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The Return of Hobbies

On a recent jaunt through my TikTok FYP I saw a video about ‘journaling’ - but it wasn’t the journaling I’m used to, with long diary entries in paragraph form. As I watched a girl paste receipts and movie tickets and photos into a journal to create an intricate spread that documented that day in her life, immediately I was like - wait, isn’t this just scrapbooking?

After going down a TikTok rabbit hole and spending nearly a full hour looking at the people’s beautiful journal pages, I’ve found that it’s actually something in the middle - a cross between scrapbooking and the traditional format of journaling, an activity that some are calling Junk Journaling. 

If you’re not familiar with scrapbooking, it’s a craft-based way to document memories on 12x12 or 8x8 cardstock pages that are then compiled into a scrapbook. Pages are typically a curated mix of photos and mementos, often include brief captions detailing the occasion, and are adorned with decorative stickers, ribbons, and other bits and bobs that make the pages adorable. It’s very much a girl scout troop / crafty mom activity, and an excellent way to document a trip to the zoo or a family beach vacation.

The journaling on my FYP is almost exactly the same thing, with a few key differences. The first is scale: journal pages are smaller than scrapbook pages and as the size physically shrinks, so does the scope of the content. Journal pages are meant to capture the everyday minutiae of life, compared to the big moments that scrapbooks commemorate.

Rather than a page dedicated to prom or a family reunion, you’re more likely to find a page dedicated to a list of goals for the week surrounded by doodles, or a collage of receipts from a shopping day. The second difference goes hand in hand, and it’s that journaling tends to lean more towards documentation and less towards crafting - it’s more organic and emotionally honest. 

This form of journaling is the hobbification of self reflection, and it’s gaining popularity. Videos tagged with #journaling on TikTok have over 7B views, and #journalwithme has over 1B - ‘junk journal’ as a Google search term has become 3x more popular over the past 5 years. 

Journaling is just one in a long line of trendy hobbies that have emerged in the past few years. Hobbies had a watershed moment at the beginning of the pandemic when many of us realized that we didn’t actually have any hobbies other than digital media consumption and going out with friends. Suddenly we needed to amuse ourselves, and thus Big Hobby entered the chat. One survey even found that 59% of Americans picked up a new hobby during the pandemic.

The first big pandemic hobby trend was baking: specifically, baking banana bread. Everywhere you turned people were making banana bread. Cooking and baking were extremely popular hobbies in the first days of the pandemic as a lot of people found joy and relaxation within the chore of feeding yourself 3x a day while being stuck at home. Reading for enjoyment also came back in a big way - 17% more books were sold in 2021 than in 2019. 

There have been plenty of trendy creative hobbies, as well: ceramics, crochet, and watercolors have all had their moments in the sun. And who among us didn’t look up how much a rug tufting gun costs at some point in 2020???

Scrapbooking/journaling becoming a popular hobby makes a lot of sense to me because it’s an amalgamation of things we already love to do online: document and romanticize our lives. The idea that receipts from random weekdays are worth memorializing is a definite act of romanticization.

But it’s not online - it’s tangible. The physical aspect of a scrapbook/journal is a crucial part of the appeal. There are multiple apps you could use to create digital variations of these pages - Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest included to some extent - so it’s a pointed choice to go analog instead. It’s easy for us to document our days on our phones, but there’s something fulfilling about documenting it somewhere else, in taking the time away from a screen and making sure that part of you exists outside the Cloud. 

And that seems to be something that many young people are looking for in various parts of their lives; there has been a recent and subtle pushback against the digitization of our lives. The past 5 years have seen the re-popularization of disposable cameras and, more recently, the digital point and shoot camera. 2022 was the 17th year in a row that vinyl record sales increased. A year ago the New York Times published a piece about ‘luddite’ teens in Brooklyn that are using flip phones and rejecting social media. Last month I got an instagram ad from Urban Outfitters selling a first gen iPod!! Most of us already carry around a smartphone that can replace all of these items, but still we’re opting for analog. 

So, I think journaling is here to stay and scrapbooking could have a big moment of its own, since it has all the allure of journaling and is also a great way to do something about the 20,000 photos that are rotting in your phone. I believe these two will be a formidable duo in the Hobby of the Year awards! All we need to push them into the zeitgeist is for the girlies to get into how fun the scrapbooking section is at Joann Fabrics - that’s how scrapbooking becomes the banana bread of 2024. 


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