The Impact of Boredom in Modern Society

Social-facilitation-effect-Zajonc-experiment-01

Social Facilitation

Michael Bichler

Tuesday/ Thursday 9:30-10:45

The Impact of Boredom in Modern Society

The concept of boredom is a fairly new concept. Boredom itself has been around for a very long time, but the actual term “boredom” has not. Great things have come out of people’s ideas when they have been bored. On the other hand, many atrocities have come about because of the boredom of a group of people. Since the development of technology, many factors in our life have become overtaken by automated machines. These developments have proven to advance the human way of life, but also have caused many developments that make us become less “human”.

To be “human” is, at its fundamental roots, to be able to think and act of our own will. This means that our thoughts and actions originate from previous experiences and actions that have been experienced in our lives. Modern media has corrupt our perceptions on events that occur in the world. The development of radio and television have made world events acceptable to the masses. This has led broadcasters to need to twist historical events to please their audiences. People have come to believe anything that they hear on the radio or TV because the majority of people who listen to the radio or watch TV do not have the time to actually research what actually happened. They depend on the news to provide them with all of the evidence and analysis of situations. Media can sometimes leave out key information to make their perspectives seem more accurate. Some good examples of biased TV broadcasting are Fox and MSNBC. Fox is highly right winged conservative, so many republicans watch Fox News because they want to hear a conservative biased towards world events. The same goes toward MSNBC except they are left winged liberals. When republicans watch MSNBC or liberals watch Fox, they tune out and get mad because they are getting a biased view that is not similar to their own. These perspectives are skewed more so than before there was radio and TV. Before radio and TV the form of media that people got their news from were newspapers. Newspapers were the beginning of biased views towards events. The only time in history when we could make interpretations without the bias of modern society was when news was passed around by word of mouth. If you heard news from someone who you knew was biased, you would make your own interpretations on the information that they gave to you. There were no subliminal messages in advertising during a time without modern technology. Nowadays commercial advertising has so many subliminal messages that we are influenced into thinking a certain way without us even knowing. We are most susceptible to biased views when we are bored. It has become easier and easier to become bored because of the development of home theatre systems. It is commonplace in homes to have a giant flat screen TV with super comfortable couches in the living room.  When we get home for the night we go and sit down on the couch and turn the TV on as if it is just another part of our everyday life. We have come to think of boredom as a way to relax and unwind during the hustle and bustle that is our lives.

The definition of boredom in the past century has changed. Boredom used to be thought of as something that happened to lazy people and people that could not keep themselves occupied. Now people have accepted boredom as part of their everyday lives. Some people have even made time in their days to be bored. It is a subconscious thing that we do in order to cope with the stress of modern life. We create “free time” which turns into time where we cannot find things to do, so we get bored.

We either try to spend this free time alone or with people. When we alone we tend to feel a different sense of boredom than when we are with people. If we are alone, we get frustrated and try to find things in our environment to keep our minds occupied. There are less activities that we can do by ourselves to keep us entertained. One of the biggest developments in trying to connect individuals to each other while keeping them entertained is online gaming. Games used to be played with multiple people in one location but with the development of video games, we can connect to people all over the world, many of which we do not know, and play games with them to keep us from feeling boredom. We can feel the satisfaction of winning anytime and anywhere. When we are with people that we know, we get bored because nobody can decide on what to do or where to go. There are lots of ideas that are thrown around in groups as to what everyone wants to do, but there is no common consensus as to what to do. This leads to arguments between friends and ultimately nothing gets accomplished. We end up sitting around and talking about random things that have happened in our lives. Once everybody runs out of things to talk about, we just sit in silence until someone suggests something to do.  Our society has become very individualized and we care about ourselves more than other people. Society used to be all about including everyone and caring for the majority of people. This has led to the development of individual boredom, and thus boredom as a part of society.

A good way of telling what a societies views are is by listening to the popular music of the time. Back in the 1960’s and 1970’s music was about the group rather than the individual. A great example of this is Queen’s “We Are the Champions”.  (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=04854XqcfCY) The lyrics “We are the champions my friend, and we will keep on fighting till the end” illustrate that society worked as a team, and people cared for others more than themselves. Boredom in the 60’s and 70’s led to a lot of drug use, but that drug use was in groups not alone. Songs now a day are very self-centered, and promote the individual rather than the group. A good example of this is Katy Perry’s “Roar”. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CevxZvSJLk8) Every phrase in the song starts with I. This shows that society has advanced to a stage where we are taught to value ourselves over others. Drug use now is more about the individual. There have been many drug overdoses by famous people in the past years. Famous people can turn to extreme drugs when they get bored because they can afford expensive drugs. This leads to addiction and, if not controlled, death. In the past, if you were going through a drug problem, there were people who could help you get though a hard time in your life. In modern society people use drugs to impress other people and to fit into what they perceive the majority of society is into.

Society has taught us to show off our strengths and hide our weaknesses because our strengths make us seem like not boring people. We can talk for hours about how good we are at something, but when there is something that we are not good at, we change the subject back to show how good we are at something. Humans are not the only species that tries to impress other organisms of the same species. Zajonc, Heingartner, and E.M Herman did an experiment in 1969 where they tested if cockroaches performed better when they were being watched by other cockroaches.  Zajonc set up a stadium in which the cockroaches had to run to the other side of the stadium from which they were put in. He did tests where there were no other cockroaches watching and the roaches performed alright, but when there were other cockroaches watching, the times of the cockroaches that were running dropped dramatically. This was a test of “social facilitation” which means that when others are present we are pushed to perform to the best of our abilities in order to impress others. Zajonc said that this could be a trait that is cross-species and that most species have similar actions to what they discovered in cockroaches.  If we win, we can show off to others and not bore them with stories about how we didn’t win.

This individualistic approach to life has made us depend on ourselves to do everything. Trust has become a huge issue for us to deal with. We destroy many relationships in our lives because we break bonds of trust that we have with our friends. It takes much less to destroy a relationship than it does to make one. Friendships are based on trusting one another. Without trust in one another one cannot be a good friend. Without friends we get bored. When we get bored we tend to behave recklessly. When we behave recklessly we make decisions that hurt our reputation and the reputation of others. If we could trust one another then we would not have as many modern societal problems.

Many of these problems stem from the people that we choose as role models. We can no longer trust our role models because most famous people end up doing bad things. Few famous people now a days are not self-centered and egotistic. Society has advanced to a point where children now believe that people who make fools of themselves are the people who they should strive to be. Our role models have gotten bored with old way of doing things, so they have made new ways of keeping themselves entertained. New technology has led to think how we can change and advance old activities that entertained us and incorporate them to fit into modern society. We try to do what our role models do which, in many cases, is harmful to ourselves and ultimately society.

When we meet people we brag about our accomplishments in order to not bore them. Boring people do not make it in society. People who are creative rule society and are the people who make the most money. Creativity in its purest form cannot be boring because it is something new or revolutionary that makes people think in new ways. Computers when they first came out were great because it gave people a place to store loads of information in a small place. Once people figured out how to work the computer they got bored with it and started to develop new software to improve the computer. People also tried to make computers accessible to the common person so that everyone could enjoy the luxury of what the computer had to offer. After a while games were put onto computers and this led to an outlet for people to do when they got bored. Along with the advancements of computers came the internet. The internet offers hours of web surfing abilities, and people have resorted to mindlessly looking through the web to try and find something to peak their interest. You can find many stories about crazy events or people on the internet.

One such story is that of the man who surgically switched his feet and his hands. Back before ethics were applied in science, a man named John got bored of doing normal tasks right side up. So he went to a surgeon and got his hands replaced with his feet. This was a tricky surgery but the surgeon managed to get all the tendons in the legs linked up to the similar tendons in the arm. John managed to have a full range of motion in all of his fingers and toes even after the surgery. He did have to learn how to use utensils and how to write all over again. After many months of intensive physical therapy he was able to do everyday tasks with his hands that were attached to his legs and walk on his feet that were attached to his arms. He went through his life with some trouble. It was hardest in his life when he went to college and he had to sit upside down so that he could attempt to take notes. He could not actually see what he was writing, so he could not study at all. Because of this he failed out of college and ended up joining the circus. At the circus he became one of the main attractions because he was an actual freak of society. He did enjoy the attention but, after a while he thought that he was just like an animal in a zoo. He was caged behind the bars that he put up for himself. He decided to switch his hands and feet and was the one in control of his life. Boredom had caused him to take a drastic measure in order to make himself different from the normal population. After a while he got fed up with his life as a circus freak so he tried to get jobs in other places, but no job would accept him because he could not perform normal tasks up to par with people who had a normal anatomy.  John ended up developing psychological problems and drove him to insanity. He ended up going into a mental hospital where he stayed for a long time getting constant treatments to try and fix his mental problems. Nobody knows what happened to him, but many speculate that he died in the mental hospital after multiple electro-shock therapy treatments. This shows us that boredom drives people to do extreme things and in a modern society we can do many things that were once not possible to our bodies in order to entertain ourselves.

Boredom over the past century has developed like a disease. It has morphed and developed into something that plagues our society. Boredom has advanced in part due to technological developments. Technology is great when it is used to benefit society, but people take advantage of the technology and use it to attempt to combat boredom. Since the development of the phenomena known as free time, people have become less and less productive. People used to use free time to do activities that made them feel good about themselves. Everybody had a hobby to keep their interest in times where they had nothing to do. Nowadays, people lack hobbies and rely on technology to keep them entertained. When technology fails, all hell breaks loose because we are so reliant on technological advancements. Even though it seems like society is advancing, people are digressing and soon will not be able to do many tasks without the help of technology. 

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