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In Praise of Boredom, Again

In their book The Coddling of the American Mind Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff wonder where it all went wrong. How did we get to a situation where so many of our kids see themselves as fragile victims, but at the same time throw their weight around, telling the rest of us what we are allowed to think and say and do? Haidt and Lukianoff have set up a website devoted to exploring the issue and finding solutions.

I have a suggestion. It hit me like a hammer blow when I read Joseph Brodsky’s essay “In Praise of Boredom.” This was delivered as a commencement address at Dartmouth College in July 1989. Here is the opening sentence: “A substantial part of what lies ahead of you is going to be claimed by boredom.” That’s right. Joseph Brodsky, winner of the Nobel Prize for literature in 1987, assumed that these Ivy League graduates, in common with the rest of humanity since the dawn of time would face hours of the psychological Sahara of boredom that “starts right in your bedroom and spurns the horizon.”

How could Brodsky have guessed that the young people he addressed in July 1989 would be the last Western generation to live alongside boredom: in their bedrooms, on the bus, at the end of the day, and in the morning? That now, when the tiniest tips of our little fingers feel the first twinges of tedium, while the elevator travels between ground and first, we reach for our screens to become masters of fate, captains of souls, kings of new continents. 

Even the vocabulary of boredom is disappearing. Brodsky lists these: “anguish, ennui, tedium, doldrums, humdrum, the blahs, apathy, listlessness, stolidity, lethargy, languor, accidie, etc.” Most of those can be excised from the Dictionary. Tell me honestly when you last used any of them?

Brodsky assumed that neither rich nor poor could escape boredom. “Nobody is as bored as the rich, for money buys time, and time is repetitive” whereas for those who live in poverty “boredom is the most brutal part of its misery.” 

If boredom is so bad, isn’t it good that we can all be social influencers 24 hours a day? Or sit in our basements and fight alien armies? Robert Nozick posed a similar question in his 1974 book, Anarchy State, and Utopia. He asked us to think about an imaginary “experience machine” that would give us any experience we desired. You could stimulate your brain so that you would think and feel you were writing a great novel, or making a friend, or reading an interesting book. “All the time you would be floating in a tank, with electrodes attached to your brain.” You would be able to select your life’s experience for say the next two years. “After two years have passed, you will have ten minutes or ten hours out of the tank, to select the experiences of your next two years.” Nozick asks his readers if we would plug in. Writing in 1974, he assumed we would not. “Plugging into the machine is a kind of suicide.”

Brodsky, like Nozick, did not foresee the coming of the experience machines, now generally referred to as screens. But if he had, he also would have said we should not plug in. Brodsky said that when confronted by boredom we should “exact full look at the worst.” He said “When hit by boredom, go for it. Let yourself be crushed by it; submerge, hit bottom.” 

Why?  Because boredom represents your window onto infinity. And that is to say, onto your own insignificance. “For boredom speaks the language of time, and it is to teach you the most valuable lesson in your life … the lesson of your utter insignificance.” Boredom puts your existence into perspective “the net result of which is precision and humility.” The more you learn about your own size “the more humble and compassionate you become to your likes.” 

Is boredom the ingredient our “snowflake” generation is missing?

*   *   *

As a child I was well acquainted with boredom. Like Brodsky described, it was there when I woke up in the morning and it stretched out over the landscape. Boy, did I feel small. But I learned humility and curiosity. And whenever they turned up, I sure had a great respect and curiosity for others, as well as an appetite and gratitude for the thoughts and works of those who had gone before.

I recently heard a friend planning a few days her daughter had off school. Barricade after barricade was erected against boredom. A tight schedule of activities, each more stimulating than the last, and then as the greatest reward of all: screen time. I have friends who, when they drive their small daughters half an hour across town, plug them both in to separate iPads. I quite often travel long distances on trains. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a kid looking out of the window, let alone a teenager. I have just spent two weeks with my own children. With the backstop of endless DVDs, iPads, and iPhones, they were never once bored. I could see entitlement stirring. 

When Brodsky described us immersed in boredom he saw us listening to dust and sympathizing with sunbeams—recognizing that we are also small. Nozick asked of the person who chooses to plug himself into the experience machine, “Is he courageous, kind, intelligent, witty, loving?” “It’s not merely that it is difficult to tell; there’s no way he is.” How is character forged when you are permanently plugged in?

Another benefit of boredom is that it generally leads children to tear up their sister’s drawing, flick their brother’s ear, or shout at their mother. Evil stirs. Later in life as you remember these events you cannot assume it is only found in others. 

Boredom teaches us humility. It builds resilience. It forges our characters. It exposes us to our capacity for evil. Boredom teaches us to cooperate with whatever or whoever is available so that we can escape its clutches. So it teaches us compromise as well as creativity.

Haidt and Lukianoff also tell us that our bossy kids, full of a sense of their own importance, aren’t even very happy. Boredom can help us there too. Brodsky thought that boredom, by making us feel small, charged us with life: “The more finite a thing is, the more it is charged with life, emotions, joy, fears, compassion.”  

“Passion is the privilege of the insignificant.” Hello boredom, our old friend. Dare we introduce you to our kids again?

Caroline ffiske is a London-based writer. Follow her on twitter at @carolinefff.


  1. Morgan Foster says

    “Another benefit of boredom is that it generally leads children to tear up their sister’s drawing, flick their brother’s ear, or shout at their mother.”

    Surely these things still happen, even with a smart phone in hand.

    • Angela says

      Have kids can confirm they still act like kids despite the evil tablet screens their awful parents let them look at.

    • Wes Baker says

      They probably won’t antagonize their sibling so much for fear of losing screen time. And if they shout at their mother, it’s probably for rage at losing screen time

    • Daniel says

      Morgan Foster, those things do indeed still happen. But there’s no denying that putting a screen in front of kids has a sedative effect on them. They do still fight & act badly, but nowhere near as much.
      Or perhaps it’s only good behavior for the duration of the time in which they are holding a screen… not sure. We daily fight the battle of severely limiting screen use. Our house is louder, messier, and has much higher levels of drama than I witness my friends’ houses to have. But we’re pleased with how creative and active our kids are.

      And yes, they complain of boredom, at which point my wife gets them started folding laundry.

      • So, Daniel very satisfied with your own kids? Sounds familiar, and I notice that it’s always the kids of neighbours , friends or relatives where the complaints are meant for (but never uttered in presence of the mother, that would be war!).

        • Daniel says

          dirk, touchee. It is indeed easy to be satisfied with your own kids. I assure you we have ups and downs though. 😉 My original intent was to offer my own observations of the effect of screens on kids, but as you point out, I kind of digressed.

  2. I got reacquainted with true boredom not long ago during the large blackout we had in Ottawa not far back. We had no power for almost 4 days, most electronics ran out of battery on the second day if not the end of the first. This was with rationing the power fairly judiciously.

    I ended up reading a lot, but not having candles my fiancee and I ended up going to bed at around 7 each night. We could stay up and talk, but it would be in complete darkness. Not only did I quickly begin to realize how much of my life was spent with electronics (reading, watching video, or playing games), but also how extended my day was due to artificial light.

    There wasn’t much to be done other than wait for the power to go back on. I spent a decent chunk of time just sitting on the couch looking out the window and watching the day pass by. It certainly reacquainted me with the concept of having no options for countering boredom.

    I certainly prefer having electricity, since I don’t wish to replace the contents of my fridge in full on a regular basis among other things, but I sometimes think of how quite and simple things were for a few days.

    • I was there for the blackout as well, spent 4 days talking and playing board games with my wife, turns out she is a very nice lady, we agreed it needs to happen at least once a month, the night sky was amazing

    • Lightning Rose says

      I’m fond of saying that “Boredom is the greatest luxury–it means nothing’s hitting the fan!” Perhaps it’s a sign of advancing age when one no longer seeks out “peak” experiences, but is merely cozily happy to avoid horrid negative ones . . .

  3. sprationalist says

    I will say this in my experience as a teenager, highlighting specifically social media.

    Let’s also look at this through the lens of productivity. What the younger generation does on the new electronic platforms provides no more benefit to themselves or society than looking out a window does. Boredom, in its conventional usage, is a state that occurs when someone has nothing particular to do. If we did indeed have something to do, something with substance or benefit, we would not be on social media or video games. That is the crux of the issue: although we are doing activities during downtime, those activities are meaningless. Social media, and video games to a lesser extent, are a manifestation of boredom. It is the younger generation’s form of looking out of a window. Social media, in fact, has been described as “a window to the world.” I’ve seen how other people act: When they have time to kill, especially late at night, they’ll hop on Snapchat or look at memes or grind Fortnite or whatever they’re into. If they had something to do, they would be doing it. Believe me, we’re bored.

    • Perhaps, but like meditation, boredom filled with information flashing by isn’t relaxing or producing boredom, just wasting time like watching TV would have been before. Boredom leads to quiet time, reflection (looking out a window when bored isn’t a concentrated study of what’s out there, but a musing or wondering if something better is out there), and in the best of times, leads to trying something new.

      • yandoodan says

        Very true. I respond to boredom by reading Quillette. Sometimes it works.

    • Exactly – it’s boredom without invoking the requisite desire to find a productinve and beneficial ‘cure’. Mindlessness rather than mindfulness.

    • Boredom is more than just not having anything to do. It is a time to think, to contemplate, to daydream. Playing video games and being on social media doesn’t allow for that to happen. Boredom is letting your mind roam free. Discover yourself. Get to know yourself.

      • Lightning Rose says

        I think people are constantly involved with media because they’re AFRAID to be alone with themselves, to think about Big Questions, and ultimately know themselves. Perhaps they’re afraid of how small, insignificant and banal their lives really are. What is the purpose of life for a single person who goes from studio apartment to subway car to cubicle, takes paycheck and consumes it, then does it again? Little more than an ant on an anthill, and I’m betting many don’t want to contemplate it. Fortnite is therefore as good an anesthetic as anything . . .

        If I wake up early and don’t want to ruminate on negative thoughts, I turn on talk radio which has exactly the same soporific effect.

  4. Without having read the article itself (I only do so if the comments are interestingly enough), I would suggest to know more about the novel Oblomow, of the russian authour Gontcharow. It’s all about boredom (Oblomow lies mostly in bed, and has not much interest in making fuss about this or that). I feel a lot of sympathy for him, and I think, the children around me here (with a strict agenda of school, ballet, music, pony, theater,hockey) should be taught more boredom (boredom therapy??) by their teachers, if not, hell where are we going, and where will we end up? No more phantasy and good literature! That’s finished then.

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  6. Farris says

    My mother did not tolerate boredom. She had a cure. It was called “go outside.” Most of the other neighborhood moms had the same cure. On rainy days, cartoons ended at 9:00am. After that my sister and I were free to read, draw, play games or records and be reminded that’s what why we had toys. If none of those worked, mom could find something that needed doing.
    Real boredom was going to visit aunt Bessie. Her house was full of clocks reminding how slowly time passed and things children were not supposed to touch. The dog did not like to be petted. The adults would sit and talk about who died, who was dying and extended family news. Children were expected to hug aunt Bessie, remain silent and say “yes sir” a
    or “no ma’am”, if asked a question. Woe to the child who acted out. Visiting aunt Bessie was a ritualistic duty. This was boredom beyond belief.
    I wouldn’t wish an aunt Bessie visit on any kid. I don’t think the issue is lack of boredom but rather self absorption. Other than aunt Bessie visits, most reasonably creative kids could find ways to cope with boredom but in the past most of these coping skills involved face to face interactions with others. The problem I see is not today’s kids using devices to combat boredom but rather how kids behave in groups. It is quite commonplace to watch a group of kids congregated but not interacting with one another. Many was the time I made a friend in a public place, simply to combat boredom. It is not boredom today’s youth require but rather more face to face interactions.

    • jakesbrain says

      The current crop of parents would be horrified at the suggestion that their children go out to play unsupervised.

      • When we went outside, boredom wasn’t necessarily resolved unless others were out AND we could figure out something to do. Much of our boredom was just idle chit chat as we wondered what could we do that would be fun, or roaming about without anybody else.

    • I had an aunt Bessie who was a teacher. She came in real handy years later when I shared a house with 4 other college students and needed to study. She set me up in her study, showed me where she kept the coffee and left me alone. We bonded over study. Hee hee.

  7. Mark Beal says

    On the bus the other day, I saw a young man looking extraordinarily bored, constantly moving his finger across the screen on his phone. After that my attention turned to other passengers, to the water level in the canal, to new buildings being erected, architectural details that I’d not noticed before on other buildings, feeling nostalgic when I spotted an establishment I remembered from my youth, the way the people getting on and off at different stops mirrored the socioeconomic composition of various areas, etc, etc. At intervals I looked back at the young man, who was still scrolling, his boredom appearing to grow each time.

    Boredom is all in the mind.

  8. Attention young people- yes, you the precious coddled snowflakes with your smartphone-

    When your parents were young, they didn’t have the fancy devices like you have. When they were in high school, they would come home and flick on the tee vee, put rock music on the hi-fi.

    Then boredom would prompt them to smoke marijuana, drink beer, have unprotected sex, and get in their cars and drive without seatbelts.

    They didn’t see themselves as victims and throw their weight around.
    Instead, many of them rallied in violent campus protests, even taking over the administration building and talking about revolution.

    Dear snowflakes, stop being so milquetoast. Be more like your parents.

    • Not sure how I survived my childhood. No TV, no phone, no family car. The radio was only on at news time or on Sunday evenings to listen to a weekly radio play. We spent a lot of time outdoors – swimming, bike-riding, tennis, hanging out. Bored? Sure, frequently. Did no use moaning about it. Jobs could be found to ease our boredom so we shut-up. Books were our best friends, most of us were voracious readers.

      It seems to me that screen use is turning everyone into mindless zombies. Judging by the moronic, glazed looks on faces on public transport, in restaurants and in the street it’s obviously addictive. It’s as if some malign spirit from outer space has control of the human brain (a la an episode of Dr Who).

  9. R Henry says

    Contemporary Western culture is struggling to adapt to the new communication technologies of The Internet.

    The best historical example of how new communication technology can change society occurred about 500 years ago, when the printing press was developed in Europe. A theologian and professor named Martin Luther composed a list of 95 discussion questions regarding the then-current activities of The Church. That list, known as the “95 Theses” was posted on the chapel door in Wittenburg, Germany. Before long, the list was transcribed and published. The list, and many responses, were distributed throughout Europe. The Protestant Reformation was sparked.

    The printing press, and Protestant Reformation it helped launch, remains a primary foundation of today’s Western Culture. It has initiated much violence, much dissension, war with millions of deaths, The Enlightenment, and much else. The printing press ushered in the modern era.

    Just as the printing press enabled profound change in the world 500 years ago, The Internet is prompting similar disruption today. I think we are in the early stages, and estimate that our great great grandchildren will be among the first to fully appreciate what has been gained…and lost…as a result of this technology.

  10. Nate D. says

    Interesting take. I have 5 kids, so, boredom is wishful thinking for me. I relish nothing more that sitting on my back porch, cigar in hand, watching my pecan trees rustle in the breeze. These moments are rare and hard-fought.

    I work hard to ensure my children are not overstimulated/understimulated by screens and the experience/lack-of-experience they provide. My children are not allowed screentime on weeknights. We have a video screen in our minivan that is reserved for long road trips. When my children ask to use it otherwise I tell them (to the point they have it memorized) “No. Look out the window and sit quietly with your thoughts.”

    Interestingly, we switched to this screentime rationing when my son’s classroom behavior and grades began tanking far below his potential (I don’t put much emphasis on classroom marks, but his performance was pathetic by any standard). With the temptation to escape into screendome removed, he spent more time climbing trees, riding his bike, skateboarding, drawing, building with legos, etc. and his grades and behavior immediately improved – to the point that his teacher asked us what we’d done to produce such a stark improvement. Nowadays, even he admits life is better with less screentime; even foregoing it on weekends of his own accord.

    Due to my line of work (engineering) I spend all day on a screen. I reward myself for accomplishing tasks by stealing away to Quillette to interact with the stimulating conversations here. But when I get home, I shed myself of all screens, “Get off of me you dogs of hell.” Ha!

    • Quiet time isn’t boredom unless your brain doesn’t want quiet time. Meditation isn’t boring. Boring is wanting something to do, longing for something else, and there being nothing of interest.

  11. rickoxo says

    I think this article is seriously off track on the experience of young people (and older people too) as well as the power of technology. I teach 9th grade and students just got back from winter break–2 weeks off with no school. Almost all of them said they were on their phones all break, they binge watched everything, played games much of the time. Just over 70% of them said they were bored most of break.

    You have to be pretty confused about what’s happening on a phone or with a computer to think you can’t be bored. You can be bored watching tv, you can be bored listening to music, watching a movie, playing a computer game or being on social media. No matter how many times youtube tells you this video is amazing or Buzzfeed tells you number 13 will surprise you, technology does not get rid of boredom.

    While I get to a small degree the mystical worship of boredom and how it inspires the mind to find new horizons or inspires you to alter your circumstances to find something that’s “not boring”, technology does not solve boredom.

    • Julia says

      I agree with you, rickoxo. I think what technology may be doing is diminishing the amount of time teenagers daydream. I spent hours on end as a teenager in fantasy-land, immersed in my own daydreams, desires, etc. I wonder if teenagers today daydream as much as previous generations?

    • Nate D. says

      @ rickoxo

      My opinion is that our brains need to respool in order to find psychological stability and contentment. This can be accomplished by meditation, contemplative reading, journaling, focused and thoughtful interactions with loved ones, or just sitting alone with your thoughts. My children consider every one of the things listed above “boring”. Thus, I have to force these things into our family life, because, otherwise, they will run to screens to avoid them. I force them to do these things they same way I force them to eat a healthy diet.

      Social media, video games, Netflix, cable television, and the internet, are used to escape boredom – but they ultimately fail, and give us none of the benefits that legitimate mental downtime provide. They are like junkfood. Enjoyable in small doses, but disastrous when overused, or worse, as escapism. Ultimately, you are right, technology does not solve boredom – it merely robs it of its benefits.

      • Lightning Rose says

        One thing not considered nearly often enough is that all the technologies you listed above are known to have a strong (and purposely engineered) addiction factor.

    • rickoxo says

      Strange to reply to myself, but the idea I was trying to express but didn’t do so well is that a person can be bored no matter what they’re doing, where they are, what technology they have. I’m way older than the current cell phone generation, but tv was supposedly the same thing, kids would just watch for hours, they never had “down time”, they were always stimulated, blah blah blah. I was bored as heck sometimes watching tv just like kids today can be bored on their cell phones or online or playing games.

      I’m also not a big believer that boredom is some magic state that always leads to creativity, new insight or changes in behavior to go seek out stimulation.

      I think some people are way more attracted to new experiences and to engaging stimulation than other people. I’m not so sure it’s an adaptive trait or that helpful, but it hits me a lot like dogs. If you have a nice, sleepy pit bull mix like we do, he sleeps on my daughter’s bed more than she does, she’s on her phone, he’s cuddled up next to her and they are happy most of the day like that. When I had an australian cattle dog, he had to be out back, with a friend playing almost constantly or he went nuts and I paid the price for it.

      For every kid that gets inspired by boredom or has a creative breakthrough, my bet is 10 others sat there bored and went into a mentally vegetative state with a high possibility of drool either exiting the mouth or at least pooling up inside 🙂

  12. Adjunct-Filth says

    People should stop using the word “entitlement”.

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  14. Another C Young says

    Smartphones killed real boredom …
    No, the internet killed real boredom …
    No, the television killed real boredom …
    No, the paperback killed real boredom ….
    No, William Caxton killed real boredom ….
    No, prose killed real boredom …
    Etc etc etc etc etc etc

    Plus no one really rues the good old days anymore the way people really rued the good old days in the good old days …

    • Another C Young says

      Otherwise, a better than average piece of writing for Quillette.

  15. Morgan says

    Conveniently forgot to mention the greatest killer of boredom: work. And with Americans consistently working over 40 hours, sometimes bordering on 80 hours a week just to make ends meet, sometimes while raising families. When do they have time to be bored, even at work? Efficiency is the demon in capitalism.

    • Another C Young says

      Almost all work is deeply boring. That’s why you are paid for it.

      • Lamentably, ACY, the people with the boring jobs (50%?) aren’t reacting and writing here, so we will never know!

      • Twiddlymirror says

        No, you are paid for it in exchange for your time and to enable you to trade your earned resources of cash for the products or services of others. But how sad that you work is so boring

  16. Robert Franklin says

    If you’re bored, you have only yourself to blame. Boredom is a failure of imagination. Life is chock full of interesting ideas, facts, things.

  17. Natalie says

    Human beings have always suffered from three afflictions, boredom, doubt and discomfort.
    Our entire culture is a collective endeavor to deal with these afflictions, always inventing more and more ways to alleviate these three afflictions.
    Many of which are self-destructive and destructive of both the human and natural environment.

    That’s about as profound as our culture gets and it does not make any difference if the fat lady sings or not

    Boredom is a form of suffering that we very much want to avoid. So we keep ourselves interested. We console ourselves with religious beliefs to avoid doubt. And we indulge ourselves physically in food, sex, drink, drugs and so forth to avoid discomfort.
    Boredom is not transcended or overcome through the application of attention to what is interesting.
    Boredom does not have any content, it is an always there nagging condition.
    Similarly discomfort too has no content.
    So too with doubt which is not transcended or overcome with through positive beliefs that are the opposite of doubt.
    If you conceive of the being with three primary levels; physical, emotional and mental, then doubt is an affliction of the mind, which also has an emotional effect. Boredom is an affliction of our
    emotional nature though it also has a mental aspect. And discomfort is an affliction of the physical level of the being.

    • So, Natalie, and that’s very interesting for me, boredom, doubt and discomfort are purely negative features? I don’t agree, sorry!
      And I wonder what you think about the values of western culture, after all (I did not read that thread, uptil now)

  18. I wonder if there’s a “good boredom” and “bad boredom.” Meditation, contemplation, going for a walk, and daydreaming are good boredom. Solitary confinement, loneliness, worry, drudgery are bad boredom. Bad boredom has a sapping quality, good boredom can be renewing. All these social networks and devices distract from good boredom, but maybe they exacerbate bad boredom.

    • That’s a good one, Marshall, and that,s why I mentioned boredom therapy, your good boredom of course. I,m sure that monks, psychologists and authors know the difference very well. What I see here of the comments uptil now: most fear boredom, but some also see the good side of it. In our youth, there was much more esteem for quiet moments, where you had to come to yourself, silence centres and such, I get the idea, that, in the meantime, we are leaving this behind us, boredom becomes more negative, whether good or bad boredom. In religions, however, good boredom still has the upperhand (but also religions, of course, are becoming less significant).

      • But, maybe, -good boredom- is not the right term,should be named differently to have a more positive outlook. Just read the different opinions on the novel Oblomow, to struggle better with that question.

  19. Nakatomi Plaza says

    “Is boredom the ingredient our “snowflake” generation is missing?”

    That has to be one of the silliest sentences I’ve ever read. And young people are as subject to boredom as they’ve ever been; how bizarre for older people to brag that they were more bored than the current generation. Is that really an argument worth making?

  20. I would not have dared to appear bored growing up. It only took once mentioning it and my mom put me to work saying, ‘boredom is evidence of a weak mind’. Her meaning? There is always something, reading, working, playing (even alone). It’s about imagination. It’s dead with kids because everything is thought for them (reading vs screen) or done for them. Ex, Read Wuthering Heights before you see it on film. And they are poorer for it.

  21. Actually the children with there faces in screens 24/7 are quite bored they just don’t know it yet. When they get older and still spend most of there free time with there face stuck in a screen they might start wondering why there lives don’t feel so fulfilling at all.

  22. I was a kid with all sorts of medical problems and spent a lot of time alone at home and in hospitals. There were no screens back then. My eyes and brain usually hurt too much to read or watch TV. The boredom I felt was excruciating. I’ll never forget watching the minutes and hours go by on the wall mounted clock.

  23. Yet another cranky old fogey Quillette rant about our supposed insignificance! But also typically redeemed by some interesting comments.

    • Just wait till this becomes a meditation and e er use rag.

  24. Jan de Jong says

    Not mentioned: the addictive effects of (fake) novelty on screens. Boredom can be an invitation to initiative and enterprise but the addictive effects may cut that short.

  25. Serenity says

    Boredom “… serves as a motivator… If a wild animal has done nothing for a while there is a lot of evidence that it will go out to look for things to do, and there is definitely survival value in that…, it will know, for example, that an escape route is blocked, because it has explored its territory…
    Researchers from University College London looked at self-rated boredom levels in civil servants in 1985. When they followed them up in 2009, they found those who had been consistently bored were significantly more likely to die early.”

    “Some people say that robotics and artificial intelligence will completely replace humans in the job market… A third of US business leaders and managers already feel that way, according to a survey published last week [May 2017] by the Pew Research Center.
    If machine do all the work would we be at leisure or in despair?”

    “[From 2006 to 2016] the Aboriginal population [in Canada] has grown by 42.5%—more than four times the growth rate of the non-Aboriginal population over the same period.” [110] “…the percentage of Canadian First Nations people on reserve who had a job fell … to 35.4% in 2011” [111]. With sky-high unemployment rates, high incarceration rate, family violence, alcohol and drug abuse among indigenous people in Canada — “suicide and self-inflicted injury is the leading cause of death in First Nation youth ages 15-24.”

    “According to study of 381 shootings, gun violence at US schools and universities peaks during periods of high unemployment.”

    • Yuval Harari sees robots and artificial intelligence take over the socio/economic scene, but thinks that drugs and computer games will save humanity from boredom. Good that I’m old and post, otherwise??

  26. lloydr56 says

    I think one thought here is that if you aren’t used to handling boredom, you will have trouble with social interaction and empathy–realizing, for example, that evil is in all of us. I’ve been thinking recently that one way to sum up Jane Austen’s novels is that a decent person must learn to deal with bores in a decent way. The conversation of bores is repetitive and hard to take. You can hurt their feelings by being rude to them, but this will accomplish nothing positive, and may put you in a bad light with people you care about. Small talk might keep boredom at bay, but it can be boring itself. Such is life for a social animal. Austen herself was usually the brightest person in the room, and her social opportunities were limited.

  27. Its amazing to me to catch a train and watch people under 35 all fidgeting with their smart phones continuously for as long as it takes to get to their destination. Not once does anybody look up. (They will have neck pain when they are older). When driving I have told my own daughter to put the phone away and look out the window. And she does.

  28. Bubblecar says

    This article doesn’t reflect my experience. There are few times I have ever been bored, and they nearly all involved waiting – for a bus or other transport, or in doctors’ waiting rooms etc. In such circumstances one doesn’t feel free to fill the mind with anything much so it’s like putting life on hold for a while.

    Left to myself to do as I wish, there is always something to do, something to read, something interesting to think about, and this was the case long before the internet age. I don’t think intelligent and creative people get bored unless they’re stuck in boring jobs, and even then most will find a way to squeeze more interest out of life than is apparently on offer.

  29. In my country, we have a botanic expression for boredom- to sit behind the pelargoniums/begonia-, meaning, without any activity or mental occupation sitting in a chair in the room , staring through the window,with those pelargonia on the balconry. Mostly used for elderly, pensioned people with some physical or psychic disorders. It is the utmost horror for young dynamic people. And, indeed, if not trained how to live with it when young and adult, it can be very miserable, almost unbearable.

    • I now see that pelargoniums are called geraniums in English, in the NL they are the most common potplants/flowers in balconry and windows, as they are in Austria too, I wonder whether they are so in the US (and being so common, has again to do with their use in the expression, to explain boredom).If freezing outside, they have to be taken inside, so, for a moment (if you are not too lazy and apathic, and think, in spring I’ll buy new ones)) you break the boredom. The geraniums have no fault.

  30. Frank says

    My definition of boredom; sitting in an overwatch position, high on a mountain in Afghanistan for 3 days straight. No food, no books, little water and only binoculars to look through.

    • For me, Frank, this would have been upper delight, the strange birds flying there (through the binoculars, amazing unknown ones), the shades of the mountains, especially at sunset, the cold air, the clouds, the smell of rocks and herbs, Paradise, I still would tell about it to friends years and years later. But, no food? Why? Dry sausage and choclat at least? That , I always have with me in the mountains!

  31. Saw file says

    I’m not convinced that boredom is a condition.
    I believe that boredom is a symptom of a unfulfilled Life experience.
    I haven’t been. ‘bored’, since I was a atypical young teenager.(55yoa, now)
    Maybe it’s an intellect issue?

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  33. People do throw smartphones under the bus a lot as destroying communication like people didn’t already absorb themselves in books or newspapers while on a train in the past.

    But I still agree. Like Simon Sinek says phones rob us of these little moments where ideas happen and you might think ‘oh maybe we could change this or do this a different way’.

    Like television which brings an amazing ability to learn into the home most the content is a waste of time. Most what people use their phones for is the same time filling crap.

    If you can break the habit of checking your phone and deleting Facebook, you will be amazed how much time you get back and just how rubbish the sites are.

  34. Oilan Greeze says

    Boredom can be a good mother of invention. “I’m bored of this.., oh well, I’ll go find something else to occupy my time”. And if we’re forced into some or other busywork by ‘well-meaning’ folks,and if we find that boring enough, well soon make plans to do something else, whether that something else is useful or not.

  35. ClearBlue says

    Boredom really ain’t so boring.

    When I was in college, boring bus rides to/from school and work would often end with finally coming up with the solution to a pesky math problem, the approach to the paper due next week, lines to start a conversation with that cute girl in geology class, and any number of other products of a wandering mind.

    Remind me again why I need Facebook.

  36. After so many comments, it looks like, after all, the positive feelings about boredom win out from the negative ones. Interesting!

  37. Dazza says

    I turned up 10 minutes late for work a few weeks ago, realised I’d left my phone at home, so no reading the news. I decided this would be a good time to revisit the wonderful art of people watching. The second car to pull in was driven by a man combing his beard as he parked. Bingo!

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  39. I wonder, that people all the time go on holiday when free and having the means, is that not also a sign of boredom? Why would you do all the trouble and spend all that money, in fact? Look at the tsunami of Chinese and Japanese tourists in Vienna, Rome and Amsterdam these days, what are they missing at home? in their family? their own town , park, garden or landscape around??
    Maybe example of positive boredom? after all? (see Marshall, above). Of one thing I’m quite sure, it’s never the children that are so bored to ask for it (Mom, Dad, why don’t we fly for a holidy to the Bahamas this year??), it’s always the parents, the adults that are so fond of it.

  40. Jezza says

    You will never be bored if you learn to play a ukulele – especially if you log on to the internet and learn from the masters.

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