The Boredom Stereotype
David Foster Wallace, Harry Frankfurt, and Soren Kierkegaard were wrong. Well, not wrong, but not completely thorough in their methods to avoid boredom. Every article we have read, every opinion we have considered, and every essay we have wrote has identified boredom as a universal, generalized problem that all living things experience in the same way. The effect that age has on boredom is often avoided, even though we can clearly observe the influence these factors have. Does an eighty year old women become bored by the same things as a fifteen year old girl? Will a teenage boy and elderly man feel bored while watching the same movie? Do high school students participate in the same activities as their parents when they are bored? It is common sense that the causes and responses to boredom are not the same for every person.
Despite popular belief, babies get bored. Believe it or not, they don’t particularly desire to stare at the newly furnished carpet all day or anything for a long amount of time. They do not like being forced into a swing that moves at the speed of light for hours on end, or trying to fall asleep in crib filled with dancing red elephants eating bananas.
I know it is surprising. Stay with me.
When babies are bored, they do the most natural, obvious thing: Scream at the top of their lungs until their face turns the color of the elephants and their veins bulge from their neck.
Anyone would do it.
At that moment, an overprotective mother comes barreling in the room to pick up her crying child. She offers him as many toys as she has gray hairs. And so it begins. The need for attention and constant stimulation.
Let’s think about this. If babies did not get bored, there would be no reason to crawl or learn how to walk. Kids are curious and want to explore new things, but when those things become the pair of shoes they have examined for the millionth time, boredom arises. Toddlers react similarly to babies. They cry.
It worked the first time, why not?
The crying turns into a tantrum into throwing a metal spoon across the kitchen, which is why babies and toddlers experience reactant boredom. The negative emotions they experience prompts them to break out of their current situation as quickly as possible. Their escape technique: crying, crying, spoon throwing, and more crying to get the attention they desire.
Babies and toddlers are conditioned by most parents to need external stimuli. As soon as Katie becomes uninterested in Princess Barbie, Ballerina Barbie just happens to spin her way in, with the help of Katie’s parents. The necessity for an occupied mind is the one trait that children will carry with them to adulthood, never mind the manners and the morals parents tried to engrave into their child’s head.
The Awkward Years
Wake up. Get ready for school. Go to school. Come home from school. Do homework. Eat dinner. Go to practice. Sleep. And repeat.
Not only do preteens have zits, hair, and hormones, but boredom, as well. Going through the same routine becomes tedious. Children, or should I say preteens break the monotony by acting out and/or gossiping at home and in school. With nothing thrilling or unexpected in their lives, they create their own version of a reality show right in their own living room. Preteens are blinded to their future and believe they will be trapped in a world full of boredom forever. They most likely show signs of apathetic boredom, meaning they feel helpless and depressed by their current state. No matter how hard they try to make Central Middle School the next set of Gossip Girl, there is nothing they can do to change their feeling of limitless, torturous boredom.
Facebook or Face Plant
You have just started your first semester of college, realizing it is much different than high school. There is not an 8:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m. schedule to follow. No parents to tell you when to do your homework and what you are going to eat for dinner. No teachers yelling for you to spit out your gum. For that matter, you do not even have to go to class. College can be the best years of your life (cliché, I know), but it can also take the most adjustment and become the most boring.
What is there to do at 1:00 in the afternoon when everyone else has class? Do you really want to start studying for that exam?
Adolescents have wandering thoughts, do not know how to spend their time, and will participate in any activity that does not involve them continuing to be bored, which is why they undergo calibrating boredom.
I am about to expose a huge secret about college students, so read careful and try not to get lost.
They go to parties, drink way more than they can handle, get drunk, and end up throwing up in the showers on the floor below their own.
(Insert shocked emoticon here.)
Why do they choose to participate in these kinds of activities, you might ask? Besides loving to vomit up their body weight, boredom gets the best of them. They know they will not be bored at a party watching the guy that trips over his own feet and lands in a bush. They won’t be bored even if they are that guy who finds thorns in his back the next morning.
Besides turning to illegal substances to get one through a boredom patch, he might become addicted to social media instead of social drinking. Technology now allows everyone to see how many of their friends are also bored.
It really is a beautiful thing…
Whenever teens have nothing to do, they usually turn to stalking every aspect of their friend’s life or watching cute cat videos on YouTube. (I just watched one, and I don’t even like cats.) Now on to more important things…dogs.
The Start of Something New
The frequency of boredom begins to shift as years pass and one becomes an adult. Between work, family, and the constant reminder that you have no money, there is not really time to squeeze in a thought about being bored. The response to boredom when it does occur is also more mature. It seems age does provide wisdom. Adults tend to channel their boredom into creativity, volunteering, and new hobbies. This type of boredom is called searching boredom, where people are looking for positive ways to spend their free-time. Don’t get me wrong, there will always be that one forty-year-old who decides to say he is helping the homeless and saving the manatees when he is actually messing around with his wife’s sister. Same goes for women. I’m not here to discriminate. Tinker around with craft supplies or car parts, not your boss.
Playing golf in North Carolina or laying on the Hawaiian sand doesn’t sound so bad. If the elderly are lucky enough to retire to these types of places, there is very little chance they will become bored. Even if they are stuck in the farm land of Pennsylvania, older people rarely get bored. It’s not because they are bombarded by chores and tasks too great to accomplish in a day’s time, but for the fact that they don’t need constant stimuli during all of their waking hours. The elderly are content with just relaxing on their porch or getting comfy in their recliner. If they do feel a fleeting period of boredom, it would most likely be indifferent boredom. Senior citizens have something called “cheerful fatigue,” where they are not looking for anything to alleviate their boredom, because they have nothing against being bored.
Take notes from them, people.
Assisted living homes may be the most boring place that a twelve-year-old has ever been to, but the games of Bridge and faint piano music is perfect for those living there. The extreme lack of activity is just what the doctor ordered.
What’s My Age Again?
Interview with eight participants from Pennsylvania of various ages and genders.
Goal: To explore the impact that age has concerning the questions:
1) What prompts boredom?
2) How often does boredom arise?
3) What is the response to the presence of boredom?
**Names have been changed to protect the identity of those involved**
Cora: Female. Age 7. Full time student. Extreme love of Princesses.
Noah: Male. Age 11. Fifth grader. Sports include soccer and football.
**Cora and Noah are siblings**
Alex: Male. Age 14. Full time student. Sports include soccer and wrestling.
Katie: Female. Age 18. Currently studying at the University of Pittsburgh.
Danny: Male. Age 43. Employee at the State Prison.
Julie: Female. Age 49. High school teacher. Has three dogs.
Linda: Female. Age 67. Full time employee. Lives with husband.
Mary: Female. Age 73. Retired for one year. Lives with daughter.
What is the first thing that comes to your head when I say, “boredom?”
Cora: “Noah playing the XBOX.”
Julie: “Rainy Days.”
Linda: “Nothing to do.”
Mary: “I don’t get bored.”
How has boredom changed from when you were younger?
Cora: “It hasn’t.”
Noah: “I get even more bored.”
Alex: “Tolerate it more now.”
Katie: “When I was younger, I hated taking naps. Now, I sleep all of the time or watch Netflix.”
Danny: “I don’t complain about it like I used to. I find something to do.”
Julie: “I can do something about it now.”
Linda: “There are not as many people around to cause the boredom.” (No conclusive results concerning this response.)
Mary: “I don’t ever remember getting bored. I had my younger siblings to care for.”
How often do you become bored?
Cora – “A little bit.”
Noah: “A lot.”
Alex: “Not that often. I am busy with sports, homework and school.”
Katie: “Daily. Especially when studying.”
Danny: “Very, very little.”
Julie: “Only on days I can’t get out to do things, like when it is raining or snowing”
Linda: “Not too often”
Mary: “I don’t get bored.”
Do you view boredom as good or bad overall?
Alex: “Kind of both. When boredom strikes, I think of things to do that may be fun at the time, but could lead to getting in trouble.”
Katie: “Bad because I would rather be busy.”
Danny: “Bad because it lead to bad things. Older people don’t get as bored as younger ones.”
Julie: “Can be both. If you view it as nothing to do, I think it’s good to sometimes have nothing to do.”
In your opinion, what age group becomes bored more often?
Cora: “3rd grade and up.”
Noah: “All ages, but especially 5th graders.”
Katie: “Older people, because they have nothing to do.”
Danny: “Pre-teen to early teens.”
Linda: “Pre-teens before they can drive.”
Do you view boredom as a major issue facing society?
Cora: “I don’t know what that means.”
Noah: “Yes, because bored people sit and watch TV, eat chips and get fat.”
Julie: “It is becoming a major issue because technology gives immediate satisfaction and when it isn’t fast enough, boredom strikes.”
Any personal experiences with boredom you would like to share?
Cora: “Driving to Texas on my birthday – boring!”
Noah: “Driving to Texas and playing with Cora.”
Alex: “I was so bored on the trip without my iPod.”
Katie: “My mom is retired. She gets bored a lot and forces me to go hiking.”
Mary: “No, I don’t get bored.”
Danny: “Sitting in annual training for an entire week going over the same things year after year is so boring.”
Julie: “Sitting in meetings with a monotone presenter and not being to do anything to change it makes me bored.”
Linda: “After falling and separating my shoulder, I was not being able to drive, wash myself, or fix my hair. I became very bored.”
What do you do to alleviate your boredom?
Cora: “Go to my room and play with my DS.”
Noah: “Annoy Cora.”
Katie: “I take a nap or watch Netflix.”
Danny: “Different things, like watching TV, reading a book, or watching the game.”
Julie: “Depends. I read, play on the Kindle, and watch TV shows to see how bad others have it.”
Linda: “Read books and walk around outside.”
Mary: “Nothing, because I don’t get bored.”
**The results of this study verify the previous statements.**
When you are thirteen, you get bored while pretending to listen to Rachel tell you about her date last night, but having someone talk to you seems like the most interesting, non-boring thing when you are two-years-old. Listening to someone talk about cars might be torture for Chuck (17), while Todd (52) is in heaven. Doris loves looking through old pictures of The Vietnam War, while her daughter would rather go to war than see one more picture of a plane. Boredom is a personal and unique emotion, which is why not all advice on how to avoid it is successful. Wallace, Frankfurt, and Kierkegaard should learn to be a little more detailed before they publish another paper. (Kierkegaard is excused.)