Author Archives: reggiemitchell5

What Does Boredom Mean to You?

Throughout the semester we have been exploring the fascinating phenomenon called boredom.  We read countless numbers of perspectives from some very influential philosophers, all of whom stated something different and creative about boredom.  Some describe it as a social necessity while others believe to avoid it all costs.  The first perspective that jumped out to me was that of David Foster Wallace.  In his book The Pale King, he made the statement that in order to overcome boredom, you have “to be in one word, unborable”.  He believes that you have to have to be able to find the meaning in the things that you find repetitive or meaningless.  To Wallace, being unborable is to key to achieving success. He says you have to become immune to boredom and realize that what is making you bored could make you prosperous.  The next perspective that stuck with me throughout the semester was that of Soren Kierkegaard.  In his journal The Rotation of Crops he explains how men can overcome the boredom that arises in a relationship with a woman.  He claims that being with one person for an extended period of time creates a lack of physical and mental stimulation because of how repetitive it becomes.  He believes that to avoid boredom in a relationship that a man must experience “eroticism without commitment”.  In other words, he believes that that only way to avoid boredom in a relationship is to have sexual relations with as many women as possible without making commitments to any of them.  These two perspectives are very original and convincing, but I find flaws in both of their so called keys to overcoming boredom.  They just do not convince me.  I want to take these theories and test them with some of the major problems that boredom is causing in today’s society to show just how weak of arguments Wallace and Kierkegaard made.


The Race Connection

When I first starting applying Wallace’s theory to real life situations it made me think of how boredom affects young children in the classroom.  Today many children are performing poorly in the classroom due to boredom.  This boredom can be drawn from a lack of excitement in the classroom or from simply wanting to do something else other than sitting in a classroom.  No matter where the boredom in stemming from the academic results are in decline.  Many say that any boredom present in the classroom derives directly from the teacher though.  If the students are unable to successfully interact and relate to the teacher, they find themselves lost and feel there is no need to try.  This is very evident with minority students across the country.  Ever since the integration of schools in 1954, more and more schools are being filled with minority students.  Most of the minorities in the schools are African American, but the Hispanic and Asian American population in schools has been growing.  Minority students are falling victim to becoming bored in class because of the lack of minority teachers.

A study was done by the United States Department of Education in the state of Tennessee in 2000 that compared students who were taught by teachers of the same race as them and students who were not. A simple standardized test was given to students by their teachers as if it was a regular test.  This kept different variables from affecting the data. The numbers they found were troubling, but as expected, students who were taught by a teacher of the same race performed 9 percentile points better than those who were taught by a teacher of a different race.  Black students with black teachers scored 6 % higher than the black students with white teachers.  On the other hand, white students with black teachers scored 9% lower than the white students with white teachers.

If you were to tell these students to use David Foster Wallace’s theory of being unborable, it would do little in improving their academic success.  It is difficult to tell someone to find interest in something being taught to them by someone they have almost nothing in common with no matter how old they are.  Children find comfort and trust in people who have similar characteristics to them.  Since some minority students do not trust their teachers they become bored.  The lack of comfort ends all effort to build a relationship with the teacher, causing them to feel that class is a waste of time.  These students feel like they have nothing to do.  They cannot relate to the teacher so they do not want to learn.  They are stuck in a classroom so they cannot freely do what they want. This cycle repeats itself every day and prohibits these students from making any type of progress. 

You may say that the reason why these children cannot apply Wallace’s theory because of how young they are, but applying his theory is hard for anyone to do.  Taking a boring situation and finding something interesting about it is simple.  Many children cope with their boredom in class by using their cell phones because it interests them.  Realizing that boredom can lead you to finding the key to your success in life is the difficult part. This is where I find a flaw in Wallace’s theory.  If a certain task is boring someone, that person is most likely going to get fed up with whatever they have to do and quit.  They will leave the task at hand without any intentions of returning to it.  In most cases, a person will remember how boring a situation was a will avoid experiencing it again. So getting someone to apply Wallace’s theory of exploring the significance of their boredom is just too hard.  Even if a person has grasped the concept, it is still hard to apply it to their lives.  People have been avoiding boredom for so long that it has become second nature, and changing it is nearly impossible.  


Just Commit Already

Out of all of the different perspectives we have read this year, I find the biggest flaw with Kierkegaard’s theory.  I believe that his theory of eroticism without commitment is just a generalization.  Having multiple sexual relations with different women is not the way to avoid boredom in a relationship.  His view is making it seem that every marriage is torn apart by unhappiness and boredom, which is not true.  Of course going to sleep and waking up with the same person every day and night can become repetitive and boring, but that is not the point of relationship.  A relationship is all about how much effort is put in by both the woman and the man.  If there is no effort, then boredom will surely arise. 

When diagnosing Kierkegaard’s theory, I tried to apply it to my own relationship that I have with my girlfriend.  I felt that my relationship was perfect to try to apply his theory to because my girlfriend and I have been dating for three years.  My girlfriend also goes to school in Maryland, so we also have to deal with the issue of distance.  Not seeing my girlfriend everyday creates what I think can be the most profound boredom at times.  There are days when all I want is just a hug or do something as simple as getting something to eat with her, but cannot because we are apart.  This causes me to have to do a lot of those things by myself.  We try to cope with not seeing each other every day by making sure that we talk every night so we can catch up each other.  As you can see I have experienced a fair amount of boredom over the past few years, but telling me to deal with it by just talking to a bunch of different girls will never end the boredom that arises in my relationship.  Although eating alone and talking to her every night gets repetitive at times, the amount of love I have for her keeps me from getting bored with our relationship.  I care about her so much that the conversations we have every night are always exciting to me.  I will listen to her complain about how stressful her day was, not because I want to, but because I know it makes her feel better.  This is one thing that I believe men struggle with in relationships.  Most of the time a man does not want to hear his wife complaining so they just tune her out or ask her to stop.  They do not take the time to listen.  Once a woman feels that her husband is not paying attention to her, she then stops paying attention to him.  The lack of attention then leads to a lack of communication which causes the relationship to become dull and seemingly pointless.  If both the man and woman care about each other there will never be enough dull moments to make the entire relationship boring.  Caring causes each one to always want to do something special for the other.  When affection is constantly being shown excitement remains a constant in the relationship causing their love for one another to never fade away.

Kierkegaard’s alternative to marriage can be more boring than marriage itself.  Having sexual relations with someone and not having any feelings for them is dull.  You feel empty inside because no emotions are involved.  Since there is no emotion in these types of relations, your actions lack purpose.  Of course there are some that say the physical stimulation makes these non-committing relationships worth it, but the physical stimulation is only momentary. Feeling love and affection stimulates for an infinite amount of time.  I would rather be in a repetitive relationship where I feel appreciated and loved than one that offers no reward at the end.

            Although both David Foster Wallace and Soren Kierkegaard make very creative and unique arguments, their theories do not work in all cases.  If Wallace’s approach was simpler it would be more effective. This way people could understand his theory and be able apply it to their lives.  Kierkegaard has a negative outlook on relationships and fails to realize that a lot of people are happy and satisfied with their partner.  This class has taught me that no one theory will ever solve boredom’s mystery. Even though boredom is seen in a negative light, we may need it after all.   If philosophers keep trying to create different theories to avoid it, why do loopholes always exist?  Boredom has remained present for so many years, so it must be a necessity.  One idea that Wallace and Kierkegaard do seem to hit on is that boredom may just be the indication that people deserve better and more exciting things in their life.  For Wallace, he believes the things that bore you can lead you to success if recognized properly.  Although Kierkegaard has a jaded view of relationships, his theory helped me realize that boredom in a relationship is a vice that helps indicate when men need show their partner they care more.  This could be true or it could be completely wrong, but it is what boredom means to me.  Boredom is so unique because it can mean different things to different people.  I find flaws in Wallace and Kierkegaard’s theories because boredom serves a different purpose for them.  Even though boredom is a vice for me, Kierkegaard finds it to be a social evil.  From studying these two theories I learned that boredom, whether embraced or avoided, helps show people what things will and will not help them thrive.  It is up the person to decide what purpose boredom serves for them.     


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Boredom: An Unexpected Vice

Why Can’t We Be Friends?

Making friends was never a big concern for Jordan.  Throughout his life he always had plenty of them. Some close, some distant, and some that never lost the ever so glorified title.  It was not until he went to college that he realized how much he struggled with making friends.

In high school he was the quarterback of the football team, dated the captain of the cheerleading team, and had a full scholarship to play Division I football.  Seems pretty cliché but that was just how his life was.  He spent most of his days trying to keep up with all of his schoolwork while fighting the distraction of daydreaming about playing under the lights every Friday night. He was invited to all of the parties, hung out with all the different clicks, and was favorited by a lot of his teachers.  His life was what many hoped their high school years would be like, but he paid it no attention.  All this changed when he went to college though.

He was now just another student at a gigantic university, just another player on a star studded college football team, and just another kid overwhelmed by the changes that autonomy brought to his life.  Jordan depended on his accolades made in high school to make friends, but now that all of that was in the past he had nothing to lean on.  He was intimidated by how many people there were at his university and did not think that he would be able to find anyone that he could call his friend.  He did not struggle with making friends because he was socially awkward or unkind.  He was just not as outgoing as most people.  He enjoyed relaxing and watching his favorite television shows rather than going out and partying all night.  The only problem was that while he was shut in his room by himself, everyone else was out meeting each other.

Spending weekend after weekend watching the same television shows became repetitive and was not as entertaining as it was the first couple of weekends.  Once Jordan got tired of his so called “favorite” television shows, he did not know what else he could do at that time of night to entertain himself.  The only other things he could do to remain happy was either eating or doing homework.  Only so much food can be eaten at one time until you feel nauseous, so eating was not the solution.  Jordan hated doing homework during the week, so doing it during his free time was the last thing he wanted to do.  He wanted to go out and hang out with people, but the problem was he did not have a group of friends to call up.  His long nights of contemplating what he should do turned into long miserable nights of realizations of how secluded he made himself from everyone else.

These long boring nights made him realize that he had to go out and meet new people before he drove himself insane.  His idleness was leading him down a hole that was too deep to climb out of. Spending Friday and Saturday nights with the cast of The Martin Lawrence Show was not as fulfilling as the excitement of the friendships he made in high school.  He wanted to experience that feeling again.  He decided that his lonely nights were over and made a promise to never feel as if he was in that hole again.  The next weekend he challenged himself and went out with a group of friends from his English class.  He went to a house party and was nervous at first from seeing all the unfamiliar faces.  He knew that being nervous and not talking to anyone was not going to make his night any more exciting that it would have been while shut in his room.  As soon as the music came blasting through the speakers, a sense of comfort began circulating through his body and he was back in his element.  He danced, sang, and most importantly made lots of new friends.  Jordan ended up becoming very close to the friends that he made that night and never spent another weekend alone.  Although Jordan felt that his boredom was going to reveal the end of his life a lot faster than he expected, it somehow acted as an aid.

Studying Boredom,+stress+and+social+control+in+the+daily+activities+of+adolescents.&title=Journal+of+leisure+research&volume=28&issue=4&date=1996&spage=274&issn=0022-2216

Just as Jordan found boredom as an aid in the previous story, a study was performed that proved this just how helpful boredom actually is.  This link above contains a summary of a study that was done to obtain a further understanding of what causes boredom to occur in everyday life.  In this study, 82 8th grade students filled out two questionnaires, did a face-to-face interview, and wrote in a diary for two weeks.  While the study was taking place, the researchers used psychological and social controls in order to get the best results.  The first level of their analysis was controlled on the individual level with parental monitoring and the student’s personal level of self-motivation.  The second level of analysis was at a situational level, where the researchers observed the student’s possible reasons for participating in the study.  They categorized the students by whether they were participating because they “had to,” “wanted to,” or “had nothing else to do” (page 1).  Before the study was performed, the researchers hypothesized that students who were more self-determined and who felt autonomous would be less bored.  This made them assume that at the situational level, the students who actually wanted to participate in the study would produce the lowest levels of boredom

After the study was performed the researchers were pleased and surprised with the results they found.  As predicted at the situational level, the students who felt they “had to participate” or “had nothing else to do” generated a higher level of boredom.  Those students who “wanted to participate” were more involved in the study and produced lower levels of boredom.  I agreed with the researcher’s hypothesis for this part of the study and found their data to be very accurate.  If you think about it, any person who is motivated to participate in any activity will not find themselves bored with it at any point.  The activity will interest them and will keep them entertained, never causing them to want to do something else.

The next results that were found pertained to social control.  As predicted, the students who felt a lack of autonomy produced higher levels of boredom.  The thing that surprised the researchers the most was the results involving parental monitoring. They predicted that if there was more parental monitoring that the students would experience higher levels of boredom. They found that having a greater presence of parents around actually created lower levels of boredom.  You would think that if someone had their parents around them watching their every move that it would cause them to become frustrated and tired of the activity.  One thing that I believe influenced these surprising results was the age of the students.  The study was done on adolescents who were probably around the age of thirteen.  Children who are this young probably feel more comfortable having their parents around them.  At this age, they most likely have not had much experience with making decisions on their own so having a parent around to help probably made them more engaged with the study.

Although this study found very interesting data about boredom, it basically furthers the theory that boredom is a very complex phenomenon that no one has mastered.  This study is not a waste though.  It does suggest that boredom might be related to the human developmental process.  As adolescents grow older they experience a multitude of different situations.  They find some of these situations boring, but recognizing how that certain situations are boring to them allows for them to understand what they like and dislike.  It helps them identify who they are as a person and will help them with decision making in the future.  For example, knowing which situations make them bored regarding academics will help them tremendously.  If a young student knows that a certain study environment bores them, they will know to avoid it and find a different atmosphere to study in, causing them to study more effectively and get a better grade on their exam.

A Captain Named Crunch

As I was searching for something boring on YouTube, I ended up finding this video named “A Boy Eating Cereal.”  The video is of an adolescent recording himself sitting at a table eating a bowl of Captain Crunch cereal.  The boy does not talk and sits in one place the entire time, so the entertainment value of the video is quite low. From the title of the video I knew that this video was either going to be full of humor or just flat out stupid.  What I ended up finding in this video was a decent mixture of the two that transformed the video from boring and dull, to something that I actually found to be interesting.

In the beginning of the video the humor is shown through the boy’s facial expressions.  You can imagine how hilarious this idea was to the boy when the video first begins to play.  As he takes his first couple bites of Captain Crunch, you can see him trying to fight from bursting out in laughter.  He tries to make himself seem as serious as possible to those watching, but trying to keep a straight face is nearly impossible.  This helps the viewer relate to the boy because we realize just how comical the idea of making this video is.  The boy fighting the urge to laugh kept me entertained and glued to the screen, in anticipation to see if he would finally crack at a certain point.  The boy never ends up laughing, but somehow I remained entertained and kept watching to see what would happen next.

At about the two minute mark the video truly starts to become boring to both the viewer and the boy eating the cereal.  The boy begins to become restless, having to move around in his seat in order to keep himself entertained.  Here you can see that the boy realizes just how boring and stupid of an idea this actually was.  It made me think that the boy was contemplating his decision to follow through with this video.  The boy no longer fights the urge to laugh and does not seem entertained with what he thought was a grand idea.  The action of eating cereal starts to become so repetitive that both the boy and the viewer start to believe that he could be using his time more wisely.

Towards the end of the video it is easy to see that boredom has taken over the boy’s mind.  When a person becomes bored it is easy for their mind to start to wonder, and this video gives the viewer and amazing visual of boredom’s effect on the human mind.  Once the boy is consumed by boredom you can see that he starts thinking about different things.  At some points his face becomes puzzled and at other times he looks as if he just discovered the cure for cancer.  His facial expressions show how much his mind is wandering and also shows how powerful the mind is when engulfed by boredom.  Since the mind wanders it opens up a person imagination and helps them access thoughts that might not have been attainable without boredom present.  It really showed me that even though the human body may be stagnant at times that the mind is always in motion.

I truly find it interesting how quickly boredom can change a person’s actions and state of mind.   This video is only four minutes and twenty seconds and I witnessed the boy experience three different feelings.  He first became amused with his idea of making this video, then extremely bored and somewhat tired of it, and then intrigued with everything his mind could possibly think of.  This shows how powerful boredom is and how much it can affect us.

Modern Day Boredom

Boredom is thought to be a negative experience, associated with those who are lazy or do not know what to do with themselves.  It is also safe to say that teenagers are usually the only ones complaining about how bored they are.  This is still partially true because of teenager’s inability to conform to the repetition that life brings.  The truth is that almost everyone complains about being bored when there is nothing to entertain them all day.  One thing that has remained a constant throughout history is the amount of desire people have to succeed.  This desire to succeed is sometimes overshadowed by the advertisement of crime and unemployment, but even the convicts and unemployed have the desire to succeed in some aspect of their life.

As more people studied the significance of boredom, they found more and more reason why it is actually necessary for human development.  Everything in life has a purpose and the different accounts prior to this paragraph show the purpose of experiencing boredom.  In the article from the link above, Boredom Can Be Good for You, it says that “boredom is, in reality, crucial to any ability to be truly productive, let alone effective” (page 1).  This is true because it takes one becoming tired of a task in order to understand how challenging it actually is.  Understanding how challenging a task is then leads to the realization of how essential it is.  Boredom then makes them realize the amount of hard work that is needed to be put forth in order to achieve success.

As shown in the Captain Crunch video, boredom causes the mind to reflect, another ability that is very essential for achieving success.  When someone becomes so tired with a task they reach a point where they need to stop and think of a better way to complete it.  Reflecting allows for the mind to approach challenges in different ways.  After deciphering through the different approaches, it is easy to make the most efficient decision to complete the task.

People need to understand that the boredom they experience does serve a purpose.  The more that boredom is experience the more the mind develops and the better a person’s decision making skills improve.  Boredom increases autonomy develop and overall human development.

Realizing boredom is important because it indicates that a change is needed to be made.  If a person is bored with something, they are unhappy with their situation and want to change the way they feel.  Boredom allows the mind to open up to new ideas and new possibilities that can make their lives enjoyable.  If a person never got bored with anything, they would remain unhappy and would never progress.  Boredom indicates that there are different ways to get through their difficult situations and allows people to find the most efficient way to succeed.

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by | November 21, 2013 · 1:51 am