Useless Keyboard Wars
Much of my life is lived within various niches. I make no secret of the fact that many of my interests are hyper-specific, to say the least. Not everyone is going to geek out over unreleased Springsteen recordings or the structure of a certain Frasier episode, and that’s perfectly fine. But somebody has to, and it’s a burden I’m more than happy to bear. My obsession with politics is no different. I’m always more interested in hearing about the intricacies of senate committees than whatever rank punditry is driving the news cycle. I like reading about intellectual history, the various thinkers and arguments from different eras, seeing whose ideas have stood the test of time. It’s all fun, and I’ve surrounded myself with friends who enjoy the same.
But the deeper you dive into obscure political theory, the further you’re removed from reality. Many of the magazines I read are full of fascinating policy debates that will never come close to implementation – they’re just discussing ideas for the sake of ideas. That isn’t some kind of humblebrag, it’s me admitting there are probably better things I could do with my time. I spend an increasing amount of time tracking down out of print books, and I’ve read more Alfred Jay Nock than anyone needs (which is to say I’ve read some Alfred Jay Nock.) And while this is a lovely hobby, sometimes I get so immersed that I forget how useless it all is.
Last night I sent a text to my best friend, also a political geek, about a feud between two columnists I regularly read. Over the weekend, I probably took in a dozen think pieces on the way these two writers disagree about political activism in the 21st century. The debate had completely overtaken my corner of Twitter. I wasn’t looking to start any kind of debate with my friend, it was just something I observed.
And she had no idea what I was talking about.
My friend is a journalism student who’s incredibly wired into the news, so if she didn’t know anything about this, I can assure you that it doesn’t matter at all. It’s two obscure writers publishing attacks on each other in journals that nobody with a life reads. And yet many people, myself included, allowed this debate to dominate our entire weekend. All of my favorite podcasts devoted episodes to the subject, and I spent hours trying to figure out who I agreed with. But to the rest of the world, it may as well have never happened.
It amazes me how much energy we spend on things that only matter to us. And that’s a good thing, because it means this world is big enough for everyone to pursue their interests without getting in each other’s way. But when our hobbies cause us unnecessary stress, it’s good to recognize their insignificance so we can focus on better things.
I haven’t mentioned the names of the two writers, because if you read the same kind of publications as me, you immediately know exactly who I’m talking about. And if you don’t know, I’m saving you a ton of stress and wasted time by not sending you down this rabbit hole. Trust me.
I enjoy reading esoteric political punditry, and I plan to keep doing it because it makes me happy. However, I’ve largely stopped deluding myself into thinking it all matters, because a lot of it simply doesn’t. Hobbies are meant to recharge us so we can focus on things that are truly important. If you can’t separate the two, you have a problem.