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Perhaps you might be switching between boredom and panic at the moment. You probably can guest why you are bored at the moment. Your home can only be homely for so long before it becomes a prison and we are finding out how long that is. Here is the key question though, would you rather electrocute yourself?
I’m serious because it seems that you likely want to. A paper found that when left alone in a room, with the ability to mildly electrocute themselves, most people would do that. I have to ask what are you afraid of? Why can’t you just be with yourself? Or rather, why are we so afraid to be bored that we would electrocute ourselves?
Let’s breakdown what boredom is: “You have the situative boredom than can strike you at any moment. If you are sitting at an airport, waiting for an airplane to arrive or if you are going to a really boring lecture or something like that, thats the everyday variety of boredom.” said the author of A Philosophy of Boredom, Lars Sevenson.
“Then theres repetitive boredom where you do something that used to be fine but its sort of lost its meaning, its sense to you, due to shear repetition but what I find most interesting is existential boredom or deep boredom or profound boredom in which your soul feels empty, the world feels empty, everything is empty. That can resemble a clinical depression…”
Imagine the notion of putting your phone down and allowing yourself to be bored. We aren’t talking about existential boredom, but situative boredom. Peter Toohey, author of Boredom a Lively History has come to thinking, it’s not really more boredom we want but daydreaming.
“I think that the notion that daydreaming is good for creativity. Whatever the word means, I think is usually meant as something like problem solving these days…” Peter says “But there does seem to be strong link that when people are uninvolved or disengaged as they would say these days, the executive areas or whatever it is, the problem solving part of the brain seems to light up. That’s daydreaming and daydreaming is not necessarily boredom. I mean, I don’t think I could have got through school without it.“
Of course now there is an entire industry that is devolved to make sure you never need to daydream again, which is the smartphone and all the companies that are build around it. They need your attention to survive. James Williams, author of Stand Out of Our Light: Freedom and Resistance in the Attention Economy, reminds us that willpower is not going to be enough to allow yourself to daydream. “I think at the end of the day, I don’t think that it should be up to the user to self-regulate their use in the face of an entire industry that’s aimed at throwing stuff at them.”
So what are we to do? We speak to all three of these authors in more depth about attention, boredom, daydreaming and change in the episode Why Are We So Afraid of Boredom? of Overinformed.