Hannah Twomey questions what it means to be bored in the information age.
BOREDOM is inexcusable. It is lacklustre. Our lives are focused on avoiding it. Our jobs, our hobbies, and our relationships are an attempt to distract us. Although technology has made boredom evasion easier, has it killed it off completely? There really is no good reason to be bored anymore. Generations have lived and died without internet to browse, TV to watch, radio to listen to, books to read, footballs to kick, siblings to annoy and in some drastic cases without paint to watch dry.
We are the lucky ones. We have access to hundreds of movies on Netflix, millions of songs on Spotify and there is an endless amount of information at our fingertips. But so often we find ourselves bored. Plain and simple. Boredom is not dead, but it is changing. It’s no longer staring out a window watching clouds pass by, but staring at a screen, constantly clicking refresh.
Listening to music or watching films are hobbies. Binge watching Netflix is not a hobby. It is the background noise for boredom. The overwhelming accessibility and almost unlimited selection of such streaming sites is a crutch we lean on, in order to pretend we are not bored. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, boredom is the feeling of weariness and impatience “because one is unoccupied or lacks interest in one’s current activity.” Is it not weariness and impatience that drives us to binge watch the first mindlessly amusing sitcom we find on Netflix? Is it really a past time if you just numbly alternate from staring at your TV screen to your phone’s screen?
We are connected 24/7 through social media. We are fed endless stimuli and have opportunities to distract ourselves in an unlimited number of ways. We remain bored, however, due to our stubborn refusal to admit that that is how we are feeling. Instead we scroll through Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Reddit and convince ourselves we are doing something.
In the past, monotony was obvious. The feeling of numb frustration was always directly related to a lack of something. A lack of films to watch, music to listen to, books to read. When your TV has only two channels it’s clear when there is nothing good on. Modern tedium is masked. Unable to recognise it, we are unable to remedy it.
Boredom is as natural to the human condition as the desire to be rid of it. Without this desire there would be no new scientific discoveries or great works of literature. No art or music. Some of humanity’s greatest accomplishments were undertaken to avoid boredom. Without it human innovation may suffer, cause progress to stall or even stop altogether.
This modern culture of boredom does little to cultivate creativity or independent thought. The discontent is gone. The next Shakespeare could be sitting at home right now, binge watching Parks and Recreation with zero inclination to create. Without the dull, drab monotony of life there is no catalyst, no striving for something new. We cushion our boredom to the detriment of ourselves.
People do face up to the reality of their own boredom breifly as they go about their lives. Power cuts. Dead phones. Flying. But pockets of creation do not spring up, during these times, as would be expected if technology was the root of this problem. Technology is not the issue, it is our mind-set. Our complacency. Although technology does admittedly enable this complacency to function smoothly. Our boredom is a result of the mind-set that we can be entertained with little effort or focus from ourselves. We rely too heavily on external distractions. We prefer watching something meaningless on TV than finding an alternative to our boredom, simply because it is easier. Learning to entertain ourselves is not that difficult. Children do it. It requires effort and thought but it can be done. Instead of listening to Spotify, go to a gig. Instead of watching a mindless comedy on Netflix, watch something that actually provokes thought.
But we shouldn’t get too hung up on worrying about the dull and mundane. To reiterate we are the lucky ones. Boredom is a luxury. An affliction which primarily affects the privileged. Being bored is more than likely an alien concept to the starving or sick. For those forced to work long hours, in extreme conditions just to survive, boredom is just a dream.
It is a small price to pay for the wonders that technological advancements have contributed to our lives. The modern world is simpler and quicker, leaving boredom to fester in all the time we’ve saved. However, it is a choice we make and it is possible, with a little effort, to escape it. Or if you bother to pay attention for long enough, you might realise how lucky you are to be bored.