By Dr. David Greenfield

How many times have digital naive parents heard the oft said phrase, “I’m Bored” from their children? Well, I’m happy (not really) to say that in 2019 we have eradicated the disease of boredom. It surely seems boredom has gone the way of the typewriter, record player, and the dial telephone. Boredom is now a vestige of days gone by and is at risk of extinction. But is it a good thing that boredom has died?

It’s not that we avoid boredom, but rather how we have found numerous methods to eliminate its’ even brief presence in our lives.  With the advent of the Internet and Smartphone technology we have managed to extinguish any need to ever be bored—even for a moment. No longer do we need to stand in line at the grocery store the bank idly passing time, wait for a train just thinking, day dreaming, or having a real-time, personal conversation. We don’t even have to lie down to go to sleep and review our day because we have some type of tech media device at our bedside, in our pockets, or on our person all the time to draw our attention and occupy all our waking moments.

So now that we have relegated boredom to near-extinction, and as long as we have a digital gadget that can do just about anything, (and most Smartphone can these days) we never need to venture into nothingness, day dream, fantasize, or even converse real-time with someone next to us. We are all numbed in our respective electronic never land. Social media and other digital wonders don’t really connect us, they separate us from experiencing the present moment (and real-time connection), and all real social interaction has some silences, pauses, and boring moments. Our digital Smartphone and other gadgets never let us down or fail to entertain us.

So, isn’t this good news? No more boredom– permanent entertainment. The problem is that out of boredom comes the potential for creative impulses, motivation for social connection, and inspiration to do new things—boredom can catapult us into new potential action. Without that gap of nothingness, we never stop long enough to jump ahead into the unknown, the creative, and strike out to find new bliss. Boredom is the wellspring of creativity. It is not something to be endured, tolerated, or avoided. Rather it is something to be embraced as a moment in time where “nothingness” leads to that creative spark that motivates us get out there do/create something. Without boredom all the potential space and time is filled with “noisy digital distraction”. Digital Tech is great, but it runs the risk of numbing us too far and too fast, leaving us in a wake of digital delirium not quite human, and not quite machine.

The cure for this modern digital malady is to take some time way from our devices:  turn off our Smartphone, to stand a bank or grocery line without looking at our phones, not check our text/email for a day, and perhaps most importantly, take digital diets with time off-line.

The absence of our self-induced electronic inertia allows healthy boredom to take root and give us a few moments to daydream, fantasize, remember, think, plan, or imagine something in your life. The point is to create and expand that analog world within us and see what develops.

Sit (or stand) for a few minutes with no screens and when you are doing other activities such as having a meal, talking a walk, or reading paper book…and resist the temptation to pick up your Smartphone or tablet and multitask. Stick to one thing and be present with that one thing. In sum, Boredom is not our enemy to be avoided but rather to embraced as an entrance to new possibilities that can only be known by living for a few moments in that space without digital distraction.

We want to get to the new place where “I’m bored” seems like an opportunity, and not an undesirable state to be avoided.