Boredom, or to make it more interesting, ennui: that weary feeling you get when you can’t find anything to occupy or excite you. That feeling you get at least once a day.





Boredom, or to make it more interesting, ennui: that weary feeling you get when you can’t find anything to occupy or excite you. That feeling you get at least once a day.

We have so much around us to keep us busy, so why is it that we’re still so bored?

There are three types of boredom as classified by James Allan Cheyne, Jonathan Carriere and Daniel Smilek in Absent-mindedness: Lapses of conscious awareness and everyday cognitive failures. One, when you are prevented from doing something that you want to do, such as when you miss your favourite TV show because the power is out. Two, when you are forced to do something that you would rather not do, such as sitting through an hour long lecture on [insert boring subject]. And three, when you just can’t seem to get yourself to want to do anything, for no apparent reason.

The first two types are referred to as situational boredom. You’re bored because of something specific. But it is the third type, the chronic kind of boredom that is plaguing our generation.

One reason for our chronic boredom could be our enormous need to be entertained. We place so much emphasis on entertainment in every aspect of our lives. Teachers need to make every lesson entertaining, politicians need to give entertaining speeches, journalists need to write entertaining stories. Nothing is just about education or politics or information anymore. It has to be packaged in an exciting way for people to want to hear it. Anthropologist Peter G. Stromberg, in his article “What is the opposite of boredom?” says: “We live in a society that sets us up to be bored … and an enormous amount of resources go into making sure that if we try to step back from the world of entertainment, we will be.”

Maybe it is because of an overload of entertainment that we get bored. Richard Winter in his book Still bored in a culture of entertainment: Rediscovering passion, writes, “When stimulation comes at us from every side we reach a point where we cannot respond with much depth to anything. Bombarded with so much that is exciting and demands our attention, we tend to become unable to discriminate and choose from among the many options. The result is that we shut down our attention to everything.”

Or perhaps it is because nothing is new to us anymore; every idea has been used, and reused, and adapted and parodied. Augustin de la Peña, a psychophysiologist who studied boredom for over 30 years, explains: “Once the brain has seen something new a few times, it no longer finds it interesting. The brain’s ante for stimulation is always being upped, just as a drug addict needs larger and larger doses to get high.”

So, we’re bored because we’re craving originality but we’re not getting enough of it.

Michael Raposa, a professor of religion at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania blames our boredom on a lack of attention span. It’s because we can’t stay focussed on one thing long enough that we get bored quickly. He says, “We live in an ADD culture, and the effects are crippling. Students today are very good at retrieving information. They can scan the Web quickly and find what they need. But to get them to read just a paragraph in a text, to really mull it over and make sense of it, is increasingly difficult.”

But even taking all these reasons into account, is boredom necessarily a bad thing?

Raposa makes an argument that boredom can have positive implications. This is because boredom can sometimes inspire people to be more innovative and it can encourage creativity and originality.

Offering a different view in Boredom, That Powerful Emotion, Dr. Renee Fuller warns of the possible dangers of boredom. She explains that in some instances when people struggle to get their share of stimulation, they can turn to destructive behaviour. She says, “Similar to the bad kids of my childhood, these adults create their excitement, their stimulation, by making negative even appallingly deadly things happen.”

So, we’re still bored because either our need for entertainment is too big or because we are being smothered by too much entertainment: we can’t find anything that’s new to us and we might have developed a shorter attention span. But how are we supposed to deal with this? Should we return to the simpler joys of life, to a time before entertainment was so important? Or do we just have to teach ourselves to be more innovative in our battle with boredom. Or, as Dorothy Parker put it, “curiousity is the only cure for boredom. There is no cure for curiousity.”

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