The Basics of Boredom

Boredom: Good or bad?
Rahman Mohamed

Are you bored?  It might help.  It might harm.  It might inspire.

Boredom is feeling annoyed because there’s nothing new.  Academics study boredom, why we get bored, and its effects.  According to Cynthia D. Fisher of Bond University, Boredom at work: a neglected concept (1991), boredom comes

  • When you’re always doing the same thing (studying boredom is not new)
  • Always in the same environment (in an interview room asking about boredom)
  • When you face something you don’t understand (the person studied gives an answer the researcher doesn’t understand; the bored person is smarter)
  • Face something you easily understand
  • Have “uninteresting, unfriendly, or uncommunicative coworkers” (all the researchers are boring; they bore each other)
  • You can’t do what you want because your boss doesn’t let you (Professor says “Keep studying boredom.  I don’t care if you’re bored.  You can’t do anything else.”).

[I]ndividuals with the greatest job autonomy (executives, professionals, the self-employed) probably also engage in the most self-imposed control, forcing themselves to continue working out of a sense of duty when they feel bored and would rather be doing something else

The professor is bored because she’s forced to tell the researchers to bore themselves.

On the plus side boredom can be helpful.  The Good of Boredom (2017) by Andreas Elpidorou, University of Louisville writes

Articulating boredom’s function allows us to discover what it can do for us. And knowing what boredom can do for us is the first step in being able to use boredom to our advantage.

Boredom is self-regularity; you decide whether or not you’re bored.  If you’re doing the same task repeatedly you decide whether or not it’s meaningful (If you think it’s worth reading Nova’s Rays you won’t find reading Nova’s Rays multiple times boring.).  If you see what you’re doing as pointless, whether it’s the first time or hundredth time, it’ll be boring.

Boredom can make you a risk-taker.  If you’re bored you’re likely to search for something to leave boredom; you’ll try something new.  Browsing through channels with a remote control is considered looking for or trying something new (Right now you’re either bored and decided to risk something new like reading Nova’s Rays or you’re a regular who isn’t hopefully bored.).

Psychology says emotions have a good and bad side.  Fear keeps you away from possible opportunities relating to your fear (a surprise birthday party because you’re scared of the dark, not willing to walk into a dark room).  On the bright side fear protects you (stops you from going out late at night without a flashlight so you see the crazy guy and cross the street).  Boredom tells you if you’re doing something you don’t like and motivates you to find something new.  There’s the chance your boredom might rise; the replacement for your bored activity might be interesting or more boring.

bright-idea1There’s boredom you can’t escape.  You have to stand in the grocery line, sit in the gridlock, listen to the same music, and read the email from your boss.  While you’re bored you’re likely to search for something to get you out of there, most often daydreaming, imagining and being creative.  If you’re in gridlock, surrounded by cars, you’ll see yourself driving a flying car or imagine the day of teleportation: you’re waking up late but aren’t worried about being late for the meeting because your atoms will be taken apart, broadcast through the air from Toronto to Beijing, and your nose be straight.  There’s even the chance you can come up with the brilliant idea to make you a millionaire; Harry Potter walked into J.K. Rowling’s head while she was riding a train; she was probably bored.

People who are bored are more likely to daydream, be more irritable, and see time going more slowly.  Drowsiness is often a side-effect of boredom (Being bored can help you sleep.).  Your boredom (after reading this) can lead to personal growth and a meaningful life.  Or it might just lead you to some good dreams.


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