Editorial – The Grind

What’s been entertaining you lately?

I’ve been working with our survey software trying to translate my notes for exactly the type of things I’m going to be asking AUSU students into a coherent survey. Ideally, you want a survey to quickly get to the things that You’re interested in, and mostly avoid asking about the things you really don’t care about.

It came to me that I could make my work a lot easier by simply making the survey a single question, “What entertains you?” Unfortunately, such open-ended questions often don’t address what people really enjoy. Few people will write about their guilty pleasures; how they enjoy watching Big Brother on TV, even though they know It’s mindless; or how they spend too much time reading comments on internet forums (my own weakness) even though there’s rarely any information of use posted.

Lately, a good chunk of my leisure time has been spent playing a game called “Hay Day” on the iPad. I’m not going to defend it. The game is essentially a mindless Pavlovian experiment, where you make various items on your farm through “planting” crops, or loading machines, and the reward for this behavior is being able to sell those items to other players so that you can make enough of the game’s currency to eventually buy a new machine and have a whole new class of items to make. That’s it. It’s got just enough interactivity to engage your brain slightly, and rewards spaced out just far enough that you get that lovely sense of accomplishment when you finally achieve one. It’s also a total waste of time. Yet I keep playing, keep trying to reach that next machine, that next level.

I bring this up not because I’m terribly proud of it, but as an example of the exact type of thing that so many of us do, but which we’ll be reluctant to admit that we do it. But why is that? Why are we so concerned that even when we’re taking a break, when we’re engaging in leisure, that it seems somewhat shameful to do something that is such a waste of time? Yet this isn’t consistent either. People regard camping as a lovely thing to do with your leisure. After all, You’re out in the woods, communing with nature, perhaps getting exercise and fresh air, or at least, That’s what we like to tell ourselves. In reality, at least with my family, camping involved sitting in a car listening to music for several hours before arriving at the campsite, where, once the cursing at setting up the tent was done, we would sit around the campfire and talk, listen to music, and keep shifting our chairs to avoid the smoke. We’d also climb into the boat and go sit in the middle of the lake for hours on end. The difference there being that we could no longer listen to music, for fear of frightening the fish.

Honestly, I prefer the fake farm. At least with that, I can get up and go into the kitchen to make a decent meal. Camping food consisted mostly of hot-dogs, marshmallows, and hot chocolate. Vegetables were rare except during the trip up and back where we’d stop at the fruit stand along the way.

So, when you take the Voice Survey sometime in the next few weeks, don’t be ashamed to tell me your guilty pleasures. They can’t be worse than camping.
Enjoy the read!

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