I think often about boredom. I do this because I am bored. Often.
If you really dig into it, I think boredom is actually pretty interesting. Whenever I tell someone I’m bored, or hear that they are, I’m skeptical that we’re actually talking about the same thing. I think language is pretty interesting that way, but I’ll save exploring that for another post.
So lets talk about the same thing:
So, I think that’s a useful starting point, at least for identifying the specific feeling. But it’s superficial – really superficial. Like it could be cured, or at least papered over by a particularly exciting show on TV. I don’t think that covers it.
I think boredom is more nuanced. It’s not a switch – you’re bored or you’re not. I think boredom is a symptom of deeper longing for something – sometimes acute, but often not.
While we tend to think specific actions will cure our boredom, the reality is probably that we’re looking for specific feelings – adventure, excitement, fulfillment, responsibility, coziness, quiet, danger, etc. The actions are merely a catalyst for these feelings.
Why is the distinction important? You identify that you’re bored, you do something – go for a walk, watch TV, eat (I’m a particular fan of eating as a treatment to boredom), and then you go on with your day.
Being forced to identify why you’re bored means admitting what you want, and what is lacking. Maybe it’s as simple as “I need to be relax entertained for a few minutes by something on YouTube, because I’ve been responding to emails for an hour, and my brain is tired.” Fine.
But maybe it’s not so simple. Maybe it’s “I need to do something big, out of the ordinary, because my day to day is too routine.” Or “I need to do something meaningful – I need to really feel like I’m making a difference in someone’s life, because it’s been too long since I’ve felt that way.” But it’s subtle. In the moment, it doesn’t feel so different from when you’ve been responding to emails for an hour.
So you watch something on YouTube.