Hanging Out: The Radical Power of Killing Time

Sheila Liming

Hanging Out: The Radical Power of Killing Time
Black Inc.
12 April 2023

Hanging Out: The Radical Power of Killing Time

Sheila Liming

'Hanging out is about daring to do nothing much and, even more than that, about daring to do it in the company of others.'

Almost every day it seems that our world becomes more fractured, more digital, and more chaotic. Sheila Liming has the answer- we need to hang out more.

Starting with the assumption that play is to children as hanging out is to adults, Liming makes a brilliant case for the necessity of unstructured social time as a key element of our cultural vitality. The book asks questions like what is hanging out? why is it important? why do we do it? how do we do it? and examines the various ways we hang out - in groups, online, at parties, at work.

Hanging Out: The Radical Power of Killing Time makes an intelligent case for the importance of this most casual of social structures, and shows us how just getting together can be a potent act of resistance all on its own.

For fans of Jenny Odell's How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy.


Hanging out is to be in the moment, to become engaged with our less-than-perfect, or maybe just-perfect lives, without feeling constrained by the demands of work. Hanging out is discouraged by a constant engagement with social media and the digital world.

Sheila Liming frames her enjoyable book through a series of personal experiences interspersed with examples and relevant comments from literature, philosophy and cultural studies writing. She encourages us to see hanging out as giving ourselves over to whatever may happen, and that may involve challenging, awkward, and messy moments. Importantly, there is also the opportunity to move beyond those moments to a better understanding of ourselves and others. She shares experiences of loneliness in crowds, arguments between old friends, the pleasures of hanging out with the like-minded (in her case, musicians), and times when she’s had an awareness that she’s hanging out with someone who either actually doesn’t like her, or is no longer a friend. There is no disappearing into perfect Instagrammable moments or busy-busy work emails: hanging out is experiencing life with the challenges and pleasures of reality.

The author’s experience of Covid and lockdowns will resonate with the majority, but interestingly, it made me aware that I am of an older generation, and I hung out a lot before social media. I reflected that in my young adulthood, the values and ways of being that much social media promotes would have been regarded as highly uncool.

I continued to hang out during Covid – with my partner, with myself, with nature and, yes, a little bit online. I need to hang out to stay sane, to stay grounded, to stay connected to things and people in ways that can never be supplied by anything other than being in the moment – I feel we all do, so I highly recommend this book.

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