Boredom in the age of digital distraction

Boredom, simply put, is a feeling as innate as sadness or joy. It has an identifiable stimulus and causes an instinctual reaction, just like any other emotion. However, boredom is also an anti-emotion of sorts, in that its stimulus is the lack of stimuli, and its reaction is to create distraction, rather than to respond to whatever is happening.

The feeling of boredom is perhaps the most telling of character of all emotions. It’s natural to want to be happy, and natural to stray away from people and places that make us sad or angry. It’s reasonable to say that a life full of happiness will lead to a happy person, and a life full of sadness will lead to a sad person, and so on, but boredom does not follow this relationship. A life full of boredom does not necessarily make a boring person. In a Milestone survey sent to all students at McNicholas, seven out of ten Rockets answered that they were bored within the last hour, which would make for a very boring world if they were all “boring people.” Furthermore, boredom causes us to make distractions, and those choices lead us to our most essential character traits.

Boredom is distinct for everyone, but one part that does not change is that it causes us to look for a stimulus. Ann Robinson’s “Is boredom bad for your health?” discusses this in depth, but it essentially boils down to this: boredom causes people to look for anything to do, and while this may cause bouts of creative energy and genius, it could also end in the formation of habits like drug and alcohol abuse, overeating, and leads many to depression.

The downsides are pretty grim, but life would not be nearly as satisfying without boredom. The Independent summarized the positives of boredom into six items:

  • It leads to creativity
  • It turns us away from unfulfilling situations
  • It makes us more goal oriented
  • It makes us more productive
  • It might make us a better person
  • It may be essential to our happiness as a whole

Without boredom, exciting and happy events may become dull, but intermittent lackluster moments allow us to not become oversaturated with these happenings.

 “On one hand [boredom] can lead to great things, while on the other it can cause you to feel sort of brain dead and empty,” freshman Kyla Crowe said.

When students finish work early they are left to their own devices. Milestone survey respondents most often said that they daydream in school when they are bored, followed by listening to music and doodling.

Despite the polarity of boredom’s effects, we may be seeing less and less of the positives and negatives do to a change in our psychological climate. The twenty-first century has given us amazing technology to connect with people and fight off every single instance of boredom we encounter. Ask yourself this, “When was the last time you were bored and did something other than pull your smartphone out of your pocket?”

Students may find it easier to take that time and turn it to creative thought, as they generally aren’t allowed to have their phone out in class. At home or on the road, at least 50% of survey participants admitted to resorting to social media or music when they are bored; however, fewer than half admitted to either during school hours. Both healthy and creative ways of dealing with boredom, daydreaming and doodling peaked in popularity in the “at school” section of the survey, with 71 and 53 responses out of 117 respectively. This seems to support that phones are a “go-to” whenever they are accessible means of fighting off boredom.

Junior Brianna Taylor said, “There are so many more stimuli that are easy to access that people don’t have to be creative to find something to do so they aren’t bored anymore, they can simply pull out their phone and check their social media or play a game. I believe that this lack of creativity could be potentially detrimental to the future of our society because there will be less problem-solving and independent thinking.”

Smartphones tend to negate the productivity effect that boredom used to have. Doug Gross looked into how adults create digital distractions in an article for CNN. It takes away time that could be spent working towards dreams and turns it into time spent scrolling through Twitter or Instagram. Despite this trend, not all students turn to their phone when outside of school.

 “I turn to photography when I get bored. I either edit pictures, look up ideas on Pinterest, or actually go out with people and take pictures,” senior Miranda Taylor said. “I love it because it is something that I can control and express myself through. It is satisfying to me to be able to look at the before and after edits I have done on pictures and see how much different it can look. My favorite thing is probably being able to explore the city and different areas I would never have visited without it.”

Senior Ian Rose said, “When I’m bored I usually turn to podcasts. I have found some that I never thought I would listen based on the title alone, but boredom has a funny way of just making you say ‘why not’. I have learned so much about the world, politics, movies, and folklore that I would encourage anyone to pick up podcasting when they are bored.”

One thought on “Boredom in the age of digital distraction

  1. While this story might be full of great observations and information, I do believe it is missing something. Maybe if the author were to have included every response he received, whether it was in the reply string or not, it could have had more substance and may have been a stronger way to convey his findings about boredom.

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