Is Anyone Actually Bored Anymore?

As a boy growing up I yearned for stimulation. Like most kids my age, my favorite summertime phrase was: “Mom, I’m bored!” I endlessly wanted to play new games, listen to unheard stories and watch unseen shows. When my parents or my environment limited these things, I would get a sense of frustration and helplessness; I had all this energy, yet, nothing to do.

Today, I think my childhood would be quite different. Advances in consumer facing technology have allowed all of us unlimited access to content and communication. We have the ability to stream music, movies, shows, books, and games all on demand, in addition to our choice from endless messaging apps and social networks with which we can connect, share, and talk with others. Endless stimulation. So much to do, yet, not enough energy. I would argue we have reached a point where “boredom” can cease to exist.

Here’s a thought experiment: What if you actually tried to catch up on every timeline, message, or news update on your phone? I mean actually go and scroll through the last hour of your Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, and Instagram feeds. Would you ever reach the end?

With constantly refreshing updates, probably not. So, what’s the point? The fact of the matter is we can escape whenever we want. Bored? Look at your phone.

When we are alone, boredom is brought on when we don’t feel the purpose of our current activity. When we are with other people, boredom happens when we run out of common “things to talk about.”

Don’t want to start that project at work yet? Check Snapchat. Don’t know who to talk to at the bar? Check Twitter. Don’t know what to do with life? Check Instagram.

Escape is wonderfully attractive; although, like the hamster, it doesn't get you very far. Boredom, on the other hand, is uncomfortable and confrontational, yet far more useful. Spending a few moments in boredom makes us critically evaluate what we are doing and then induces creative reasoning to determine what we do next. Boredom makes us look at the bigger picture. It allows us to either improve our perspective on what we are doing or change our activity altogether.

Constructive boredom only happens when we permit ourselves no escape. Perhaps more artfully, boredom is when we stop hearing other voices and start hearing our own.

Take a few seconds. Be bored, without escape. See what happens.