Life hack culture has gone too far
By Sophie Isbister, Contributor
You know what I am really sick of? Life hacks that aren’t really life hacks.
Let me paint you a picture. I’m sitting on my couch on a sunny afternoon. I’ve got my phone in my hand, one pinkie tucked under the bottom, scrolling with my thumb, and what do I come across? A video titled “Amazing Pie Hacks!” I think to myself, hey, I love pie, I love life hacks. I click the video, and what do I get?
Certainly not any pie hacks! I don’t know what I was expecting a pie hack to be: Cook a pie on your car’s radiator? Add tuna water to the pastry to make it extra fluffy? Whatever these pie hacks were going to be, I wanted them. What I ended up spending a full three minutes watching—and then a full month ranting about—turned out to be just different ways of decorating a pie crust with a plain old ordinary knife.
Where were the bobby pins? Where were the binder clips? Where was the four-inch piece of string? I came for innovation, and all I got was something I could have found by simply Googling “Different ways to cut pastry.”
At first, I thought to myself, are my expectations too high? Am I being too harsh on the good people at Inane Internet Videos Inc.? As it turns out, my ire was not misplaced. My ire was firmly in the right place, because according to a cursory online search, a life hack is defined as a strategy designed to make everyday life more efficient. When I think “efficient” and “everyday,” my mind doesn’t immediately leap to “Make a bunch of pies for no reason.” I’m not trying to enter any state fairs contests over here.
The pie hack video is disturbing on at least two levels, the first being that it’s not even a hack. The second reason that it upset me so much came to me after a little bit of soul searching, which lead me to ask the question: Would it be so bad if the video was just titled “Amazing Pie Tips,” or, “Cool New Designs for Pie Crusts”?
What’s wrong with just having pie tips? Why do we have to oversell it, and get people to click on something, thinking it’s a hack, just to be turned away empty handed and extremely disappointed? C’mon Internet, you know I’d watch the video even if you didn’t try to package it as a hack. Let tips be tips!
If everyone could just consider my humble proposal regarding the labeling of hot tips on the Internet: If you want to publish something and call it a life hack, first ask yourself, “Does this tip subvert the typical usage of a common, household item?” And then ask yourself, “Is this tip significantly easier than doing something the ordinary way?” And finally consider, “Is this tip something my aunt could already read about in Canadian Living magazine?” If you answer yes to any or all those questions, maybe don’t call your stupid tip a life hack.