How do you like to spend your free time? Hanging out with friends would be many people’s first answer, but most would include hanging out online within that activity. Sure, we’d rather meet up face to face, but that’s not always possible, and talking online or via text is often far more convenient.

What else do we do? We watch movies. We play games. We listen to music. We stream a wide range of media, increasingly on our phones, and we still like to sit in front of the TV and watch our favourite programmes as they’re broadcast. We also read, exercise, like to cook and have individual hobbies, but increasingly these things require effort to keep up with them. If we do things because we feel like we should, then is the time we spend on them really free time at all?

The easy option

In many cases our leisure choices follow the path of least resistance. We don’t want to make an effort to seek out new things to do because that seems too much like hard work. That is understandable. People today work long hours and have more stresses and worries than ever before, partly because there’s just so much more information in the world that our brains are struggling to process. When we take time out we just want to relax. As there are so many options for relaxation and entertainment easily available, why strive to seek out more difficult choices?

Endless choice

There’s now so much competition for our valuable leisure time. The internet in particular is an endless mine of entertainment and distraction, and there are amazing discoveries around every corner (as well as some not-so-amazing ones). Just investigating the best online casinos in the UK could keep you occupied for hours, and there are new games, films and shows popping up every second, often with vast swathes of supporting material to devour as well.

It wasn’t always this way. For many generations of ordinary working people, holidays meant a hike in the hills. Sometimes these would be organised events on bank holidays, like the popular Whitsun Walks in Northern England. In other cases, families or individuals would just take to the hills in order to escape the grime and claustrophobia of cramped homes in industrial towns and cities.

Challenging hobbies

People would take up challenging hobbies, like breeding birds for showing, or boat building, which is hard work but offered a sense of personal satisfaction. Even sourcing the materials to get started wasn’t easy. Of course, we might respond that there wasn’t much else for ordinary people to do in those days, and that’s true. But even in the consumer era we find that not so long ago people still sought out difficult leisure pursuits.

We can all enjoy a catchy pop song online, but operas, classical music and even a lot of jazz and rock demand a level of concentration that people of previous generations were more prepared to put in. Arguably, they also got more out of the experience as a result.

The serious collector

Our entertainment can now be found at the tap or swipe of a finger. But many people still enjoy scouring second-hand shops for rare books and records, and the thrill of the hunt is as much a part of the fun as actually absorbing the item you’re looking for. And yet it’s hard to resist the lure of convenience when there’s so much to choose from right in front of your face.

Do what you want

We shouldn’t necessarily feel bad about this. The fact is that there is now so much more to do, see, and listen to. Spending our leisure time doing difficult or inconvenient things has become, paradoxically, the ultimate luxury. Yes, many people are still driven to spend their weekends rock climbing, abseiling or white-water rafting, and it’s now much easier to find ways to enjoy those leisure pursuits than it once was.

We are all entitled to spend our free time however we wish, and if we just want to switch off and look at memes that’s our prerogative. However, we shouldn’t forget that sometimes pushing ourselves a little way out of our comfort zones can yield great rewards. Convenience is a wonderful thing, and however much your parents or grand-parents may moan, they would have loved to have the leisure opportunities at their fingertips that we take for granted. But with so much choice, isn’t it best to choose something that you’ll really enjoy in your limited leisure time, rather than just the first option that comes to hand?