thrones is a great decision, the aftermath is what you need to be concerned about. In our world, there are constantly things to do, whether it is homework, errands, or actual work related to your job. By devoting a large chunk of time to escapism, you’re shunting that responsibility and placing all of these more important tasks on the backburner. Unfortunately, these tasks will still be there after the escapism marathon, so the thought of doing them will still be in the back of your mind, which causes stress.
Instead, if your energies were focused on hobbies or past times that involve actual effort on your part, your brain chemistry changes. Dopamine is released as a reward for achievement at the end of your struggles. Your mindset shifts to an achievement-based one, and you are inherently more motivated to get up off the couch and actually do things. This is why most people find that they are most productive when they have a jam-packed schedule: their mind and body are linked in a desire to achieve things and produce results. By doing productive hobbies, you are essentially rewiring yourself to be more productive in your day-to-day life.
If you choose the opposite, easier path of escapism, your brain still releases a bit of dopamine, but it is falsely earned. By adopting a lifestyle of escapism, your mind and body are not as motivated to achieve things and be productive. You will still experience that relaxed, pleasurable feeling dopamine gives you, and you didn’t even have to do any work in order to get your reward! Unfortunately, this is the mindset of many North Americans today, and it is why we have become so lazy: we have no desire to achieve happiness through short-term struggle or sacrifice. Why would we when we can simply press a button and achieve the same effect? If you’ve ever wondered why your heavy stoner friends are generally so lazy and unmotivated, this is the same reason. Constant drug use results in the body’s dependence on dopamine release, and because the easiest way to achieve this is through getting high, their sense of motivation quite literally goes up in smoke.
This is also why pornography has become what it is today. Instead of relying on personal interactions and real-life sexual experiences, a huge majority of men (and some women) rely on pornography for sexual stimulus and reward. This life of sexual escapism, like other forms of escapism, has damaging effects. Although masturbation is widely accepted as a healthy sexual practice, I have yet to come across a study that endorses the regular use of pornography; although the two practices are closely linked, they are still very different things.
By constantly using pornography for sexual stimulation, a person is essentially telling their brain that there is no need to go outside and try to find a sexual partner, because they can simply look up porn online and get the same end result. The problem with this is that it has created an entire generation of lazy men (women rely substantially less on pornography since it is almost exclusively produced for a male audience).
Today, there are legions of men who have almost no motivation to go out in public and engage another woman or man in a social interaction with the hopes of it ending in a sexual encounter. After orgasm, the chemistry of the body and mind changes. Testosterone, the hormone responsible for all things manly, is at its lowest level immediately after orgasm, and afterwards it is slowly produced to replenish the body’s stores. This is the chemical responsible for a lot of motivation in a male’s life, as many daily tasks are rooted in sexual motivation, not to mention sexual motivation itself.
Popular culture can be heavily influential on people, and if you recall the film There’s Something About Mary, there is a famous scene where Ben Stiller’s character, Ted, is told to jerk off before his date with Cameron Diaz’s character, Mary. Ted is posed the question: “You don’t want to go out with a loaded gun, do you?” This scene influenced an entire generation of men to pursue masturbation before potential sexual encounters in the hopes that they wouldn’t screw it up or that they would last longer in the forthcoming sexual encounter. The problem with this advice is that it sets you up for the worst possible chemical state of mind that you can have.
When you go out on a date post-masturbation, your testosterone levels will be in the recovery state, and your motivation, charisma, and overall sexual energy will be at their lowest. This is the opposite of what you would want for a successful date. Essentially, don’t believe everything you see at the movies: you want to go out with a loaded gun. There is a wealth of literature on this topic, but I recommend you check out yourbrainonporn.com for more information on this subject.
By eliminating escapist tendencies from your life, your daily output will be at levels that you have never experienced before. You will be more motivated to do everything, your self-esteem will improve, and your energy levels will be higher. Fill your spare time with more productive activities. These do not have to be old-fashioned, physically demanding tasks, either. You could take up an instrument, or learn computer-based skills, such as coding or graphic design. Many resources are available online or elsewhere that can assist you; it’s all just a matter of getting out there and doing it. Escape is still part of a healthy life; we need to unplug from our busy world for an hour or two, but to turn escape into the dominant component of your spare time is a damaging lifestyle that offers little in the way of returns. There will be a lot of people who will wake up when they’re 40 and wish they hadn’t wasted all their free time on escapist habits.
We are a unique generation in the amount of escapist venues we have readily available, but we are also blessed to have access to an incredibly wide array of skills and hobbies that we can learn. It is also why we should stop spending our money on things that help us escape so often, and instead invest in tools that allow us to create things. All it takes is the right state of mind and a healthy dose of self-motivation.