Consuming Hobby Content Can Be Financially Dangerous

Hobby Content

The internet is wonderful for hobbies in many ways. Hobby content includes tutorials, equipment guides, product reviews, online conventions, and forums where you can interact and plan to meet with fellow enthusiasts. You can also save money on hobbies by easily buying/trading used equipment, taking free or low-cost classes, and more easily finding quality equipment and supplies while avoiding poorly reviewed products. It’s mostly wonderful.

However, there are financial (and mental) downsides to consuming all that hobby content. At the very least, when you’re watching videos, reviews, and buying guides, you’re not engaging in the actual hobby. Watching someone else play a game is not the same as playing the game. Reading reviews of products is not the same as getting out and using the products you already have. Looking at Instagram images of other people’s creations is not the same as creating your own stuff. Watching TikTok musical performances is not the same as performing your own music.

Done in moderation, consuming content isn’t detrimental. Some content is useful, after all. The problem starts when you’re consuming more than you’re doing. It’s a war between passivity and activity. It’s easy to convince yourself that you’re active in the hobby if you’re consuming content, but if consumption becomes the bulk of your hobby time, are you really participating? Time is something we don’t get back, so make sure you’re not wasting precious hobby time consuming unnecessary content. (Unless consuming content is your hobby. Then have at it. Just don’t get passive consumption vs. active participation mixed up.)

As for the financial downsides to consuming too much hobby content, here are a few to watch out for:

Consumption does not equal money. 

If you’ve monetized your hobby, even just a little bit, every minute that you’re consuming content and not creating stuff is money lost. Of course you’ll have to consume some content to stay relevant in your field, but don’t overdo it. 

You’re not using what you already have. 

If you’ve invested in hobby supplies, you need to be using them. If they’re sitting in your garage while you’re watching content, you’ve wasted money. Get out there and use what you have!

Comparison is an easy trap to fall into. 

Comparison is a huge danger in the online world. That’s true for everything from homes, to bodies, to hobbies. What we see online looks so wonderful that it becomes tempting to spend “just a little more” to achieve that same result. It’s a trap, though, as spending more won’t necessarily help. When it comes to hobbies, improvement usually comes from practice, not throwing money at it. Besides, you want your creations to be original, not carbon copies of something you saw online. 

Online isn’t reality. 

Everything looks better on social media. That’s because it’s been staged to look and function at its best. Someone has invested in lighting, stylists, camera filters, etc. and done multiple takes/shoots to create the best possible impression. (And that’s doubly true if the content is sponsored in any way.) It’s tempting to think that if you buy this thing you’ll get the same results/enjoyment out of it, but that’s not necessarily true. Things often disappoint in real life when you take away the sparkly presentation. That camera may not really take such great pictures, the piano doesn’t really sound that wonderful, or those paints may not really be any better than what you already have. It’s just made to seem that way. 

It’s hard to resist the hype machine. 

Online content is largely hype driven. Whatever is newest gets the most articles and posts. Whether it’s novelty that’s driving it, or a brand-driven campaign, is often hard to discern. Either way, the hotness dominates the discussion. When that’s the case, you feel like you have to join in. FOMO is strong because you want to be able to engage in the conversation. It’s too easy to buy stuff just for the sake of feeling like you’re “in.” 

Here’s an example from my own life of how hobby content can be financially damaging.

I love board games. Not Monopoly and Clue, but hobby games like Wingspan and Settlers of Catan. Prior to the internet and social media, I played constantly with a variety of groups. Over the years, however, I discovered sites like BoardGameGeek and Reddit, and found a whole new world where people loved to discuss board games. Unfortunately, much of that discussion centered around the “cult of the new,” which is all about the hot new games releasing today. There are video reviews and play-throughs, unboxing videos, and pretty pictures of games set up on the table. 

What began as a way for me to connect with others who shared my interest became a well of temptation. Every new game looked like so much fun in the videos. And so different from what I already owned! I bought way, way too many games as a result, most of which were disappointing. They weren’t as fun as the hypesters made them out to be. They weren’t as lovely as the overproduced pictures led me to believe. And most of them were really clones of something I already own and like better. 

The whole time I was in the vortex of content, I told myself that I was still a board gamer. But I wasn’t really, because I wasn’t playing games anymore. Consuming media and shopping replaced playing. That might be okay for some (collecting can be a hobby in and of itself), but it wasn’t for me. When I realized this and made a conscious effort to stay away from board game media, my spending magically went down and my playtime went back up. I learned to be wary of spending too much time looking at all the shiny new stuff and instead be happier with what I already own. I have plenty of fun stored up already, I don’t need to look for more. 

So how can you avoid the dangerous vortex of hobby content?

It’s not easy, I’ll tell you that. It’s hard to consciously turn off that flow of information because it is fun to look at. I think you become especially vulnerable, though, when you can’t participate in your chosen hobby for a while for whatever reason, or your interest is fading and you want to recapture the glory days or be with friends who are still in the hobby.

Maybe injury sidelines you from a sport you love, a move isolates you from your fellow enthusiasts, or other life responsibilities limit your hobby time. (A lot of hobbies go by the wayside when kids enter the picture, or someone becomes a caregiver. You want to stay friends with your hobby group, but you’re all moving on. Content feels like a way to stay involved because at least you can converse about the newest things.) I fell into the board game vortex at a time when my old game group was falling apart and I wasn’t able to play as often as I liked. It seems reasonable to substitute content for participation just for now, until you can get back on your feet. Media begins as a crutch, but then it eclipses the whole hobby. So be especially careful around media if you’re “hobby vulnerable.”

Beyond that, if you want to consume hobby content, I find books and magazines are a bit safer than the internet. (And you can get so many through the library for free!) Why? Well, first, it’s not as easy to buy something you see in a printed publication. There’s no Buy Now button or affiliate link. You have a built in pause between seeing and buying that might make you think twice. 

Second, while things in magazines and books are styled and produced just as much as they are online, I find a strange quirk in the brain keeps me from being as tempted. For some reason, we expect things in catalogs, magazines, and books to be professionally styled and shot. Yet we think the content we see online (especially if it’s on social media or forums, and not on a brand’s site or feed) is somehow normal and natural.

It makes no sense, but I think our brains haven’t quite caught up to over-produced/influencer driven social media quite yet. As a result, when I see something in print, I know it won’t be as good in person and I expect that it was styled. Yet if I see it online, particularly on a forum or social media, I sometimes think, “Wow, that looks really good,” and somehow expect that it will be the same in person. And it never is. 

Third, there’s no continuous scroll in print. When you’re done with the book or magazine, it’s over and you move on with your day. With online content, you can go down the rabbit hole forever. If not via a continually scrolling feed, then via links to more and more websites. It’s never ending and too easy to find something that will make you spend. 

Just be cautious when consuming hobby content, particularly online. Don’t let it eat up all your time and money. Instead, get out and engage in your hobbies more often. The act of engaging in the hobby itself is a great antidote to spending. If you’re busy doing something, you aren’t looking at products to buy. And if you find yourself defaulting to content over participation, ask yourself why that is and work to fix the underlying problem.

Do you have any stories to share about the pitfalls of hobby content? If so, share below in the comments. 

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