The Fear of Boredom

                In today’s modern society, boredom weighs heavily on the lives of many. It has gained the power to take ahold of one’s mind in such a way that may even place one in dangerous positions. Generally perceived with a negative stigma, society is blinded to see boredom’s true potential. Let’s face it; boredom is inevitable. With each passing year, as technology continues to advance in ways unimaginable, humanity progressively loses tolerance for boredom.  We look for more dangerous and thrilling ways to save ourselves from it. Drug and alcohol abuse, performing life-threatening stunts and gambling, all result from the ever so dreaded feeling of boredom. Humans will resort to almost anything in order to avoid that feeling, which naturally will lead one to trouble. Society conditions one’s mind to instinctively run away from boredom as if it acts as an annoying little kid that won’t stop nagging you and won’t leave your side. We are taught from the moment we enter into this fast-paced world that we must work. We pack our schedules so tight in order to avoid moments of boredom. We run around, making ourselves busy to the point of insanity. Studies have shown that this is clearly unhealthy for both the body and the mind. As a human, one needs moments of relaxation, moments with no plans, moments to reflect and ponder over life. Boredom, despite popular views, is a very positive condition. Where would the world of art, music, and creativity in general be without boredom? Let’s explore.

A Day in the Life of a Teenage Girl:

                Take, for example, Melissa, an average teenage girl.  After a long and uneventful day at school, she arrives at home around three o’clock in the afternoon. It’s the end of May, and the weather is beautiful. I’m sure we can all predict where this is headed. She walks inside, tosses her book bag on the floor and slumps down into the couch. Not even five minutes pass before she starts checking her phone every few seconds to see if anything exciting is happening in the lives of others on Facebook or Twitter. This, however, not surprisingly, isn’t satisfying. She looks for the remote and turns the television on to watch How I Met Your Mother. She watches about thirty minutes of that, still not entirely entertained. Naturally, she complains to her parents how bored she is, and that there is never anything to do. We’ve heard it all before and I’m sure we’ve all been guilty of falling into this same trap. She tries calling friends, she tries watching more TV, she looks at her phone, plays games on the computer, and the vicious cycle continues.

Stop Searching:

                There a quite a few things we can learn from this familiar story. Let’s first point out that not once in this entire sequence of events did she consider not doing anything as an option. This applies to the majority of the United States, to people of all ages. She desperately seeks a solution to her boredom or lack of activity. A theory I propose is that, the desperate and anxious search for something to do, to cure one’s boredom, only serves to worsen one’s state of boredom.  It also results in frustration, anxiety, and sometimes even depression. Must we constantly be entertained by some form of external stimulation? The role that technology plays to grant immediate gratification may actually be detrimental to one’s mental and social life. I am not proposing that all forms of technology are harmful; I am simply suggesting that the reliance on some appliances to entertain one may be preventing one from reaching one’s full potential. Here is why: when most people find themselves bored, they naturally seek entertainment. However, by distracting their minds with phones, TVs, and computers, they only halt their creative processes. They essentially stop mental activity, which is why in many cases; they further one’s state of boredom.

Self-Affliction:

                Another alarming problem seen in this story and many other cases around the world is that Melissa creates her boredom. I know that I discussed how boredom should be viewed as a positive experience in which one has the opportunity to be creative in thought and reflection, but it can also be seen as an opportunity to do something productive and fulfilling. Instead of blaming the universe for one’s boredom, one must realize that one’s boredom is self-afflicted. How did Melissa spend her time? She buried her head in phone and television screens, while the world was waiting at her fingertips.

The Key to all the Problems of the World:

                Society concerns itself so much with maintaining a constant flow of activity, to the point where anxiety forms during moments of inactivity. So we rush to find something to fill our time, but why are we so afraid to just think, to just do nothing? What potentially stem from boredom are wisdom, learning, creativity, problem-solving, and much more. If we take the moments in which we find ourselves bored and use them as time to think and exercise our brains, we may learn something about ourselves. Maybe you’re dealing with relationship problems, or you’re trying to cope with the death of a family member, or you have major self-esteem issues; whatever the case may be, the boredom that you believe is unbearable could allow you the time to dig deep in thought and work out some of these issues. Not many people use their free time to find solidarity, analyze their lives or meditate. The world that we now live in would be unrecognizable if everyone used their free time to rip their eyes from technology, step back from the chaos, and open their minds.  Boredom allows the chance to eliminate stress, gain new perspectives of the world, and to explore unknown territory.

Exploration:

                Imagine our world today if boredom never existed. It’s physically impossible. One could even go as far to say that “God” or any higher power or force of the world was bored when they placed us together.  That may be a stretch, but look at Christopher Columbus or Lewis and Clark and analyze their motives for traveling across the sea to find the new world and walking across the country to explore the unknown. When we look further below the surface of the voyages, it is clear that the reasons for exploring stem from curiosity which directly correlates with boredom.  In a world that is constantly changing and adapting to change, it is human nature that we seek more than what we have already. Old trends become boring, so we look for new ones.  This concept applies to fashion, music, art, technology, media, and almost every aspect of our lives. We are never truly satisfied, which is why many people find themselves in a depressed state. It is a foreign concept in this day in age for people to appreciate what they have and be content in their lives. We rely so heavily on external stimulation to entertain us on a regular basis because it is always available. The more we complicate this thing we call life, the more difficult it becomes to face boredom.  Change isn’t always an awful thing; most of the time, it’s a positive thing. The problem with our society seeking change is that the majority of the population relies on a smaller percent of the population to create these changes. Instead of utilizing boredom as an opportunity to be creative and think of new and inventive ways of making music or art, or to think of new theories, or new ways of completing daily tasks, many people choose to wait for the rest of society to do that job for them. In turn, they escape using the creative part of their brains and continue to wallow in their incurable bored state.

Cultural Differences of Boredom:

I would like to discuss this article from the North American Journal of Psychology which reveals a study on cultural differences relating to boredom proneness. What is particularly interesting about the results of this study is that the students from the United States scored higher on the boredom proneness scale in comparison to students from Germany. This further supports that our society in the United States places more emphasis on external stimulation as entertainment. We need more outside sources to keep us entertained than those of other cultures. This is why we are more prone to boredom. We have failed to utilize our own minds that are available to entertain us twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week:  Another reason why humans are becoming more like robots and relying solely on technology to think for us.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas:

                     

                Raoul Duke: “Panic. It crept up my spine like first rising vibes of an acid frenzy. All these horrible realities began to dawn on me. There I was. Alone in Las Vegas, completely twisted on drugs, no cash, no story for the magazine, and on top of everything else, a gigantic god damned hotel bill to deal with. How would Horatio Alger handle this situation? Stay calm. Stay calm.”

This picture and quote were taken from the 1998 film Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. The story centers on Raoul Duke and his lawyer, Dr. Gonzo, as they venture to Las Vegas in search of the American Dream while participating in hallucinogenic drug binges along the way. As described in the quote above, their experiences on these various recreational drugs leads them down a path of destruction.

A major theme in this movie is to show how the counterculture of the 1960s failed. They believed that drugs were the solution to the conflicts in the world. However, as shown in this film, drugs typically brought nothing more than problems. This shifts us forward to modern day drug and alcohol abuse, in which the same concept is in place: drugs and alcohol allow one to escape reality, to escape problems, and most of all, to escape boredom. Due to society’s overbearing fear of boredom, drugs of various degrees and an excess of alcohol consumption have provided humans the ability to avoid times of loneliness and boredom. As a result, many people no longer have the ability to socialize normally. Their sober realities do not satisfy them and they begin to depend on substances.

The media in today’s society constantly conditions us to fear boredom. Everywhere you go, there are advertisements, televisions, computers, etc., providing ways to avoid boredom. As a result, we find ourselves taking drastic measures to prevent it, while ignoring it’s essential role in our lives. When we finally gain the courage to face boredom and embrace it, we will find something much bigger than ourselves. Boredom is the key to learning and creativity and the world we now live in today would not exist without it.

 

 

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