Chronic Boredom

Chronic Boredom

            Recently, denizens of post-modern western civilizations feel subject to a sweeping boredom-epidemic, vastly different from prior forms of idleness. A phenomenon so wide spread and severe that the only proper name is reminiscent of a devastating disease. Chronic boredom has ruthless tendencies. It strikes the unsuspecting whenever and wherever, no matter the circumstance. There does not seem to be an escape from the grasp of industry created by chronic boredom in America, almost as if the entity is a ubiquitous force. All inhabitants of America, namely generation Z have been handed the gift of extremely advanced technology. Smart phones, high speed internet, and other forms of brain-paralyzing cerebral trash are massively produced to clog the healthy minds of humans in an attempt to provide novelty and escape the feeling of idleness. Though this novelty is generally viewed as an advancement to society, it may come as a surprise to many people that it is actually a regression to lifestyles in America.

I’d like to reference this article from a blog called “theworldunplugged”, where the author speaks about an experiment about the effects of technology within American youth. The blog author reports that many confessed to lack of imagination to come up with other activities to replace their time not being spent with media. Again, he asserts that the students felt a complete lack of motivation, believing that many of them were often reduced to menial tasks such as cleaning or doing laundry to fill the void they felt without technological distraction. One student was quoted saying “Everything took so much longer because it turns out I depend on music to keep my mind from wandering; music keeps me focused, like my ADD medication, and I had neither.” This young gentleman’s feelings are quite emblematic of the core-problem at hand. The student actively understands that without his music, his mind wanders. This is a generational attitude that agrees with the facets of chronic boredom. Generation Z descendants feel the need to constantly be in tune and focused on the media present. Periods of downtime or reflection are looked down upon and truly loathed by a devastating majority of American youth. To further the strength of this argument, the blogger quotes a student that finds sleeping more beneficial than doing anything else that does not have to do with an iPhone. “I started early Sunday morning and then figured I may as well sleep longer because I couldn’t use my phone or anything else to talk to other people. Finally I woke up again, frankly because I felt a little pathetic lying in bed thinking there was nothing better to do without media.” Total complacency and inactivity is a more enjoyable process to this students than any infinite number of possible things to stimulate someone on this planet. Out of anything she could possibly put her mind to, sleep is better than those things.

Additionally, and far more disturbing, multiple students admitted that their dependence on their smartphone was not purely for entertainment, but for much deeper needs. One student was quoted saying that it is “scary” how much she depends on her phone. An alarm clock, a calendar, a photo book, an escape from social tension; the smart phone has become much more than a “smart phone.” As if humans had a physical appendage able to access an infinite amount of information at the tap of a finger. The smart phone has become a mentality, it has become a part of humanity, a part of us.

Next, I would like to analyze a fictional piece created by Tim Heidecker, called “The Comedy”. The story deals with the main character, Tim Heidecker, dealing with the slow, painful death of his terminally-ill father in Brooklyn, New York. The film follows a “particular breed of drifting” and documents the myriad of events Heidecker throws himself into. The Comedy is satire in its truest form, very painfully depicting a certain hipster culture in Brooklyn. The film is extremely abrasive and uncomfortable, as Heidecker acts on every inappropriate whim his numbed psyche can afford. Putting the raw, unnerving character of Heidecker aside, there lays a much more valuable lesson within The Comedy.

The film has the ability to be passed as a documentary. The crew follows a profoundly bored individual with a hefty trust fund behind him. Heidecker lands himself a minimum wage job as a dishwasher to aid in alleviating the excruciatingly boring life he lives. After one night at work, Heidecker’s character gets unusually drunk and calls for a cab to take him back to his boat-home. He then offers the cab driver much of his annoyance and four hundred dollars to take a spin at driving the cab for a while. Later, Heidecker beings an intimate relation with a waitress that works at the same location he does. The two characters find themselves back in the boat-home, drinking scotch and smoking marijuana. The waitress abruptly has a seizure and Heidecker has no reaction. He is hesitant or unable to react, even though he appears to understand what is happening. This scene was very unsettling to view, yet it manifested itself into a larger point being made. Heidecker is ultimately unattached to a normal life and his behavior is representative of someone who is completely detached from society. Even though he has ample amounts of money, time, and will, Heidecker still remains hollow, unfulfilled. The Comedy represents those that have been deeply affected by boredom. Indifference is the only emotion available, even though Heidecker jumps from different types of stimulation frequently. The Comedy flawlessly portrays what it means to be trapped by boredom. Drifting indefinitely, until the unforgiving will of time strips everything you once knew.

Boredom amongst adolescents has always seemed a more trivial type of boredom than adults. Students tend to be bored from things like doing homework, studying, or waiting for things. However, adults usually are less outward about these feelings of boredom and may experience some forms of general boredom or profound boredom. A study taken by the Journal of Leisure leads to interesting conclusions about boredom and how it is achieved by adolescents. The purpose of this study was to “better understand the causes of boredom using psychologically based and social control models of boredom.” Eighty-two eighth grade students participated in an extensive study regarding boredom. They were required to have face to face interviews throughout the week, write journals over a span of two weeks, and record their emotions on a survey. The study used a system called HLM (Hierarchical linear modeling) to more accurately judge the levels of boredom being reported by the students. A large reason this study received so much attention is because the majority of studies of this caliber have been tested on adults.

The research team administered group questionnaires in the cafeteria, asking things about “parents, friends, leisure, school achievement, intrinsic motivation, boredom in free time, and problem behaviors.” Then, students who agreed to participate in the extended survey kept detailed logs of their evenings after school and had a telephone interview with the research team. Here are the recordings

Nothing Else

Had To       Wanted To           To Do

% (N)(a)       % (N)              % (N)

Home based                 8.2% (4)     51.0% (25)       40.8% (49)

School based              31.5% (23)    67.1% (49)        1.4% (1)

Social                     2.9% (2)     76.5% (52)       20.6% (14)

Outdoor                    1.9% (1)     85.2% (46)       13.0% (7)

Miscellaneous             17.5% (7)     60.0% (24)       22.5% (9)

Maintenance/Work          48.6% (17)    34.3% (12)       17.1% (6)

Results vary, but ultimately lead to the predicted outcome of the research team. They hypothesized that a student who was self-determined and internally motivated was shielded from the effects of boredom. This is known due to the data received regarding high levels of activity correlating with the “wanted to” emotion. Inversely, the team understands that high levels of boredom are related to adult controls, or “obligatory participation.” So, why is it that from an early stage of the human life, the adolescents yearn for feelings of autonomy? What does “being your own person” have to do with which activities are boring or not? Not only does this study display the relation of boredom in a variety of different circumstances, but the conclusions lead us to some commentary on human nature. Being an individual is innately crucial to the youth of western civilizations. Kids feel weighed down by the presence of their superiors, like they are being contained from achieving their own potential.

This article speaks to the horrifyingly real possibilities of how chronic boredom will affect America. It is widely understood that adolescents and adults occasionally feel the wrath of boredom. Some more than others, but there is a defined line of when boredom is able to affect someone. There lays some property within self-awareness that enables oneself to be bored. Notice, toddlers are not easily bored, if ever. Is it possible that through maturing and gaining awareness, boredom is spawned? I believe this to be true for American youth. It is believed that if a child is raised in an environment without any wide spread form of stimuli, then the child will not develop the mental ability to do so. Similarly, if a child is handed a tablet at the age of three years old, the mental dependency will form much earlier and much more severe. This conclusion is a horrifying concept inside America, as the generation of technologically dependent will breed, eventually spreading the dependence earlier and earlier into a child’s life.

XKCD: 

            The two characters in this comic feel as though they have spent too much of their lives twiddling around in the internet. One of the men suggests that they relieve themselves from their contained boredom and embark on a trek around the world. The men go on a quest through different types of environments, seeing and feeling the beautiful landscape of the world. Once the two fellows end their journey, one says to the other “And yet all I can think is, this will make a great Livejournal entry.” Yes, this was humorous comic indeed. After all of the magnificent sights these men have seen, they remain constantly thinking about how good of a post their journey would make online. The creator of XKCD is well regarded for satire in his comics and I find that he precisely captured the ridiculous behavior many Americans embrace.

An individual thought has somehow become not enough for many people. The memory is too bland and unfulfilling. Of course, I am speaking of the effect social media has had on unadulterated experiences. The character in the comic immediately feels the need to share his trip around the world with his blog followers. A similar scenario takes place more often than I would like to admit. Instagram photos of lakes or Vines of concerts are common practice amongst smart phone users. Chronic boredom forces these occurrences due to a pre-existing dependency on technology. Comments and favorites are more important to American youth than the experience itself. Some people find visiting a wonder of the world more useful for the potential Instagram “hype” than the actual phenomenal holistic experience.

Unfortunately, the age of force-fed stimulation has no foreseeable end. The way western civilizations have progressed, the need for separation from real experiences is needed and pays handsomely. The medium in which people are satisfied is unknown, but what is known, is that it will continue until there is an immense shift in western philosophy.

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