What happened to boredom?
Okay I’m not all that old. I’m 32. I was born in 1985 which makes me still fairly young in terms of technology and the age of childhood boredom. When I was bored as a kid I had to either create, imagine, read, or go outside and do whatever it is we used to do outside. Which often times, was be bored outside. Or be bored with the neighborhood kids.
Don’t get me wrong. I played a lot of video games growing up. I would usually play them with friends, switching off trying to get past a certain level. And legitimately, we could play them for a very, very, long time. But after a certain point I would always hit a wall and want something different. Or, often times Mom or Dad would make me quit playing.
Boredom in the age of personal technology is very different; it doesn’t really exist. There are currently 819,417,600 hours of video on youtube. 819,417,600 hours equals 34,142,400 days. 34,142,400 days equals 93,540 years. On top of that, 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. I’m not so good at Math, so I’m going to stop there and just assume that you get the picture. Lots of videos + bored teens isolating = zombie teens watching video game walkthroughs of other people playing video games at 2am. I will never understand watching someone else playing video games either. Maybe I actually am old.
Anyway, my point is that boredom used to be difficult. It used to be BORING. It used to be an indication that you were lacking something. It meant that not having a plan, a goal, a project, or a person to hang out with was very unsatisfying and unstimulating. Which would then provoke some kind of action or at the very least, a feeling. I like to think that feelings, or emotions are like a compass which gives us an indication of how we are doing.
What kind of feeling does boredom most closely resemble? Any guesses? Sadness. Boredom, for many is the precursor to sadness. Be bored long enough and you will feel sad.
Alright, so if boredom is the precursor to sadness, then does that sadness get quenched by watching YouTube reviews of the Top Ten Plastic Chairs of all time? Well, yes and no, weirdly enough. Because the Top Ten Plastic Chairs of All Time is surprisingly entertaining, it does fulfill an immediate need to fill the temporary void of boredom. HOWEVA - “Temporary" is the key component in that sentence. And that temporary fill is without much actual human/relational/soul nutrition.
Think of soul nutrition as akin to body nutrition. Technically, you could eat only crackers for days on end. You could eat them in the morning until you were full, you could eat them at night. You could eat Saltines when you feel sick and it would work out perfectly! Eventually though, you would probably get some kind of Oregon Trail-type disease we don’t get anymore.
To nourish your soul you'll need a whole range of emotional, spiritual, and relational stimulation. Such as joy, friendship, sadness, frustration, solitude, fear, overcoming fear, vulnerability, rejection, acceptance, challenge, friendship, love, romance, boredom, just to name a few!