People don't know how to be bored (see also, the incurious)

posted by Jeff | Monday, July 1, 2024, 11:42 PM | comments: 0

A few days ago, I wrote about the incurious, and the danger that a lack of curiosity causes. But something else has been coming into focus lately. I've been frustrated for years with the direction that music has gone, or more specifically, the curation and discovery of music. Everyone knows how annoyed that I am by the devaluing of all kinds of creative work, including Internet community and journalism. The quality bar for literally everything, including politicians, apparently, has reached a serious low. Both sides of the equation are the problem. A lot of makers and artists are not willing to learn crafts, like music, or journalism. The people who consume works are so overwhelmed and overloaded by continuous scrolling that they never have an opportunity to be bored.

I started to really notice the problem with Simon. On a longer car ride, he doesn't see any of the drive. If we're informally having an ad hoc meal, the first question from him is whether or not he can take the food to his computer or watch TV (most of the time, no). While he isn't allowed to have social media yet, like many kids, he grew up with an iPad. Sure, we emphasized educational and developmentally appropriate apps, but I'm not sure if that did him any favors.

But go literally anywhere in public where people have a still moment, and they're heads down. On the train, waiting for airplanes, queueing for theme park attractions, etc., people tend to be mindlessly scrolling or swiping games at worst, unwilling to unplug at best. This behavior isn't hurting anyone, but it does suck when it continues while someone is trying to interact with them, at Chipotle or the ticket counter or whatever.

I'm trying not to come off as a hater, because I think a lot of this is just environmental. What I wonder is whether or not it will change. I've reached a point now where the algorithms offer very little to me. The "social" part of social media is largely dead, and on Facebook I'm seeing at best a dozen friends (out of 500) showing up. Instagram shows more friends, but it's still an awful lot of cats. YouTube will recommend something now and then, but mostly I'm seeing subscriptions to science stuff and late night TV.

So I'm actually bored with all of that. Honestly, I think that I need that boredom, because for all of the making and creative things I've done the last few years, I can't seem to engage with it this year. I haven't cut my movie, I'm not writing any significant amount of code and I'm not spending much time learning the lighting stuff. I tell myself that it's because work uses a lot of my brain capacity, but I don't think that's it. Diana beats herself up over spending little time in her sewing room, so maybe together we're just not getting the opportunity to be bored.

My advice to others is the advice I'm giving myself. Look at what is occupying your time, and if much of it is low quality, ephemeral time wasting, maybe you need to cut back on that. See what the resulting boredom will yield.


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