How often we start checking mail when we are not busy only to keep busy? Or rush to twitter, facebook, or some other social media site and start posting messages? We certainly like doing such things but what do gain? The only thing we gain is escape from boredom, and nothing else.
There are certainly situations when we must respond to mails or send messages. But studies show that we indulge in such activities just to keep busy and avoid boredom. In fact, we engage in many things because we just “can’t sit quiet.” This is the typical lifestyle of people living in this digital world: it does not allow you to “rest in peace” and wants you to be “always busy”.
The “Always Busy” Syndrome
Doing something every minute’ may be a gesture of despair – or the height of a battle against boredom.” — B. F. Skinner
For some reason people want to be “always busy”, as if being not busy even for few moments is a crime. For many it is almost an obsession and they have mastered the fine art of being always busy (gone are the good-old-days of nail biting or taking afternoon nap; now you “chat”, “tweet” or send messages to online friends). Don’t ask them what the purpose is; being busy is the sacred purpose (else the monster called “boredom” will come and get you). So scary is the monster called Boredom!!
When I look around carefully I find that people in the modern society cannot stand three things: pain, bad dreams, and boredom. They will do anything to avoid facing them. I can understand that pain is painful and the monsters of the nightmare can give hellish experience so people avoid them. But what I really don’t understand is why something innocent like boredom (when you have to do “nothing”) can be so threatening that we start talking of being “bored to death”. I really wonder why the thought of “doing nothing” can send people running for their life. I can easily understand why labor camps are notorious because people are made to work like slaves.
Boredom Redefined – It is simply Lack of Pleasure
In today’s world where every aspect of human life is invaded by high technology and digital tools, boredom has come to mean “absence of pleasure”. The easy thrills that come from social media sites, emails, cell phones, ipods is so absorbing that even a few minutes without them seems killing – this empty space is called boredom these days. When we get tired of digital entertainment we have other options to get “quick high” in the form of shopping, eating something (called “boredom eating”), or buying the latest cell phone model. These are wonderful ways to lead a life of addiction to trivialities; in real terms, it implies a “thrill followed by gloom” trap.
But Life is Still Empty
As it happens with any addiction, the “highs” do not last long and we crash back to our base-level only to face the emptiness we have been trying to avoid as boredom. The longer we remain trapped in the world of quick thrills the harder it becomes to come out of it. Actually, it turns the mind into an undisciplined bully. It starts demanding excitements more frequently and goes into depression whenever the dose of excitement is delayed or missing. Don’t be surprised if experts give you innovative labels to this “mental disease”. Whether the labels will cure this “illness” is unclear but for sure we are left more miserable and confused than before.
Need Mental Discipline
Boredom is a reminder that your mind wants excitement because we have trained it that way by an undisciplined lifestyle.
Boredom is just another side effect of the modern digital lifestyle: we equate the pleasure of thrills and amusements with happiness, which actually has nothing to do with how high or low you feel. It is a wrong notion that we must be excited all the time in order to be happy.
Happiness is an internal stuff; it has more to do with the way of being – it is a mental state of contentment and satisfaction with what we have; not the other way around. Boredom inherently implies dissatisfaction with what we have and a craving for what we do not possess. Basically we crave for a change in order to feel better. We have to realize that craving is the problem. There is no other problem.
The only way to handle craving is by injecting elements of discipline in the life and come out of the I-will-do-what-excites-me attitude. We need to train to do things that are important rather than what we like to do. Doing things just to keep busy is a bad habit. This is a lesson we need to write with stone on our mind. Besides, it is also bad time management that lowers our productivity.
Once you have developed some mental discipline, you will easily understand why boredom is an opportunity.