A Paradox in Society
Boredom in today’s society is a growing problem. No matter how much people have at their disposal, they still manage to find themselves looking for other things to do. They claim that nothing seems interesting and that they are bored. There are two prevalent theories among many that explain this phenomenon: technology and free time. While related, these two theories can stand independent of each other as well.
Today’s technology facilitates many daily activities and saves people time throughout the day. The smartphone is a prime example of this. In a few minutes, a person can check the time; see if they received any texts, phone calls, emails; check Facebook and Twitter; and now some people can even turn off their living room lights or set their security alarm if they forget. While this saves valuable time in today’s society, it can also be the root of boredom, which stems from the concept of time management and leisure. When people are able to accomplish many tasks quickly, it can lead to the creation of free time. When free time is not approached in the correct manner, it can become a problem that sinks a person into boredom.
Time is important in society. There are countless websites that give time-saving tips. By googling “time-saving tips”, a large amount of tips are made available at the stroke of the return key. MSN.com created a list of 40 time-saving tips for those who wish to have more free time. These tips can be found at http://living.msn.com/life-inspired/40-time-saving-tips-to-help-you-save-an-hour-a-day. The most interesting tip to me is tip #30: get a treadmill desk. This tip attempts to make time for the busy businessperson who has no time to exercise. While a good idea on paper, I believe that this idea doesn’t translate to reality. It amazes me that people would spend money on this. I don’t think that there is a big market for a treadmill desk and that it is a bad idea.
On the Effects of Technology
The severity of time mismanagement seems to increase in subsequent generations. More often it seems like children are spending an increasing amount of time on electronic devices. These devices serve the purpose of passing time or allowing them to complete a large amount of tasks in a small amount of time. When their time with the device is done, they’re lost and don’t know what to do anymore. They claim that they’re bored and might then watch TV. As technology progressed, it seems that the dependence on electronics grew and lowered the ability of children to play without the use of technology. My mother, a second grade teacher, and other teachers also notice this trend. She claims that the kids say that they are bored if there are no fancy technological aspects in class, such as a PowerPoint or computer generated graph. Also, she sees that the kids don’t have a sense of delayed gratification and expect things to happen instantaneously.
I admit that when I was in second grade I played video games, but I also spent time playing outside, too. In hindsight, kids my age are at the beginning of this trend. Our childhoods were the start of gaming systems such as Playstation and Xbox. Because we were used to playing outside, Playstation and Xbox were just something fun to do on a day of bad weather or to take a break; we weren’t dependent on technology to have fun because we learned how to have fun without it. Granted there are some people who sadly became accustomed to gaming systems and now spend a large amount of their time on them. Now, kids grow up with a mass of technology available, such as iDevices, portable computers, and high definition gaming systems. They learn to use these to have fun and as a consequence don’t learn to play outside or see it as boring. It takes less effort for a child to play by his or herself on an electronic device than it does to ask a friend to play outside. It’s also possible that technology is more appealing to children now because it can give them the sense that they’re in the action as opposed to being a third party that’s controlling the action. Interestingly, it seem that children that play on a more interactive system such as the Wii find it easier to seek other activities without technology. This could be because the Wii simulates playing so the children still learn how to play even with the absence of technology.
Technology allows tasks to be completed fast, if not in a few seconds. An example of this that applies to everyone is the use of the Internet. If a webpage doesn’t load in twenty seconds, most people tend to become frustrated at the “slow” Internet connection and attempt to reload the page in the hope that it loads faster.
An Unfortunate Story of an Unfortunate Boy
In 2005, James Murphy was born in a small town in northern Massachusetts. From an early age, he enjoyed playing Playstation. If there was a popular game that everyone was playing, James played it. He went to school, came home, played Playstation, ate dinner, and played Playstation some more.
One day, while he had the lead in the fourth quarter in Madden NFL 2012, the screen went blank and the console shut off. He screamed in disbelief and rushed to turn it back on, hoping that somehow if he did if quick enough the game would resume. He flipped the power button to “off” then “on”. Nothing happened. He ran upstairs to tell his mother what had happened. When he finally caught his breath he explained what happened to her. In an even tone, she told him to go next door and see if his best friend, Chris, wanted to play outside.
James looked at his mother, dumbfounded. It was a rare occasion that he played outside and he didn’t know what to say to Chris. He made excuses to not play outside, too embarrassed to tell his mother that he didn’t know how to play outside or how to ask Chris to play, and that he thought that it would be boring to play outside. He went back downstairs and made futile attempts to restart his Playstation. He unplugged it and plugged it back in, he held the reset button in for a few seconds, he even did a series of taps that the Internet said would restart the game console (it didn’t). Defeated, James went upstairs and lay on the couch. His mother became worried about him after he didn’t get up for an hour. He just lie there, staring at the wall, muttering that he was bored, wondering how he could fix his Playstation and what he would do until then. He spent five hours like this, in a kind of paralysis; unable to think of something fun to do that wasn’t playing Playstation.
Distraught at her son’s state, James’ mother called a family friend, a behavioral psychologist who specialized in treating young kids who didn’t know how to play outside because they became bored. When he arrived at the house and saw James’ state, he froze. In his experience, James was in worse condition than any of his previous patients. Concerned at the severity of James’ affliction, he recommended that the Playstation be fixed or replaced as soon as possible so that James would return to his normal self. He instructed James’ mother to bring James to his office at the end of the week so that they could begin therapy and help James.
James started therapy the next week and progressed slowly at first. After the first week, he didn’t want to go back and just wanted to stay home and play Playstation, claiming that it was the only thing to do that wasn’t boring. His mother convinced him to give therapy another try, and soon after James went to therapy without objection.
He went to therapy twice a week for three months. After he finished, the difference was remarkable. James went over to Chris’s house every day and asked him if he wanted to play. He also controlled the amount of time he spent on all electronics so that he could enjoy the everyday interactions with people that he often missed in the past because of his time spent on electronics. Now James is a normal kid who loves playing outside with his friends and doesn’t get bored when he doesn’t play Playstation.
Free Time and Boredom
In their journal article “Free Time,” Stephens and Weston make interesting arguments concerning leisure time and boredom. Their first argument concerns the issue of time restraints characteristic of human activities. Time is kept by clocks and is a constraining factor in almost any situation. No matter what a person is doing, they are most likely checking the clock at some point. Time is the structure of everyone’s day and binds us to its circuitous rhythm. According to Stephens and Weston, entertainment can bind us to this repetition, too. On a regular and fixed schedule, entertainment such as TV shows, when used right, are a distraction from boredom. Boredom can set in during the free time when one isn’t watching TV. During this time, people may feel that they have nothing to do and ironically, will watch TV.
There are distinctions between boring TV and entertaining TV. TV will become boring to a person who has no interest in the show or watches the program multiple times. They watch it because they don’t know what else to do that they believe isn’t boring. This type of TV is the dangerous type of TV. Much like the statistically decreasing ability of children that find playtime outside dull, boring TV start a cycle of idleness that a person can’t seem to break away from. Entertaining TV, however, can alleviate boredom. Entertaining TV is anything that is new and interesting to the viewer and is capable of breaking the repetition of daily life. Most day-to-day schedules are the same for the average adult during the week. If they enjoy watching a show that airs on a certain night, it is a welcome break from their otherwise repetitive schedule. However, Entertaining TV can cause boredom. As Stephens and Weston point out, one’s favorite program takes a certain amount of dedication from someone, comparable to the observance of the Sabbath. In some cases, when a person anticipates the airing of the next episode of their favorite series, they will become more aware of the time that passes between episodes. They may find themselves not concentrating on the current task, but contemplating the events of the next episode. Everything they do during the wait period seems boring and excruciating. This anticipation breeds an anticipatory and impatient type of boredom. When this occurs, it is hard to break out of its grasp. The best thing to do to escape this boredom is to find something that will occupy the mind for a while until the boredom is gone and one can return to their work. It’s important to realize that entertaining TV doesn’t always cause boredom. Only in rare cases does boredom develop.
I believe that the most powerful indication of leisure time in today’s society mentioned by Stephens and Weston are the results of a free time calculator that they included in their journal. The results are indicative of the contemporary moment. When calculated, the free time remaining in the week for the participant was -1 hour. It seems that as we become a busier society, we are making the idiom “there aren’t enough hours in the week” true. I find it interesting that these free time calculators are easy to find online. By googling “free time calculator,” one will get search results that will bring them to a website that will calculate time spent. While I couldn’t find one like the calculator referred to by Stephens and Weston, there are many time calculators for work hours. One such calculator can be found at http://www.redcort.com/Free-Timecard-Calculator. Time mismanagement can lead to a lack of time to get things done during the week. The irony is that when time is managed right, a new problem arises, boredom. This can stem from tasks being accomplished faster through the use of technology, creating free time. This free time, if not used right, can cause someone to become bored.
The body of the journal by Stephens and Weston suggests that time management is important in the present, people don’t have enough time, and that people sometimes go to great lengths to save time. The anecdote of the priest who made do-it-yourself home blessing kits for members of his congregation for the season of Lent is interesting. His reason for doing this was because he no longer had enough time to reach the houses of the entire congregation because they were seldom home. This limited the hours which he could visit the homes, and he realized that time was against him. To ensure that houses of those who went to mass were blessed, he created kits for the head of the house to bless it.