Painful Truth: The importance of being bored

What are we losing, if we lose the need for boredom?

This year, I’m trying to spend more time being bored.

When I was a child, I would sometimes complain of boredom during the long, hot stretches of late summer.

My parents typically had two answers “Go play outside.” If this failed, “Well, I can find something for you to do,” which was also effective at getting me to scamper off to play outside.

In the last few years, I’m becoming less and less bored.

It’s starting to worry me.

First off, I think it’s not good for me personally.

All the best stuff happens when you’re bored. Daydreams. Creative thoughts. Sudden insights, whether it’s into a thorny work problem or into just how you can fix that stupid dripping faucet.

I do my best thinking when I’m taking a walk, or a shower, or doing the dishes or sweeping. Mindless chores mean the mind has to make up its own play to keep itself busy.

But I do a lot less deep thinking when I’ve got something to keep me entertained. And I could easily fill every second of every day up with all the options at my disposal.

Social media, podcasts, Netflix, YouTube, Wikipedia. All at my fingertips thanks to the now-utterly-necessary smartphones that most of us need just to do our jobs!

So I’m trying to put down the phone, and just let my mind wander.

That’s a valid individual solution, but what about society as a whole?

There’s been a lot of talk of late about how social media and smartphones are eroding our attention span, and that certainly seems true.

I’ve seen much less talk about how we’re losing the capacity to be bored.

If society is less bored, what does that mean for our future?

Just a thought – do you think Medieval illuminated manuscripts, the steam engine, or the Apollo program would have come about without someone being dead bored at some point, with their mind idly wandering about, looking for something to do?

I don’t.

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