A few months back I had an interesting conversation with a friend that has been weighing on my mind. It was about how we are constantly surrounded by stimuli like no other time in history. While this can definitely be a good thing, there are also likely some repercussions.
Thinking about it from my own perspective, there is virtually no time where I am not consuming content, creating my own (writing or having a conversation), and am often times doing both at the same time. A typical day I start listening to a podcast on the way into work, work throughout the day, often listening to music or podcasts depending on the task, head home to work, watch tv, read or visit with friends. There are other activities like sports or running errands that I guess are a little bit different, but the brain is occupied regardless. Especially when I’m ‘that guy’ in the grocery store with headphones in.
All of this to say that I don’t live a life where I often experience true boredom and I don’t think that I’m alone. The modern-day equivalent to being bored is hitting up Netflix or scrolling aimlessly through Instagram on your phone, which isn’t the same as it’s been throughout history and I think there are some things we may want to consider.
Consider being bored in the year 1900. If you got home and no one was there to talk to, the neighbours weren’t around and you didn’t have a book or newspaper to read, you basically were out of options. Note: According to my quick Google search radio wasn’t invented until 1895, so I’m assuming 5 years later not too many people owned on in their homes. Even if they did, if you didn’t like what was being played on the one available channel you were SOL.
What is a person to do? I’m sure some just kept working, increasing productivity. Some went for a walk, perhaps meeting new people or seeing new things. Some went to bed and got full night of sleep. Some had their minds wander and thought up great ideas, then filled their ‘bored time’ with making those ideas a reality.
Fast-forward to today and if there is ever a moment where you feel less than 100% entertained and engaged, all of the information available in the world can be accessed by the machine in your pocket. We have defeated boredom!
What if defeating boredom isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, though? What if by not giving our brains a rest from the constant consumption / creation demands we put on it, we’re doing ourselves a great disservice.
This is interesting to me because one of the reasons that I stopped blogging a while back is that I found it hard to come up with topics. I thought that maybe there was nothing that interested me that I hadn’t already written about and quickly filled up my time with other things. After speaking to this friend, however, I realized that quiet time to myself was vital to formulating thoughts.
My typical process is hearing about a topic that seems interesting and reading more about it. Then I talk to some friends about it. Then I forget about it for a while. Then it pops back into my head and I write it down. Without the quiet that comes from being unplugged, that last ‘pop’ back into my head doesn’t happen, therefore my productivity grinds to a halt.
I’m sure that this applies to many more aspects in life and I’m going to make an effort to enjoy the silence a bit more. At the very least I’ll stop wearing earbuds at Safeway.