The inability to be bored

bored

I’m worried about something.

When I’m driving, I glance around and notice that easily half of the people around me are on their phones. Talking, texting, or scrolling through Facebook for all I know.

I go out to eat and see people looking at their phones instead of each other.

Yesterday I was at the gym and two pre-teen siblings were hanging out together on a couch in the lobby, but they weren’t really together. One was scrolling through Instagram, the other was watching videos. They did this for a solid 45 minutes while their parents were off exercising.

I was at the pool and saw two college-aged girls taking pictures of themselves and comparing the number of “likes” they typically get on photos.

I’m worried that the very technology that was meant to connect us is making us more disconnected, in other ways, than any humans that have come before us.

IF I THINK TOO MUCH ABOUT IT, I GET KIND OF SCARED

No joke, it sincerely worries me to think about those pre-teen kids driving cars in a couple of years. How will an entire generation who’s never known anything but technology and the Internet put down their phones long enough to truly pay attention to the road and the people around them?

I was at an event a few months ago and heard something that really shook me. The short story goes that some teenagers were sent to a camp for a week without any access to their cell phones or the Internet, and more than half of them experienced physical symptoms of withdrawal.

Withdrawal. As in, the same thing you’d experience if you were a drug addict.

I’m not trying to be a huge downer. I don’t the relish the idea of depressing you. And I’m not here to bash technology.

In fact, that would be extremely hypocritical, since I’m using a laptop to write this and the Internet to broadcast it to you. I wouldn’t have a livelihood if it weren’t for modern technology. For me and everyone else, there are many amazingly good things about what our connection to technology makes possible.

And besides, any technology is just a tool. It’s inherently neither good nor bad; it’s only how we put it to use that makes it so.

BUT SOMETHING IRONIC IS HAPPENING

I think back to those two pre-teen siblings at the gym, and I realize how totally different my experience was, just 10 or 15 years ago. I’m sure you can relate …

If I was bored as a kid or teen, I had to figure out how to entertain myself. This free space forced me, in a sense, to be creative. It’s in that time that my brother and I would dream up elaborate games, pick up a book and read, walk to a friend’s house, or go play in the woods. (Of course, we could have easily turned the TV on when we were bored. The ability to watch TV hasn’t changed in 10 or 15 years. But thankfully when I was a kid, my mom had restrictions on that.)

Now, you can indulge every waking second with some form of entertainment or stimulation. If you want, you can literally never be bored and never have a moment of free, unencumbered brain space.

Except space is what you need for creativity and originality to thrive. If you’re constantly absorbing other people’s content, you’re not creating space for your own thoughts, ideas, and creativity to percolate.

We’re so attached to our modern advancements that we’re losing our ability to continue advancing … how ironic is that?

STEVE JOBS WOULD AGREE WITH ME

Have you read Essentialism? You really should. It’s quickly become an all-time favorite of mine and Kristen’s.

Anyway, in Essentialism the author, Greg, shares a story about how Steve Jobs used to take off two weeks every year solely so that he could have free space. These weren’t vacations (I’m sure he took those, too). He purposefully did no work for 2 weeks and disconnected from all technology.

Steve knew that to continue having great ideas, and to keep in touch with his vision, he had to turn off the noise, reconnect, and go inward to access his creativity. (I don’t know about you, but I’d say it worked for him and his company.)

I might not have quite the level of authority as someone like Steve Jobs, but I’ve also found this to be true.

TO BE HONEST, I STARE OUT OF A LOT OF WINDOWS

No kidding. At least once a day, you can find me staring out my back window for long stretches of time. (It’s not that creepy. No neighbors can see me.)

And now, since we’re in the midst of summer, I’m going to the pool a few times per week. I lounge, soak up the sun, swim, and read a book. No laptop or phone necessary.

And one of my very favorite things to do, on rare occasions, is a silent retreat. There’s this awesome retreat center near me where you can go for the day, and you must disconnect from all technology and purposefully be entirely silent.

Last time I was there I took a long walk over their extensive (and beautiful) property and sat in a rocking chair on the porch. The warm breeze blew, the sun glinted off the leaves of the trees, and the geese ambled around the pond. It was heaven.

I ALWAYS FEEL SO ENERGIZED, CENTERED, AND INSPIRED AFTERWARD

It’s after a silent retreat when I can create my best content, write my best blogs, or do my best coaching. The same is true after a good meditation or a round of window staring.

Not to sound like a cheesy motivational poster, but when you allow your mind to wander, you create possibilities that may not have existed before.

twitter-birdAllowing your mind to wander (sans technology) gives your creativity space to flow.

So please, let’s look up from our phones.

Let’s have dinner without once reaching for our phone out of habit. 

Let’s stop compulsively scrolling through social media for no reason.

Let’s not lose our ability to connect … with ourselves, nature, and each other. It’s what makes us human.

Let’s embrace boredom. It opens us up to adventure.

Let’s not lose our ability to appreciate the subtle, simple things in life.

And let’s not lose our capacity to create. We’re going to need it.

How do you feel about our relationship with technology? Let me know in the comments!

Much Love,

Rachel (+ Kristen)

5 Comments // ADD COMMENT

5 comments

  • Leah Renter

    Loved Essentialism! Also loved the Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up – it talks about how minimizing clutter in your personal space can influence quality of life.

    • Rachel East

      I have heard SO many people talk about the Life Changing Magic of Tidying up that I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to read it ASAP! I’ve been planning to do a big house-cleaning soon, so I should probably pause and read that first, before I do it totally wrong. 😉

  • Ajah BHJ

    This is all very true, just last year I noticed more cons than pros of technology, more so regarding social media. People have no filter and will say things to you they would never speak out loud to your face. It’s literally brewing self centered egotism. And the more kids and people I talked to that were attached to their phones also had anxiety, social disorders and depression. Not to downplay mental illnesses but I truly believe they are brought through the lack of personal contact on a daily basis, and thus these kids now have no coping skills for life’s hardships. We as humans are social creatures designed for physical interaction with one another.
    Last year I detached from all of my social accounts: MySpace, Facebook, Twitter to name a few. It was hard at first, literally weaning off of doing nothing, but over time not only was I less depressed on any given day, but it also forced me to accept quiet time and be creative once again. I’m now back in school, writing music and playing my instrument with a live band again. It feels good to be involved in life! That and you have to admit, having coffee or driving around aimlessly face to face with a friend is so much more fulfilling than a like!

    • Rachel East

      I’m so excited to hear about your success with detaching from social media … that’s amazing! You’re right, it’s so much better to have coffee or drive around aimlessly than troll the Internet for “likes.” And you’re right about people saying things to you virtually that they’d never say to your face. It’s almost de-humanizing us and lessening our ability to be empathetic. Thanks for setting a good example for other people! I’m sure, whether or not you realize it, that just by living your life without a big attachment to technology, you’ve influenced other people in a positive direction.

  • Duong Hoang

    Amazing article! I totally agree. When we have a free mind, good ideas usually appear. Apart from the effort to overcome boredom, perhaps it is also because we can reach our wise intuition in these moments. I’ll give myself more quiet time in the upcoming days.