One day while sitting on a park bench half people watching and half daydreaming I found myself noticing the large number of people that walked by using some kind of technology. My own opinion is that walking in a park and relaxing is entertaining enough. However, I guess to most people today, especially young people, feel bored by sitting or walking in the park without the aid of some electronic device.
Then, I thought about boredom and its origins as a concept in human society. I personally find it very interesting that until the word boredom came to be created, there stood very little referencing to what we consider boredom today. That’s not to say that boredom did not exist until the word’s creation, but rather that our definition of boredom today continues to expand from the word’s original meaning. In this paper I want to take a look at the relationship technology (by this I mean electronic devices) and boredom today. Each case I will compare now to the past in the form of a narrative denkbild (or at least that’s what I’m going to call it). In addition, I want to shed light on how technology influences the increasing less amount of time it takes for someone to become bored. Each person, I believe should understand how technology influencing him or her with respect to boredom. Is the influence a good thing, a bad thing, or does it even matter?
Our Non-Stop World
Everywhere one looks one sees people constantly busy or multi-tasking. People do take breaks and go on vacations, but the time for sitting and doing nothing decreased slowly over the last couple of decades. Smart phones allow people to do business, check emails, or even prepare for business events while on the go, resulting in people (especially in businesses and companies) to use their free time for business matters. For many people “time is money” so no one wants to waste a second of their day. In addition, many feel that they need to do so much but have very little time in the day to complete everything. Today’s busy world also leaves very little or no time for shutting down electronic devices and taking a break. Anyone who every stopped checking his or her emails for more than a day knows the unpleasant experience of coming back to an overwhelming amount of emails that all should be read and possibly replied to.
When a person finally does have time to relax they experience an automatic urge to be doing something and not just existing. As a society we appear accustom to the ability of multi-tasking that technology offers. Business now even look for the ability of multi-tasking as a job requirement for a person or preference him or her because he or she can multi-task. So while sitting down to relax and enjoy a movie or read a book, many keep their phone (smart phone or regular) close by and check the device every so often. People want to feel connected to the rest of the world at all times and not just their own. To modern people being alone and not connected feels boring. A majority of people feel like their oxygen supply no longer exists whenever Wi-Fi or a place to charge electronic devices appears to be unavailable to them, especially young people. Very few cafes or fast food places do not offer Wi-Fi. Now technology indeed helps people to conduct business faster and instantly provide needed information, but it also encourages people to constantly feel the need to be doing something and stay connected to everyone else in the world.
“It’s a Nice Day Outside, Let’s Go Play Video Games”
These days, kids do not go play outside but stay inside to play video games. Ask anyone today over the age of fifty what they did on sunny days as a kid, and the answer almost always includes going outside to participate in some activity with other kids. In the Peanuts comic strip Charlie Brown appeared in the majority of panels with friends outside playing football, walking around, or sitting at a sidewalk stand. In the 40’s and 50’s the major toys sold included bikes, jump ropes, hula hoops, spinning tops, toys cars big enough for a child to sit in etc., all of which children played with outdoors. Now toys consist of more electronic based material used inside for the most part. Video games, whether played on iPhone, iPods, Xboxes, Wii, or PlayStation, make up the majority of consumer purchases for children’s presents. In addition, video game designers create games not only for kids but for people of all age groups. A sample list of the most popular video games of 2013 (http://arstechnica.com/gaming/2013/12/the-20-best-and-three-most-disappointing-video-games-of-2013/) includes:
1. Papers, Please
2. The Last of Us
3. Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft
4. Grand Theft Auto V
6. Super Mario 3D World
7. The Stanley Parable
9. Bioshock Infinite
11. Tomb Raider
12. XCom: Enemy Within
14. Gone Home
15. Dead Rising 3
16. Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon
19. Plants vs. Zombies 2
20. The Swapper
Of course these do not include all the video games in existence but represent only a small sample of the huge number and wide variety of video games offered. Furthermore, studies show that the number of video game purchasers increased over the last few years. So clearly, the gaming industry creates big business. Why go out somewhere when the ability to go anywhere and do anything exists within the realm of video games? Instead of sitting and talking or reading a book, video games allow for people to do whatever their heart desires without leaving the comfort of their own couch. As people fulfill their desires through virtual reality they feel less happy when actually doing something in reality. For gamers reality does not allow for wild adventures, amazing powers, or a place where they accomplish anything extraordinary. A gamer still becomes happy by things in the outside world and can still do amazing things, but the gamer remains unable to go out and conquer kingdoms (unless maybe you have nukes) or acquire super powers (unless perhaps you take a radioactive bath or become half cyborg) in the real world. For most people they experience a feeling of nothing being interesting and that reasonable options for something to do remain mundane to them, and so they fill that desire with video games.
For centuries before inventions like the TV or computer, families sat down and ate their dinner together. Everyone ate and talked together until they finished the meal. The major changes to this old structure began with the invention of the common TV dinner in the mid-1950’s. The meals involved little effort to prepare and cooked at fast speeds, both time consuming activities in the past. So, in a way TV dinners took away the boredom felt during meal preparation when using TV dinners. The TV dinners led families out of dining rooms and into living rooms where they used the covenant trays to eat while watching television together. Speeding up to the present day many family members do not even eat at the same time or do the same thing while eating, let alone actually eat in the same room. The parents often eat in another room checking emails, doing work, texting, checking social media, or watching TV. Then, the kids eat while doing possibly the same activities as their parents in addition to playing video games. Each family member feels compelled to be doing something rather than just eating a meal. To them eating a meal together at a dining room table holds not enough entertainment or interesting activities. Instead, the look to technology as a way to stay entertained or feel like they are accomplishing more than just eating. On the other hand, perhaps modern times create an environment where the individual experiences a busier schedule than people in the past ever experienced, thus not leaving enough time to sit down with the family and eat a meal together.
“She’s Got a Ticket to Ride, but She Don’t Care”
Before travel became faster and more comfortable, travelers on long journeys needed ways to not become fed up with the long hours of travel. During the 1700’s travelers often brought a deck of cards for playing or a book to stay entertained on long carriage rides. Others kept journals about their travels to pass the time or simply talked to others traveling with them. Another way to perhaps not become bored included the interesting situations one got into during poor traveling weather or on bad roads. Over time people continued to find new ways to create a fun time while traveling. With the invention of cars later came the car radio, which people used on long car trips to listen to music, the news, or a sporting event. Today traveling takes up only a fraction of the time it used to. Even so, people still feel bored and even become bored more easily despite the fact that traveling does not take as long. On trains, planes, buses, and in cars, people visibly use technology as a distraction while traveling. In Japan for example, no one on trains talks to each but only uses their phones or laptops to do work or listen to music. In America as well people on buses, subways, and planes constantly use phones to text others or use iPods to listen to music. Planes now even come with screens on the back of chairs for passengers to watch movies or listen to music. Teenagers and children often appear as the worst case scenario, by always using electronics for social media, texting, watching movies, playing games, or listening to music. Not all, but most teens and young adults rarely can be seen sitting still while traveling without using some sort of technology to prevent boredom.
Those who commute to work also experience a similar feeling of wanting something else to do during long traveling times. Rush hour creates agonizing torture for drivers on the road today. Again people of eras gone by used radios to listen to music or the radio to ease the wait, and people still daydream to combat the mind numbing effect of sitting in traffic but with the addition of music they choose or perhaps an audio book to fill in the rest of the time. So, people traveling over long distances for trips or for the daily commute to work always experienced boredom. However, many people today do not even travel on a 15 minute or more car ride without playing music. People today begin to feel antsy or bored in those fifteen minutes because they only sit in the car doing very little and start to sense a need to do something instead of just sitting there. Technology allows for the traveler to always own a path to relieving that antsy feeling. Furthermore, technology does not cause a sudden start of feeling boredom while traveling, but perhaps technology increased the instances of boredom and caused for less time to be needed for that feeling to kick in.
“Do I have to Go to School Today?”
The number of times parents experience their child or children asking “do I have to go to school today?” probably exceeds a million by the time graduation rolls around. Most kids do not see school as necessary or interesting, but as a torturing institution that they must attend. From the early 1900’s, when finally all the American states held in place a compulsory education law, to the present day, the generations of children grew less and less happy about attending school. Experts continue to stumble over the reasoning for the sinking enthusiasm. Children are no longer forced by parents to take on hard jobs with terrible conditions in factories (at least not in first world countries) so why do kids disdain school? In recent decades the rate of children enjoying school appears to fall at an increasingly faster pace. This situation correlates with the rise of computer technology. Kids now own the ability to carry an electronic device with them anywhere they go. If they become uninterested in what happens around them, the children only need to reach in their pocket and pull out their phone or portable gaming device. In the past, children indeed felt bored in school just like kids today, but the options to relieve the boredom only consisted of daydreaming, passing notes, harassing another student, or just paying attention because there existed no other distraction from going bored out of your mind (if that’s how the student thought about what was being taught). No technology existed for a student to be tempted.
Teachers today often stop class because students continuously pull out some kind of technology during class and create a distraction. Administrations across the United States even created rules that require an electronic device to be taken off the student if they pull out the device even once during school hours. In hopes to use current innovations to the teacher’s advantage, some schools take the initiative with technology and incorporate technology into the students’ educations. The idea tries for making school fun and interesting. A few schools, in an attempt to keep children attending school and/or out of mischief, eliminated the libraries for electronic archives and turned the former libraries into gaming and computer centers. Other schools combat the technology craze by allowing students a ten to fifteen minute break a couple of times a day to check their social media or texts and remove the desire to check during class. The solution seems to be non-existent or impossible to achieve in breaking away today’s students from technology and helping them to become engaged and eager to learn.
The Effects of Not Experiencing Boredom
When people do not allow themselves to become bored they lose the time to think about life in general or what they accomplished/ not accomplished in their life so far. Boredom allows person to sit and think about his or her own future and what he or she wants to do with his or her life or if his or her life appears to be heading in the right direction. In essence, when a person feels bored, he or she must sit down and face reality rather than escaping it, whether he or she wants to or not. People also allow for their brains to relax when they feel bored (for the most part at least). People today often feel anxious while others experience the need to go and do something, but they should take that time to stop, relax, and not think about anything important. It would help to relax a person, but only if they enter the right mindset about boredom.
However, allowing oneself to become bored also creates problems. If someone experiences boredom while at work or doing something of importance, than it prevents him or her from doing work. In this instance anything, including technology, should be used to aid in preventing or stopping the disinterest and continuing the more important tasks.
Why did the Writer Go on this Long Rant about Boredom?
To conclude, boredom that people feel today has evolved from past levels and the degree to which boredom is felt in different types of situations. Technology influences modern boredom in numerous ways for better or worse. In some instances technology creates a chance for its users to be entertained, and in other cases technology exists as a catalyst for making people feel bored more easily. The reader’s job after finishing reading this long rant, lies in thinking about how technology influences and what role it plays in the daily boredom that the reader feels. Then think about whether the results include positive, negative, or indifferent effects.