The Theory of Relative Boredom

No amount of uncertainty exists when stating that boredom has evolved through time as society and aspects of culture have progressed. Across the span of time, people have found ways to cope with life’s lulls, while creating new uninteresting situations in the process. It cannot be said that boredom exists more than it did ten or one hundred and ten years ago; it has not increased or decreased its presence in culture. The concept as a whole has not changed, and neither has the definition, only the causes. With this said, ultimately time causes change. In this case, time has allowed for technological advancements, altering situational boredom. First, we must approach this notion as an inevitable condition, defined as a loss of interest or motivation.

A New Chronic Illness:

Knock, knock, knock, “Patient.”

Knock, knock, knock, “Patient!”

The doctor strolls in the room after said Patient has been patiently waiting for roughly an hour and says, “Good afternoon, sir. What can I do for you today?”

The patient sighs deeply, relived to finally see a new face and replies, “You see, doctor, I have been experiencing symptoms that I cannot make sense of. My emotions have been fluctuating aimlessly. I feel weary, unable to find inspiration in the activities I once enjoyed. It is a feeling close to that of depression. The hopelessness I have experienced while trying to go about my day is alarming. I am trapped in my own body, and my own helpless situations. I am ready to break. What is wrong with me?”

After a few seconds, the doctor responds, saying, “My friend, do you experience this sensation at all hours, or is there a certain point during your day that it reaches a maximum?”

“I feel like myself at home, most of the time. I have a lot of different projects to take care of at home after a long day of work. During my day at the plant though, this feeling grows stronger, making work a struggle,” answers the Patient.

The doctor takes a moment more, analyzing the response, and then replying himself.  “To be clear, your job is repetitive, and you feel hopelessly drained during your time there. Would this be considered fact?”

The Patient nods.

The doctor continues. “There is a simple explanation for what you have been experiencing. You no longer find satisfaction in repetition. Your brain is disconnecting from your body, and in the process making you a monotonous robot by day. This feeling is inevitable, and it occurs for everyone in varying amounts. From the sounds of it, you are especially susceptible. The condition at hand cannot be dissolved completely, only resolved temporarily. My diagnosis, you ask? You have a severe case of situational boredom.”

Creation of Evolution:

Man has “evolved” to enjoy and be stimulated by diversity. As time has progressed, people have grown accustomed to having resources at their fingertips. These resources have resulted in a revolution of new ideas, encouraging at first, but becoming drop dead dull. Consider the idea of modern gaming. Gaming is relevant to the past and today. Through time, technology has changed gaming, attempting to reach a new level of entertainment branching from an old idea. Just reflecting over the past hundred years or so, gaming has evolved from simple board games, to computer generated, remote controlled and handheld games.

This progression occurred because people became bored with their current situation. When board games became common, they became part of what was considered normal at the time. Then, as technology improved, the two joined forces, peaking one’s interest in gaming once again. As something becomes part of everyday life, it grows tired. Instead of letting a once entertaining idea disappear, or trying to invent a completely new concept, people try to recreate the already existing idea. Their remade masterpiece is wonderful at first, but the hype over something new always declines.

Currently, multiple gaming systems exist, each slightly different than the next. These minor changes between generations of a system or competing brands are what create hype. Such nuances are disproportional to the increase in the level of excitement. This thrill quickly dies though when one realizes how minimal the change was. Ultimately, the evolution of man has caused the evolution of technology. In turn, boredom has come to surround new ideas and activities that are continuously being “improved” upon.

 The Real Situation:

A study done to reveal the cause of boredom showed that one’s tendency for the state or feeling is independent of the situation at hand (Mercer-Lynn, 2013). They believe that boredom results from a lack of meaning in life, resulting from something that is not fulfilling. People are wired to respond differently to stimuli; in this case, being more or less prone to monotony and its effect. The study found that both the situation and the individual independently contribute to boredom as an experience.

The first type of boredom, situation based, is relative to the setting. Time and place are factors in producing boredom. Consider two people with the same susceptibility placed in separate locations, but in situations that would measure differently on the boredom scale. Person one is told to read twelve articles about reading articles. Person two is told to read two articles about a popular rock band. Clearly, person two will be less jaded because their situation is more enjoyable. The repetitive nature of the first task escalates the level of tedium for person one. Both people had the same proneness for boredom, yet the situation caused the resulting level of boredom to differ.

Next, consider two people, one with a high vulnerability, and the other with no vulnerability to boring situations. Separately, the two watch a documentary on the seven wonders of the ancient world. The situation for both parties was controlled, but their proneness to boredom was different, changing the result of the level they each encountered. A high susceptibility to boredom would make watching such a video mentally torturing. The other person would be unfazed by this activity. Specific traits in individuals can cause them to have a predisposition for boredom. This tendency is unrelated to the situation itself.

Taking into account both causes of boredom, it is realized that changes over time alter situations and also people’s expectations. Now that knowledge of technology and its capability is widespread, expectations for entertainment have exponentially increased. This is where the research done on the causes of boredom clashes. Time has changed the situations that are possible, but also the expectations of people. Sometimes expectations reach heights that are unattainable. Together, there is an anticipation built around particular scenarios which very much involves a relationship between a person’s tendency and the situation’s ability to be boring. A person’s interest in the task must be taken into account because it plays a part in their potential to find the idea tedious. The equation of people’s propensity plus the event itself equals a much more thorough evaluation of boredom.

Source: Mercer-Lynn, Kimberley B. “Causes of Boredom: The Person, the Situation, or Both?”Science Direct. Elsevier Ltd, 2013. Web. 15 Nov. 2013.

Next Stop, Hill Valley:

If one hops in a DeLorean and travels to a different place in history, the situational cause of boredom changes. Time travel itself is fascinating, especially when paired with the idea that altering something in history can change the future. Once again, the circumstance determines the resulting emotion. In terms of technology, sending someone to a past time period would greatly bore them. Even though the place and time would be fresh, the on hand pieces of equipment one is used to would be nonexistent. Instead, they would be replaced by items already known to the individual.

Something already understood is what is increasingly becoming an issue. Knowledge is boredom. It is the process of learning that is particularly intriguing. In the case of Back to the Future, time travel is not well understood, and along with a great story line, it cannot be deemed boring. There is mystery in the unknown, just as there is mystery in what Marty McFly will uncover in 1955. If he were to stay in 1955, he would come to learn all of what exists there. Ultimately, it would become just as boring as the year 1985 that he knows all so well. The difference in lifestyle is apparent between these two points. Marty is able to see people he already knows, but in their younger years. Learning about their lives as teenagers is captivating, not only for the audience, but for Marty. He would be able to last for an extended period of time gaining knowledge, but there is only so much motivation with which to learn.

Let us say that the new iPhone is being released tomorrow. For that reason, many will rush to purchase the new product. In reality, not much has changed between this generation of the phone and the previous, but the incorporated unknowns are what drive the hyped reaction. Once these unknowns are explored and become “old news,” lack of interest develops and boredom takes its toll. The cycle continues to loop as new products are developed and knowledge of technology destroys the magic.

The Advancement of Boredom:

Monotony in the past was different than it is today. With a lack of technology in the past, people had to occupy their time taking care of chores that today are automated. Tedium easily arose from tiresome tasks in the past, such as washing dishes or clothing. These were necessary chores, and the only way to complete them was by hand. This time consuming process resulted in boredom because of repetitiveness and not because of uncertainty about what was next on the agenda. Very little free time existed for those in the past. Instead, these people were hard working, determined individuals.

Today, technology has resulted in laziness. Laziness can be defined as idleness, and remaining idle causes boredom. Using the example of a remote control vacuum, people today do not have to spend time sweeping the floors, or even bothering to get off of the couch. Though a convenience, this grant of free time is wasted by contemplating how it should be spent. One of the endless options should work just fine, but that is never the case. Here lies the root of the problem. As society advances in technology, the market for new gadgets grows. There is always something new, but never a direction with which to turn. People of the past were not concerned with these decisions. Options were minimal, and free time not as plentiful. With fewer options, one task either seemed obviously more favorable than the other, or there was no option.

The struggle found in modern times stems from the link between the evolution of man, man’s expectations, and the situations presented. Boredom is relative, relative to the time period, and man’s ability to be effected has changed with the number of possible circumstances. Therefore, with the evolution of time, comes the evolution of man, and the evolution of boredom’s causes.


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