Boredom is a relatively new word. Although it is probable that since the very beginning of mankind, people have experienced boredom, it was not until Bleak House by Charles Dickens in 1852 that the word “boredom” was even used. In this day and age, boredom is much more real and much more present than it has ever been. It seems as if a large percentage of people today are perpetually bored. This has been caused by the advancement and modernization of our society.
Modern Children (Ages 1-12)
Boredom affects everyone differently. There are many factors that contribute to how and why boredom affects someone. Age is one of the most important factors. First, I want to examine the particular way boredom affects the children of today.
Children today have access to more technology than any other generation that has preceded them. Initially, you would think that this would be almost nothing but good, especially when it comes to boredom. However, the opposite is actually true.
The technology that children use pretty much everyday (television, the Internet, video games, cell phones, iPods, iPads, etc.) has almost pampered this generation. Children in the past have been the least susceptible to boredom due to their fascination with the simplest things because of their young brains and imaginations. Now, however, children no longer need to use their imaginations to have fun. They simply push a power button and their iPad does all the work for them. Luckily for me, I was born at an early enough time that I still remember when something as simple as a stick I found while adventuring through the woods could bring me all the joy and entertainment in the world. To a kid today, a stick is just a stick.
“Here at once is the principle of limitation, the sole saving principle in the world. The more a person limits himself, the more resourceful he becomes.”
According to Soren Kierkegaard in The Rotation of Crops, one way to avoid boredom is to limit yourself to the amount of satisfaction you get from activities. By limiting yourself, you can ensure that you will not easily be bored. Children, when they use electronic devices, do the opposite of limiting themselves. They indulge themselves with entertainment using their devices, which, in turn, leads to them getting less satisfaction from simpler objects and toys. Also, children can be easily bored after a short time with these devices. Children adjust to the high stimulation they get while using them, which can cause the boredom to return very quickly.
Although technology has had a number of positive effects on the youth of today, such as an improvement in education methods, it has also hurt them in others. Technology has made children much more susceptible to boredom, a feeling children in the past were almost entirely immune to.
Modern Teenagers (Ages 13-19)
In 1900 teenagers did not exist. There were young people in their teens, but there was no culture or institution that united them or fostered peer group development on a societal scale. While some worked at home, on family farms, or in factories or offices, others attended school. Still more married or prepared for marriage. One hundred years later, in 2000, teenagers were impossible to avoid. There were more teens than ever before and their cultural presence was undeniable. They existed not only as high school students, but as highly sought consumers, carefully watched as trendsetters in fashion, music, and movies.
The dramatic rise in high school attendance was the single most important factor in creating teenage culture. High school, based on biological age, reshaped the experiences of thirteen- to eighteen-year-olds. Between 1910 and 1930, enrollment in secondary schools increased almost 400 percent. The proportion of fourteen- to-seventeen year olds in high school increased from 10.6 percent in 1901 to 51.1 percent in 1930 and 71.3 percent in 1940. Graduation rates remained low but still rose from 29.0 percent in 1930 to 50.8 percent in 1940. The number of African-American teens in high school was lower, but also rose at a steady rate and by the early 1950s, more than 80 percent of African Americans aged fourteen to seventeen were enrolled in school. -Kelly Schrum, Encyclopedia of Children and Childhood
One hundred years ago, teenagers lived completely different lives than those of today. Teenagers in the early 1900s and earlier spent their time working or were even married already. Only about 10% of teenagers even went to school back then. Today, however, almost all teenagers go to school. Although some work part-time jobs, for the most part, all teenagers are “free” after 3:30PM as well as every weekend. This abundance of free time makes teenagers today very susceptible to boredom.
In the early 1900s, teenagers did not really have time to be bored. Boredom can only occur if all of your primary needs are met. Teenagers back then had to work and provide for themselves and possibly even their families, so boredom could not happen often. Today, however, teenagers’ primary needs are usually met. This allows them to be bored, which they combat in a number of different ways.
Teenagers use technology even more than today’s children do. An average teen would not even dream of leaving their house without their smart phone in their pocket. Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram dominate many teens’ lives. During their free time, teenagers often endlessly scroll through these sites, hoping for something to change. On demand streaming websites are also popular amongst teens. Because of websites like Netflix and Hulu, thousands of movies and TV shows are simply a click away.
If teens have all these new resources to avoid boredom, then why do they often seem to be the most bored of any age group? Well, the answer to this is because of these new resources. Similar to the effect technology has had on younger children, teens have also lost the ability to entertain themselves because it comes so easy with electronic devices. Also, family life has become much more boring in recent years for teens. Traditionally, no teen likes spending time with their family. However, that has never been truer than right now. This is also due to the technology that is so prevalent nowadays. It seems as if everyone, children and parents, are glued to some type of screen at all times. This has caused spoken communication amongst families very, very rare.
The boredom teenagers face can have huge effects on their behavior. According to a survey done by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, teens that are frequently bored are 50% more likely to drink alcohol or use illegal drugs. An extreme case of teenagers acting out as a result of boredom was this: http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/teenagers-allegedly-murder-college-baseball-player-boredom-article-1.1431445. Two teens were charged with murdering an innocent jogger simply because they were “bored”. Teens, because of their boredom, turn to bad behavior as a way to excite and entertain themselves.
KIDS is a 1995 movie that is very indicative as to how teenagers spend their time. Although it was a fictional movie from the 90s, it is very accurate as to how many teenagers today behave. It is also fair to assume that since boredom has certainly increased amongst teens since 1995, this behavior has become even more frequent today. The “kids” in this movie use alcohol and drugs very often simply because they are bored and want to have fun.
Boredom can also have less drastic, but still very bad effects on teens. Apathy is a feeling that teens face often as a result of boredom. This apathy can lead to teens neglecting their schoolwork and other responsibilities and, ultimately, can even lead to depression.
Modern Young Adults (Ages 20-35)
The industry and economy of the United States has seen drastic changes in the past 30 or 40 years. After the Industrial Revolution, we have shifted from a nation of agriculture to a nation of manufacturing to, more recently, a nation of primarily office and technology based jobs. This has had a huge effect on the frequency of boredom experienced by people in their young adult years.
In the past, young adults worked very long hours doing very demanding work on a farm or in a factory. With this work, not much boredom could possibly exist. However, recently, young adults work primarily 9 to 5 jobs in an office setting. Boredom runs rampant through offices everywhere in America. Many young adults find themselves trapped in a small cubicle slaving away at a desk. In this type of environment, boredom is shockingly present. This boredom is well illustrated in David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King. In his novel, Wallace tells the tale of the boredom experienced by IRS workers in this very type of environment.
Also, the adjustment young adults have to make after graduating college contributes to their boredom. College, in general, is a fun time for people. They spend their time surrounded by friends with limited responsibilities and have fun constantly. But, after college, young adults must make the transition to a person with a steady job and many new responsibilities. The fun they had during their college years can have a very similar effect to how technology has affected children and teenagers. The fun young adults have can almost never compare to the fun they had in college. They do not receive enough satisfaction from socializing on the weekends because of the amount of fun they experienced during their college years.
Modern Middle-Aged Adults (Ages 35-55)
By the time you turn 35, chances are your life is already set. It is highly probable that you are working at a job you plan to stay at until retirement and also that you are married, perhaps even with children. The possibly sad truth about this is that your life is going to be rather boring from here on out. Monotony is very closely associated with boredom and that is exactly how your life is going to be: monotonous. You will go to the same job every morning, go home to the same house every afternoon, and sleep next to the same person every evening. For many people, this “routine” can cause serious boredom.
This boredom can often times make a person very restless and drive them to take drastic measures in order to escape it. A “mid-life crisis” is a very common term that many middle-aged people have to deal with. It comes about as a result of the boredom a person feels as well as their feeling of aging, or, basically, running out of time. During this crisis, people will often try to make drastic changes to their lives and do very unexpected things.
People react to “mid-life crises” very differently. Some people do relatively small things like go on a big vacation, buy a new sports car, or get a tattoo. However, sometimes people do very big things like have a baby, get divorced, or quit their job.
Signs you may be having a “mid-life crisis”:
1. Wanting a simpler life
2. Still going to festivals like Glastonbury
3. Looking up old boyfriends or girlfriends on Facebook
4. Realizing you’ll never pay off your mortgage
5. Joining Twitter so your bosses think you “get” digital
6. Reminiscing about your childhood a lot
7. Taking no pleasure in friends’ success
8. Buying a very expensive bicycle
9. Suddenly wanting to learn a musical instrument
10. Worrying over your thinning hair
11. Taking up a new hobby
12. Suddenly wanting to make the world a better place
13. Looking longingly at old pictures of your younger self
14. Fearing the worst if a parent calls at an unexpected time
15. Going to reunions of favorite bands from the 70s and 80s
16. Switching from Radio 2 to indie stations like 6 Music
17. Revisiting holiday destinations you remember from childhood
18. You cannot envisage a time when you will be able to afford to retire
19. Reading obituaries and always checking how people died
20. Obsessively comparing your looks with others the same age
21. Dyeing your hair when it’s grey
22. Stopping telling people your age
23. Dreaming about quitting work but knowing you’ll never be able to afford to
24. Taking vitamin pills
25. Worrying about being worse off in your retirement than your parents
26. Wanting to change friends but not meeting anyone new that you like
27. Thinking about quitting work to buy a B&B or a pub
28. Flirting with people 20 years younger
29. Looking up your medical symptoms on the internet
30. Thinking about going to church but never acting on it
31. Always noting when politicians or bosses are younger than you
32. Thinking of having a hair transplant or plastic surgery
33. Taking out a direct debit to a charity
34. Can’t sleep for work woes.
35. Hangovers get worse and last more than a day
36. You can’t help but compare your career success with your friends
37. Worrying about a younger person taking your job
38. Taking up an extreme sport
39. You are very easily distracted
40. You only read books on holiday
If a person from 1950 was shown a movie from today, they would be horrified. Early movies were pretty simple, however, they were very entertaining at the time. If a person watched a 50s movie today, they would almost certainly hate it. This is partly due to the level of technology that was used back then, but, more so, it is due to the way tastes as a society have changed.
Today it is very rare to find a movie or even TV show that does not contain some kind of violence or sex. Whether it be explosions, guns, or some kind of fighting, or kissing, make-outs, or just plain sex, the stuff that entertains us today pretty much must contain some kind of violence or sex to be effective. This is evident by watching any Michael Bay film or perhaps any HBO series.
Our tastes have shifted from movies with simple stories and dialogue to movies filled with explicit content. Because of the increased frequency of boredom amongst us today, we need increasingly explicit content to entertain us. This can even be seen by simply watching the news. News stations are mostly only concerned with ratings, so almost every story they cover is very explicit. Instead of focusing on peaceful stories, they focus on stories involving war or some other type of violence. The reason for this is because to their viewers, peace is boring. They know ratings will be highest when they talk about bombings or shootings or stabbings because this is the type of things that entertain the modern person.
In the modern world, boredom is more present than it ever has been. This increased boredom is seen in every single age group from young children to fully grown adults. With this boredom, comes many changes. Changes can be seen in how people act and what entertains them. As time goes on and mankind continues to advance and modernize, boredom will do nothing but become even more widespread.