They help us find solace in the quiet. They cover a spectrum of activities. They enable us to exercise our creative side. And because we spend so much time on them, much like anything else, commercialisation just has to sink its claws in. Yet, should hobbies, those bastons of creativity and personal freedom, remain free from commercialisation.
The potential for profit?
Firstly, there is no doubt that hobbies are a large market which could be tapped into. Research by the American Express Shop Small revealed that 38% of people in Britain had taken up at least one new hobby in lockdown, and subsequently these people then spent, on average, £23.81 per month on them. Clearly, there is a growing market. It has the potential for it only to get bigger as people continue to keep up these hobbies, in their quest to put in place the positive learnings from lockdown. Furthermore, many of the businesses which provide the ability to fulfil these hobbies are small ones. Picture the local art supplies store tucked round the corner or the decades old haberdashers lined with linen folds.
Yet just because lockdown has shown the potential market of hobbies, it does just remain potential as a British Heart Foundation survey found that a new hobby had a shelf life of just 16 months. This discredits some of the potential as the retention rate of the money being spent is quite low. As such, it signifies that commercialisation should stay away from our hobbies. The changeability of our hobbies is bad for business but good for us: allowing us to try new things, dip our toes into the water of the new and learn things we never expected. Even if we end up not pursuing it, something has been gained – a sense of knowing a little more about the world than we did before. So, the potential for profit is outweighed by the personal benefits of hobbies.
Do we really want everything to be commercialised?
There is a much broader philosophical question here: do we really want everything in our world to be assessed on its capital value? The slippery slope of everything being quantifiable and easily put into a box means that it wouldn’t be too long before the worth of people in a personal value would be assessed in this way. So, reversing a space for hobbies therefore allows us to protect the unquantifiable: the beautiful things which make up life that cannot be measured in such a way. Things like the joy we feel when we’ve completed a paint by numbers or the elevation of finally learning the dance moves to that near impossible TikTok we saw. Each of these feelings is just as important, if not more so than a monetary value.
Having this ringfence around hobbies also sends a signal out to younger generations that not everything they do needs to be quantifiable. Sometimes they can just do things because they simply enjoy it. Sometimes they can even do something they are not good at. Sometimes they can simply do something just because they want to. Crucially, by keeping hobbies away from commercialisation, it helps to keep this element of hobbies, the trial-and-error activity, free for younger generations to just explore.
Another reason why hobbies should remain free from commercialisation is that hobbies do not only have a mental benefit, emotionally enriching our lives, but they also have been proven to have significant health benefits. In 2010, academics at the universities of Kansas, Pittsburgh and Texas found that hobbies were associated with lower blood pressure, body mass index and stress hormones. In a world very much worried about its health, such benefits to the physical state are undeniable.
Commercialisation with the stresses and strains that it has clearly placed on everyone would run the risk of countering these. On balance, the health issues which often come along with commercialisation do not outweigh the multitude of health benefits that come along with hobbies.
So, should hobbies remain free from commercialisation?
Despite the potential market growth which eager commercial bodies would so love to exploit, its clear that the benefit which hobbies provide to us is far more important than making a fast buck. From the reduction of serious health conditions, to the ability to express ourselves in ways that no other things can provide, hobbies remain a focal point of the unquantifiable. The experiences which go beyond the numerical. From this it’s clear that the only answer really to the question, is that hobbies must remain free from commercialisation.