How Fun Becomes Pathological

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So the last entry in my series exploring how “fun goes bad” – for now. I’m done with it – or it’s about to not be fun anymore . . .

This is a delicate issue, because we’re used to people who engage in “fun control” as a way to manipulate us. It’s too easy to label things people enjoy as “bad,” which many have done throughout history. Often those people claiming fun was a problem had something to sell us or wanted to direct us to fulfill their agendas.

So, let’s address this: when can fun go wrong? Like any human activity, entertainment can become pathological or be misused or overdone. You can overdo anything, including things normally good for you.

By analyzing how fun things become unhealthy, we can prevent ourselves from making what we love into a trap. By understanding where fun turns into something else, we can help out those we care about who get into this state. Understanding where fun goes wrong also protects us from those trying to control our joy and creativity, as we’ll know when we’re in the wrong – so others can’t tell us what to do.

Think of it as looking for checkpoints to say “yeah, this has gone too far.”


Situation 1: Fun has gone bad when it eats away at the foundations of our life. When the things we indulge in take away from the good things, the supporting things in our life, there’s a problem. If our entertainments come at the cost of good friends, other releases, etc. we’ve taken it too far. This is especially easy if we’re having a stressful time and need to relax – we might over-relax as it were.

Situation 2: Fun goes bad when it can reinforce negative behaviors. Sometimes the things we enjoy might end up making some of our behaviors worse, even if they have value otherwise. I’ve encountered this where some video games are not to be played when in a frustrated mood as they may make me more frustrated. An obsessive person may find writing to not be relaxing when it plays to obsessions. Fun should bring out the best of us (or at least hold it at bay).

Situation 3: Fun can be pathological when it reinforces negative ideas. This is a tricky one, but sometimes our entertainments may, inadvertently, reinforce or introduce ideas or attitudes that are a problem. Ever see someone make a real-life argument based on a fictional scenario? Ever find someone relating to a character with flaws a bit too much that they miss the problems with the character and themselves?

Situation 4: Fun can lead to identification issues. Humans are creatures of community – to paraphrase Sir Pratchett, even the antisocial need someone to be antisocial at. The things we do for fun can be so opening and compelling we might over-identify with them and become upset to an inappropriate level when a show ends or a game has issues. We also mean that we take differences among people’s tastes more personal than we should.

Situation 5: Fun can be negative when it becomes so core to our identity that we loose touch. People can get obsessed about anything, from a job to a religion to a game to a book series. Becoming overly identified with something to the point where you’re less “you” and more ” a fan” isn’t healthy for anyone.

So there’s my checklist on “when fun goes bad?” It’s a way to ask “hey, did I take this too far?” Which is important, because . . .


It’s important to know when fun can go bad, or when an interest has negative side effects. This is because, as discussed, plenty of people will find a way to try to argue your kind of fun is BAD for their own reasons. When you can self-examine, then you know when someone is legitimately trying to help you versus control you – and you can help others.


So look, have fun, enjoy yourself. Keep a bit of self-awareness so fun keeps being fun for you.

Steven Savage