Is Boredom the Answer?

Cross-posted on the PLP blog

My contract with AT&T is up in a few days, and, because of all the dropped calls I seem to have in my house, I swore I would switch back to Verizon as soon as I could. (We don’t have a land line.) I figured I would purchase the Verizon iPhone and simply change services.

But I also recently bought an iPad and carry a monthly data charge for that. So I’ve been wondering…should I carry two devices with data charges? Yes, I know. The iPad is big. Who’s going to pull that out when a smaller phone will do the trick? And I need to be connected all the time, right?

I’m not so sure anymore.  My focus lately has been learning how to balance my time, be more in the moment, and less “on.” My tendency to click, click, click means I don’t pause to reflect as much as I should. And, even more, I don’t allow myself to be bored.

Standing in line at the grocery store, I check email. Waiting for the vet to come back into the office, I pop twitter up to read and respond to the latest. Riding along in the car to Richmond, I click on my iPhone Kindle app and read the next chapter in “The Social Animal” by David Brooks. Like one of Pavlov’s dogs, I am becoming conditioned to respond to the rewards of consuming information wherever and whenever I want it.

In a post on BNET by Laurie Tarkan, Genevieve Bell, the director of interaction and experience research at Intel, said engaging with mobile devices  “is the promise that you’ll never be bored again, you’ll never have to be anywhere without something to do.”

And, yet, there is a downside.

”Boredom is linked to creativity. You have your best thoughts in the shower, when driving, painting fences, and weeding the yard,” she says. Other researchers have stated that boredom is central to learning and creativity.

On the flip side, when you’re constantly consuming information via your devices, you stop processing the information and developing your own ideas. You have less time to think about what you’re consuming. To be effective in most jobs, you need to stop and reflect……

Tarkan lists several ways to be bored, and they make sense. For example, she says “stop being obsessed with doing,” and ”be bored with others.”

But, sadly,  I’m thinking I may need a more disciplined approach, and that may mean letting the iPhone go. It’s not that I don’t find value in all my curating and consuming. I do. But I’m wondering if spending less time with my face in a device will ultimately yield deeper, more reflective thinking and create sharpened connections to what I am learning.

Anticipating some sense of loss, I am trying to prepare for this. And then I think, “Geesh, it’s just a phone!”

Does any of this resonate? Do you allow yourself to be bored?