At various times in my life I’ve been faced with a web form or application where I have to fill out my interests, hobbies, and likes or dislikes. As far as I can tell, it’s a crude way to measure me up as a person. It’s an attempt to predict what I have to offer someone in conversation or companionship.
I don’t like movies very much. I’m not into pop culture. I don’t read very many books (I wish I read more). I watch a handful of television shows on Netflix and don’t subscribe to cable TV.
It occurred to me that none of these “interests” make a person interesting at all, at least to me. What we consume doesn’t contribute to the world or to a conversation. To me, what makes a person fun to know is what he or she creates. For example, one of my good friends is an amateur photographer, game maker, and artist. He’s an fascinating person.
Even the computer programmers I know (and I know a lot of them) are more interesting to me if they have side projects — games, web sites, open source libraries, whatever. The ones who go to their cubicles every day to implement a hand-crafted specification and don’t touch or think about their craft again aren’t interesting programmers.
Then I realized how little I’ve created during the past several years. I used to write. I used to play guitar and make music. I used to garden (hey, creating tomatoes and dishes from fresh vegetables counts too!). I used to put a lot of effort into decorating my home. I used to have a smattering of side projects I was working on at any given time.
If I have to fill out a form to make myself sound like someone you’d want to know, it’s not really fair to enter that stuff in the fields — I haven’t written a real song in at least a decade. I’ve only recently started blogging again, and my stuff is mostly pedestrian journalling and navel-gazing.
So what do I say my interests are?
A lot of my time has been taken up by parenting (a somewhat creative endeavor, and thus somewhat interesting to other parents), but a lot of it has also been taken up by consuming content. For most people that means TV shows and movies or games. I consume garbage from the internet: Reddit, Tumblr, Medium, Youtube, Twitter and Facebook, and stupid memes from the depths of 4chan. I spend my evenings with my tablet bouncing from site to site, app to app. I wonder if all that content consumption makes me rather boring. What do I put in the forms? My favorite internet sites? “Right now I like to look at pictures of Doge.” Pretty dull.
While I owe no one an interesting personality, I should probably get back to contributing something to the world instead of mindlessly gobbling up what other people emit.
Becoming an interesting person is a horrible motivation to create, but it’s really a minor one among other motivators. I do actually have stuff that needs to come out of my head — it hasn’t gone anywhere. Maybe I should spend more time sifting through it and pouring it out, instead of upvoting stories to the front page or taking Buzzfeed quizzes. In the end it’ll make me a better person.
This post first appeared on Medium.