In a world of endless technology, I don't get bored anymore. Is that a problem? My kids might say they are bored, but, really, are they?
“Go and play in the garden with a cardboard box.”
Boredom was a thing of my youth. And out of it was born inventiveness, inquisitiveness, and creativity. Necessity is the mother of invention and, as a child, I needed a way to entertain myself. After all, I wasn’t going to play with my older sisters. No way. There was only so much joy I could get out of pretending to be a horse.
In the UK during the late seventies and early eighties, there were only 4 TV channels. There was certainly no such thing as cable, and the internet was probably only a pipe dream in a sci-fi writer’s mind (please don’t correct me that the military had already created a working prototype and just go with me here). Goodness, I used to like doing jigsaws. I don’t have time for that anymore!
Children don’t get bored anymore.
I look at my twin boys, at age eleven, and see two kids, each with their best friend (and most heinous arch-nemesis) on tap. And at arm’s length is a Playstation or a mobile phone or a tablet or umpteen-gazillion cable and streaming channels loaded onto a smart television to provide TV on demand. On demand, I tell you!
The only example of waiting that my children have ever had to do was queuing at Legoland on a boiling-hot capacity weekend (God, what a nightmare) and for the last two episodes of Stranger Things Season 4 to drop. My goodness, what a palaver.
Seriously, boys, get over it. Do you know what we had to go through in the nightmare that was life without all this stuff at the click of a button!
Actually, what a nostalgic feeling it is to contemplate boredom. I remember, through rose-tinted memory lenses, summer months of amusing myself with friends during the long hours of boarding-school downtime, inventing wide games, or new sports with combinations of balls and bats, boundaries and scoring criteria.
And during the winter months, I would be able to sit in empty classrooms (you don’t get that these days in the climate of over-monitoring) or with friends, inventing indoor games, or role-playing with our imaginations.
In the computer age, all that imagination is done for you, by programmer proxy. Children experience but don’t imagine. I write books—kids books too!—but do my children read them? Do they, heck! Why put all that effort into reading when you can lie back and have stories IV-dripped into your systems?
My children do say they are bored. But that threshold is a mere five-second saunter from the end of a console session.
“I’m, borrrrred, Dad.”
“What? You’ve literally just turned off the Playstation. How can you experience boredom in walking down the stairs?”
Me? I don’t get bored. I sit and I type. You know, things like this. Insanely, I am presently writing four different books. Each week, I conduct two interviews on YouTube or get interviewed myself, and I also try to pre-record some shows. And if I’m not creating content on the platform, I am vociferously consuming its wide and varied content. For example, I have just spent three days obsessing over a reaction channel called Charismatic Voice. (Just one more, just one more…)
Downtime is not a thing for me. There is more writing for me to do than I have hours in the day. I move from one laptop to another, often with YouTube or a book or a podcast playing on my phone by my side (often on 1.5x speed).
My life is multi-tasking: I sit on the toilet and look at my phone. I have a shower and have content buzzing through a Bluetooth speaker. I drive a car and have someone informing me of something. I walk to the shop with headphones inserting knowledge into my brain like the information junkie I am, mainlining abstract stimuli.
I don’t take time to look at the world. Perhaps I don’t get to enjoy it, to dial back and listen, become a part of it, to inhale it deeply. The sound of the plane, the ticking of the clock, the distant barking of the dog. Maybe so many of us have forgotten to sit down, slow down, calm down, and draw in a long draft of the honeyed mead of tranquility.
Sometimes, I think this is a byproduct of aging. As our sense of mortality appears in ever-greater focus, time becomes the most valuable of currencies. With that increased urgency, we develop a stronger need for temporal utility. We must make use of the dwindling hours we have left because when they’re gone, well, they’re gone.
Yet perhaps it would do us good to get bored, once in a while—turn off the tech and see where it goes.
Technology has replaced parenting, socializing in person, and being with people. It’s the easy go-to, the microwave meal as opposed to the hard graft of preparing a wholesome dinner.
But who’s to say that this microwave meal isn’t actually wholesome? As we drift toward living more and more of our lives in an experience machine, who’s to say that this might not be a better or at least as good and valid manner in which to live? Either way, there is certainly an inverse correlation between easy access to technology and boredom.
I know what I should be doing with my kids, and what I should be inspiring them to do or constraining them from doing too much. It’s just hard to curtail your children’s dangerous addictions when you are just as much, if not more of an addict.
Okay, enough whingeing. Time for a nice relaxing cup of tea. I think I’ll go outside and watch the world go by.
Buuuuut…while I make my tea…: “Alexa, start YouTube.” Now, do I watch Brian Tyler Cohen, Ukraine: The Latest, or catch another Charismatic Voice…