Welcome to the era of instant gratification, here to scintillate and excite through a myriad of devices!
Smart phones, those interminable pocket vibrators of virtual contact, pledge immediate worldwide communication. Endless entertainment waits at our fingertips: the infinity of TV channels, Sky+, Netflix, the internet. In a few years 3D digital worlds might replace reality entirely.
The wait between wanting something and achieving it is growing smaller. And with that, boredom is being chipped away too.
People go to great lengths to avoid boredom. A 2014 study found that 42% of students would rather give themselves an electric shock than spend 15 minutes alone without entertainment. One guy gave himself 190 shocks just to give him something to do. Sadomasochism aside, we all want to experience something. If we ever feel the unpleasant horn of the Boredom Rhino, we instinctively shudder away.
But for the cancer survivor, boredom is especially difficult. Spending so long during treatment and recovery means we have less stimulation, we can do much less, and the activities we can do have reduced. Technology as our only entertainment is dull.
Boredom can feel like an illness in itself; a ‘cold in the soul,’ an aged professor once said. We long for the buzz of entertainment, spectacle, and drama. In its absence, boredom is just that: an absence of activity, an absence of intention, tedious in comparison, a waste of time. And the world of technology and instant gratification can’t fill this void. Our smart phones become to embody boredom itself.
So let’s look at it positively for a moment. Sandi Mann, in her book The Upside of Downtime explains that boredom has its uses. Our mind creates imaginative strategies in order to fill empty time. Here are some of Mann’s ideas: