Built For Boredom

Boredom affects everyone differently.  Age is one of the most significant determining factors in how and how often boredom affects someone.  This has never been truer than it is today.  In recent years, the advances we have made as a society has caused a huge gap between today’s youth and today’s elderly.  In this entry, I plan on observing, explaining, and analyzing this gap – especially when it comes to boredom.  I will focus on how boredom has changed recently in today’s youth and then how it has changed (or not changed) in today’s elderly.

Today’s Youth


The world today is a much different place than it was 100, or even 50 years ago.  This is mostly due to the fact that the technological advances we have made as a society in recent decades is unprecedented.  Common everyday things such as television, computers, cell phones, tablets, video games, and the Internet were barely imaginable in the early 1900s.  However, today, almost every person in America encounters all of these things on a daily basis.  This advancement in technology and the overall modernization of the world has had a dramatic impact on boredom.

Since this technology is so accessible today, the frequency of boredom has certainly increased.  This increase can be seen by looking at all of the younger age groups in America.  Children, who in the past were almost immune to boredom, seem to be bored everyday.  This is due to the “entertaining” devices many children use everyday.  The high stimulation children receive from these devices cause them to be more prone to boredom.  Technology has had the same affect on the teenagers of today.  This is a concept that philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard explains in his work, The Rotation of Crops.  He explains “limitation” is very important to avoid boredom.  The entertainment children and teens receive from these devices lead them to being less entertained in the future.  They do not limit themselves while using these devices, which, according to Kierkegaard, makes them less resourceful.  They become reliant on technology for entertainment and receive less satisfaction every time they use technology.

Boredom has also increased in young and middle-aged adults.  This has a little less to do with technology, however, and more to do with the modernization and shifting of our economy.  In the past, adults worked very long hours in very demanding jobs.  People mostly worked on a farm, or in a mine, or in a factory.  With these jobs, it was very hard for people to become bored.  Nowadays, these types of jobs are very uncommon.  Today, most jobs take place in offices.  A majority of adults find themselves sitting in a cubicle in front of a computer screen everyday from nine to five.  The workplace can be very dull, which David Foster Wallace illustrates in his novel, The Pale King.  Also, since these jobs are very structured, adults live very routine lives.  For example, waking up at the same time everyday, going to work at the same time everyday, going home at the same time everyday, and going to bed at the same time everyday.  This is the main reason why mid-life crises, a phrase that was not coined until recently, are very common in the modern world.

Today’s Elderly

You Can’t Teach An Old Dog New Tricks


Although today technology is so present in everyday life for most Americans, it is not so present in the lives of the older generations.  The above proverb applies perfectly to the reason why today’s older generations have not embraced the new technologies we have.  Now, it is pretty insensitive to relate the elderly to old dogs, but it is impossible to deny that they do not take advantage of technology like today’s youth has.  And, this is not necessarily a bad thing – at least when it comes to boredom.  As I established earlier, technology has caused our youth to become much more susceptible to boredom.  It has not affected the elderly, however, simply because the elderly do not use technology very much.

Technophobia is the abnormal fear or anxiety about the effects of advanced technology.  This phobia is overall pretty uncommon today, but it is very common amongst the elderly.  Many older people do not use technology simply because they are afraid of it.  And, why wouldn’t they be?  New things and new challenges are scary for just about everyone, and technology is very new for older people, which is the main reason why they do not use much technology.

“The skills and abilities that old people have developed during their life are exclusively connected to the generation they belong to. In their memories are recollections of long periods of how life was without things that have now become necessary and natural; days without television, computers, and mobile phones.”

-Being the Oldest Old in a Shifting Technology Landscape by Jan-Erik Hagberg

 Elderly people have gone just about their entire lives without technology, which is a huge strength for them when fighting boredom.  Since they were kids, they have avoided boredom without having the luxury of being able to simply open a laptop or push the power button on an iPad.  This lack of technology for most of their lives has prepared, or “built”, the elderly to fight boredom.

 Younger people today rely on their devices to entertain them, while the elderly have had to find ways to entertain themselves for decades.  This limitation has made the elderly very resourceful.  Kierkegaard expresses the idea of limitation and resourcefulness by mentioning how the simplest thing, such as a spider, can bring a prisoner in solitary confinement as much entertainment as anything.  The limitation the elderly have faced has had this exact effect.  A story my grandfather told me years ago about his childhood perfectly illustrates the resourcefulness the elderly have had their whole lives.  He told me that everyday in the summer, he and his brother would wander around the woods for fun.  One day, they found an old ax and it brought them all the joy in the world.  Although my great uncle ended up with his head split open, the point is older people have been able to get entertainment from something as simple as an old, rusty ax and still can today.  It literally blows my mind that a person could be sufficiently entertained by something seemingly so boring like knitting.  However, grandmas across the country knit for fun every night.

What To Do..What To Do..?


The above question is one that many people ask themselves everyday.  If you find yourself asking that question, chances are you are bored.  This question can only arise during your spare time.  Since you have nothing in particular to do, you ask yourself “What to do?”  Boredom is often defined as “a feeling one experiences when one has nothing in particular to do”.  So, it would be fair to say that someone with copious amounts of spare time would be the most susceptible to boredom.

Now, I ask, who has the most spare time?  Someone who goes school or works full-time would not have as much spare time as someone who does not.  So, an obvious answer to my question would be someone who is retired.  And, obviously, those who are retired are almost certainly elderly.  Therefore, you would think a retiree is most susceptible to boredom.  However, this is not true.

“Retirement is a time for a new beginning, a time to face change and transition with a renewal of commitment to those values felt deep in our hearts. Retirement is an opportunity to appreciate the gift of time like never before and to use our time well. It is a period of grace to be who we want to be and to do what we want to do.”

-Enjoying Retirement: Living Life to the Fullest by Leonard Doohan

When a normal person asks, “What to do?” he or she only has a limited number of options.  This is because that person has responsibilities and restrictions.  They may have to go to work or school in the morning or perhaps have to take care of their children.  However, when a retiree asks, “What to do?”, he or she has the freedom to do anything.  This is why retirees are not typically bored even though they have more spare time than anyone.

Retirement is a huge adjustment for everyone.  However, in many cases it is a good one.  Boredom does not only arise during spare time, it can also arise while working.  Most retirees work the same job for years, possibly decades, which can get very boring after a while.  Repetitiveness and boredom go hand in hand, so it is pretty simple as to why this can get boring.  Retirement is a way out of that repetitiveness and a way out of that boredom.

After retirement, since retirees are no longer restricted by many responsibilities, they can do just about anything they want.  With all of this spare time, retirees can now do everything they have always wanted to do.  In the past, they were not able to do most of these things.  Now, however, retirees have the ability to travel, spend time with their families, or do hobbies.  For example, my great-grandfather, who has been retired for decades, has all the time in the world to watch just about every Yankees game and also now can go to the track to bet on horses whenever he feels like.  My other grandparents, who have also been retired for years, are also now able to travel freely.  They have been to more Caribbean Islands than I can name.

Something else that many people agree helps make retirement as fulfilling as possible is finding and/or pursuing a passion.  Since retirees have an excess of spare time, they can finally do what makes them truly happy.  Many retirees take up passions such as painting, writing, gardening, fishing, golfing, woodworking, as well as a number of other activities.  My retired grandmother in recent years has been able to take up a passion of her own.  Helping others is something that has always made her happy, however, now she has the time and ability to do it.  She fills her spare time with charity projects, which has made her retirement very fulfilling and entertaining.

getting-older21 In general, boredom has become much more frequent today than in the past.  This is due to the increasing role technology plays in our daily lives and the overall modernization of society.  At first thought, you may guess that younger people would be less bored than the elderly.  You might think this because of all of the “entertaining” gadgets young people use everyday and also because of their energy and imagination.  This assumption was probably correct in the past, however, the opposite is now true.  Boredom in today’s youth has increased, and will probably do nothing but continue to increase.  And, for today’s elderly, the frequency of boredom has certainly not increased, if anything, it has decreased.  This is due to the fact that they have been mostly immune to the negative effects technology has had on our youth and, also, due to the freedom they possess post-retirement.



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