What Happens When You Stop Getting Bored?

by May 2, 2024Christian living, Culture, Happiness, Identity0 comments

You know what scares me most? Boredom. And I have a sneaking suspicion it’s the same for you, especially if you’re under thirty. I worked with teenagers for over a decade and people would regularly ask: ‘What do you think is the biggest challenge for teenagers today?’ One word: “Smartphones.” The expanded version would be: “loss of boredom.”


A Microsoft study discovered that the average human attention span fell 25% between 2000-2015. That’s shorter than a goldfish. Coincidence? Another study by Common Sense Media found that teenagers on average are consuming around eight hours of media per day. Leadership guru Simon Sinek compared the dangers of unrestricted social media use to leaving your teenager the key to the liquor cabinet.


Despite a rising mountain of evidence decrying the addictive, dopamine-generating, narcissism-fostering, depression-incubating effects of cell phones and social media, we don’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon. And why should we? Who among us would ever want to go back to the dark ages of sitting in an empty room, waiting for your friend or family member to return from the bathroom, and having to just sit there for a couple minutes…waiting?


Who among us, especially those who have grown up in the internet age, would ever willingly submit to being bored, even for thirty seconds?
Adapting to a world-shaping technology, such as the internet or AI, is not something to fear or lament. Often, however, during these seismic industrial-technological shifts, the losses lurk latent. They go beyond the discomfort of change. Disruptive technology creates new connections which cumulatively are a net positive for human beings. Most people do not prefer horse-and-carriage.


But there are losses. They manifest subtly, as lagging indicators after the damage is done. Perhaps the greatest loss we’ve suffered at the hands of social media is something that disguises as a blessing—the loss of boredom. Ironically, the most obvious symptom of one’s loss of boredom-endurance is how quickly and frequently one complains of being bored.


Boredom is not some new terror unleashed upon modern man. In the 17th century, Blaise Pascal claimed that “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room by himself.” Try to remember—what used to happen when you got bored? What have we lost, exactly? The underlying catastrophe is the loss of humility.


When you immerse yourself in a cadre of apps, entertainment, and stimuli all tailor-made to orbit around you, what does that make you? A demi-god. At the least, it enhances the deceptive powers of our imagination that like to turn us into celebrities. We can all escape to our own Truman Show. We joyfully slip into a fabricated world where everyone is fascinated by what I eat, what I wear, and what shampoo I’ve found life-changing. This practice has even become a professional therapeutic technique, called Reality Shifting.


We exchange our real, three-dimensional world for a digital one. Our digital world looks very much like the real one, except that it’s customized around us. It’s a place where I’ve already filtered out the people, places, and things which I don’t find interesting, so I’m less likely to get bored. Thus our digital worlds deceive us. They promise to expand our horizons, while in truth, our worlds shrink to isolated stages of familiar props. The props resemble things from the outside world, but always polished and performing.


Boredom, on the other hand, packs the punch of perspective; it is both humbling and head-clearing. If you force yourself to sit in your boredom, that means you have to lift your head up from that device in your hand. You have to simply be and watch the rest of the world continue to go by. You have to reckon with the scads of people, the innumerable masses, who don’t know you, don’t care about you, and never will. Boredom forces you to interact with the beautiful, mysterious “otherness” of the world outside of you, a world stubbornly unbending to your desires. Boredom opens the door for us to contemplate rather than consume, to reflect instead of rushing.


Most importantly, boredom touches the spiritual nerve like nothing else. In the first minute, Boredom whispers ennui. During the second minute, Boredom starts opening all your closets of insecurity. By the fourth or fifth minute, if you have not succumbed to your phone, you’re clutching your spiritual lifebuoy because Boredom has dumped you in the Ocean of Discontent.


This is where Jesus likes to meet us, walking on the water. You will hopefully realize that holding your little inflatable circle (whatever it is) and kicking will not get you back to land. You need to be rescued from the painfully boring trap of yourself. Jesus will do that. He wants you to mount up with wings like an eagle (Is 40:31).



An earlier version of this article was initially published on Reformation21

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