Monday, December 21, 2009

Being bored

How often do you simply just sit staring into space, unable to think of anything to do? Or maybe you don't have an iPhone yet. The fact is that we are seldom in such situations nowadays since you can always watch, listen to or read something on some kind of mobile device. Failing that you're never far from a TV screen or piped muzak. Waiting for a bus or train used to be dull but now I can listen to music or podcasts, update Facebook or Twitter (eg I'm waiting for a bus), check the latest news or sport results and even watch highlights from a match. Now you barely notice that the bus went swishing past you ten minutes ago. The soundtrack of our lives keeps playing wherever we are.

In our always-on society we simply haven't any excuse for being bored. But boredom can be beneficial. Those quiet moments give us time to think and that may even lead to creative thinking. A blog post by Mattias Klang (in Swedish) lists a number of things he will miss in the future: bookshops selling more than just bestsellers, newspapers, notebooks and pens, letter writing and of course non-productive time. That non-productive, quiet time is under threat. It's becoming impossible to resist the temptation to connect.

Those of us brought up in the days of one or two TV channels and not many more options on the radio had plenty of media-free time to contemplate. Are we therefore better at handling silence and inactivity than today's youngsters? Is quiet time an essential part of our lives that is now under threat from media bombardment. I feel it may be and that we all need to be confronted with boredom now and again but it's not something we willingly volunteer to do. It's easy to say "just switch off" but much harder to do.

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