I used to be hooked on Facebook. And Buzzfeed, and a whole bunch of other sites. At the slightest amount of boredom, my phone would pop right out and I would start reading something, checking something out (or someone out) on social media, etc.
I tried to quit Facebook many times. I was inspired by Steve Pavlina’s excellent post on this topic (click here), until one day it just clicked. I have been off Facebook since late August 2013, and don’t miss it.
I substituted it with other things. Quora, reddit, etc became the new things I would check out or read. After all, I believed, that I’m better than others because I’m doing more intellectual things. I’m increasing my knowledge. This must make me a better person.
Nope. Interestingly enough, consuming content still did nothing to get rid of the unsatisfied feeling. Kind of like eating a bag of chips and not having a real meal. I was just going through empty calories. And what did I do to make that increasingly unsatisfied feeling go away? I’d just go through more empty calories. I’d keep reading another site, I’d open another tab. And the feeling intensified. It was a downward spiral.
Now, this is nothing that big. This sort of downward spiral doesn’t put you on the streets as other addictions might. But this is definitely something worth thinking about a bit more.
Turning off the BlackBerry and just looking out the window feels like an act of spiritual emancipation. And perhaps only one of Amtrak’s famous delays can help me achieve the “profound boredom” that Heidegger recommended for its clarifying power.
Granted, few of us are likely to have blinding existential insights just because we’re out of BlackBerry service range. For me, boredom tends to produce ruminations more along the lines of whether I should move to a new apartment. But it’s a start. In this moment of anti-boredom triumphalism, there’s something creepy about our constant flight from ourselves. Our fear of boredom suggests a kind of self-loathing. What are we so afraid of?
What are so we afraid of after all? A sort of dread enters when I get bored. But I also didn’t want to keep reading more things and not doing anything with it.
So here’s what I propose: Instead of using boredom as a means to start CONSUMING content (or food, or whatever), use it to CREATE content (or food, or whatever). Take the most exciting idea you have in your mind, and then take one tangible action in order to create it. You can certainly do it with your list of to-dos or shoot off some work/school email, but acting on your most exciting idea will yield a better return for you. The momentum of such action will be like an ice-bath to your puny boredom compared to the tepid waters of doing something from your to-do list. You’re actually MORE likely to effectively get things done even from your boring to-do list this way.
I have found this to be the most potent solution to boredom so far. Agree, disagree, share your comments below. And if you think this idea was valuable, considering sharing it.