The importance of being bored.
When was the last time you were genuinely bored? As in no distractions, no RSS feeds to scan through, no email to check, no phone just there in your pocket if you want to text someone or update Twitter to tell everyone how bored you are. While some may see the rise in technology and social media as a positive thing as it means there is always ‘something’ for us to read or do, it can be a double edged sword. There is a danger in being continually ‘on’ in that you can miss the best things in life and indeed, embrace some good old-fashioned boredom. At what point did we stop focusing on our own thoughts so much and rely on the thoughts of others?
This was put, expertly, by the TV writer Graham Linehan in a recent interview. While he is active on social media, particularly Twitter, he claims that he has to force himself to go offline “because being bored is an essential part of writing, and the internet has made it very hard to be bored”. His solution is to force boredom by sitting in a cafe and going offline. Something very few of us would have the strength to do, yet probably all need to.
Boredom breeds creativity
There is a line of philosophy that emphasises the importance of focusing on the ‘now’. That we spend too much time thinking about what happened in the past or what’s going to happen in the future. This is multiplied when you apply it to social media. While you might feel very much like you’re in the ‘now’, you’re actually probably in someone else’s now, reading about what they’re getting up to or linking to. Really think about it, when is the last time you were just focused on what was going on immeditaly around you? When you do feel like that, the best things can happen. Importantly, creativity can happen. It’s a concept that’s continually reeled out by generations through the years. Remember when we didn’t have the internet or computers or television or radio when we were kids, it forced us to use our imagination, create our own fun, entertain ourselves etc.. While it might seem like an anti-technology rant to those of us who thrive on those distractions, it perhaps deserve a little more credit to that.
It is not to suggest that technology has turned us into dumb observers where we are no longer able to think of ourselves ( I would be the last person to suggest that), but that it forces our minds to be always on to something, instead of on to nothing. Which is when the magic happens.
“Boredom is your window”
So says the poet Joseph Brodsky, emphasising the importance of throwing open the window, instead of trying to shut it. The problem is that we so rarely find ourselves in a situation in which we are immersed in boredom, and even more rarely would we choose to put ourselves in that situation. The last time I was really, really bored was on a 50 minute tube ride where my phone had no battery, I had nothing to read and about 2 other people to look at on the tube, who I had thoroughly studied after about 5 minutes. By the end of the tube journey – I was itching to get back onto my computer, write down the ideas I had for clients, who I needed to email and about a million other things. But I only achieved that state because I was trapped in boredom. Believe me, not having anything to read was not intentional. It was very, very boring. But nor was the outcome, which was pretty brilliant.
Hopefully this article didn’t bore you. Or maybe hopefully it did?