General Question

aaronou's avatar

What is boredom?

Asked by aaronou (735points) July 22nd, 2008

Arthur Schopenhauer said that boredom is the very evidence that life is meaningless. He says once we meet all our needs, boredom sets in and reminds us that there is no true value in existing. Others have argued that boredom is a natural consequence of seeking happiness and contentment. Thus, if we are bored, it is merely because we are discontent but should hope to be engaged in finding content again. So really, I just want to know, what is boredom? Is it a precursor to addiction? Is it bad? Is it good? Is it neutral? What’s really going on when someone is bored? Any and all thoughts related are appreciated.

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21 Answers

wildflower's avatar

Boredom is…....
– The inspiration for this question, perhaps
– An opposite to excitement
– Necessary to appreciate times of engagement and excitement
– A natural plateau following periods of increased activity
– Part of life (just not too big a part)

syz's avatar

Hmmm, perhaps boredom is a sign of an unimaginative mind.

robmizelldotcom's avatar

Boredom is the opposite of happiness. Also, only boring people are ever bored.

generalspecific's avatar

I agree with syz completely. when someone tells me they’re bored, I tell them they’re not trying hard enough to be unbored. There’s always SOMETHING you can find to do. If you’re really so bored.. volunteer at some kind of animal shelter or something like that. You won’t be sitting around doing nothing with your life, you’ll get to meet new people, learn all sorts of stuff, and you might even like it.
I always say I’m not boring enough to be bored.

marinelife's avatar

Boredom is a usually a follow on to self pity or laziness. The person who is bored has usually limited their circle of acceptable things to do to just a few people or activities. They are also relying on those outside things to distract them, They are drifting through their own life.

If you are bored, you should take stock of your life. Bored at work? Maybe you are underemployed. Bored at home? Start a new project. Write something. Set some goals. As generalspecific said, volunteer.

Mangus's avatar

What I always tell my kids: an internal condition.

MacBean's avatar

I agree with everyone expressing the “If you’re bored, then you’re boring” sentiment. I can’t wrap my head around boredom. Even if there’s nothing to actually do at any given moment, think about something. That should keep you entertained.

wildflower's avatar

Damn! I must be the most boring person on the planet! I get bored with things as soon as they stop challenging me. Whether it’s a job, place, hobby or person.

loser's avatar

maybe boredom is relative to an individuals need to be challenged?

susanc's avatar

I’ve noticed over the years that we get bored when we’re being lied to.
In this sense, boredom can be a signal, a type of pain
which (like other types of pain) alerts us that something is out of whack. Maybe in the case of people who aren’t busy enough, it’s a signal that we’re lying to ourselves about what satisfies us – “relaxation”, “freedom” “time to
ourselves” are supposed to make us happy but what
interests us us most profoundly is real engagement. See above.

wildflower's avatar

Am I seriously the only one that doesn’t think of boredom as a decease?
I get bored with routine, repetitiveness and predictability, but that doesn’t mean I should only ever stay in a job until I learn how to do it. Or be around people until I know them.
Just because something isn’t exciting, challenging or unknown, doesn’t make it bad. It just means you don’t focus your attention on it as much.
I for one don’t want to be so sensationalistic that I keep jumping from thrill to thrill. You shift your attention and things change. Something that’s boring to me now might not be in a months time.

nina's avatar

There is a continuum in human experinece:
Boredom——————Happy Engagement—————————-Anxiety
So, to me, ‘I am bored’ means ‘I am not engaged enough’ The remedy for this condition is a little cheat-sheet of things to do when bored: read, think, email, clean house, phone a friend on the phone. The most important of such activities is to be able to think inside your head without displaying your thoughts or showing that you are distracted. This works well if you are waiting in line or are in a mandatory BORING meeting.
The difficult spots are when you are doing something that requires your full attention but does not engage you: like keeping up with a conversation that does not interest you, taking care of a small child who is amusing for just so long. You get the idea…
Anxiety sets in where you are not up to the challenge of the activity you are doing – and that is a whole separate topic on which I will ask a question.

wildflower's avatar

So the moral of the story is you must be fully engaged at all times? Keep piling on the activities until you can’t remember what boredom (or your name, for that matter) is?
Whatever happened to stopping to smell the roses, listening to birds singing, etc? They may not be a rollercoaster ride, but they’re nice!
When you’re bored, your brain has finally caught up with your activities. I think that’s needed from time to time.

nina's avatar

But you see, when you are smelling the roses and listening to the birds – you ARE engaged.

wildflower's avatar

Not always. There’s no better place to lay back and switch off your brain than at the top of a cliff, hearing the waves, the birds and smelling the flowers. You gradually go from interested, to relaxed to lazy/bored. Personally, I’d stay in that mode for a while before chasing after the next big thing.

loser's avatar

I agree! Sometimes my favorite thing to do is just stare. It doesn’t mean I’m bored though…

Mangus's avatar

Seems like there are a number of definitions of boredom being used. When I think of boredom, I don’t think of the transitional state of “I’m not being challenged enough here, so maybe I should do something about it”.

Instead, I think of the state that causes both children and adults to complain “this is boring” or “I’m bored, what should I do” or “I’m bored, do something to help me”. That state, in a person, young or old, drives me nuts. It’s internal. So, the external complaint or request for help is evidence of something not being right. Either the person has been trained to be entertained by external stimuli, or they just lack the willpower to take a few steps to make themselves happy or enjoy themselves.

wildflower's avatar

I wonder, with that definition of being bored, would you respond the same way to “I’m scared”, “I’m sad”, “this is painful”? After all, fear, sadness and (emotional) pain are also internal conditions.

One last thing on boredom: when I’m bored, my mind drifts, and this is often the time I get my most interesting, original and creative ideas, because my mind isn’t preoccupied – or engaged – elsewhere.

Mangus's avatar

Good point, wildflower. The difference is that most times, people talk about it like it isn’t internal. “This place is boring” or “These people are boring”. In my opinion, the focus is mis-directed in those situations.

I’m not saying that it’s less important, because it’s internal. Just that it should be recognized as-such, as a first step to moving forward.

luzelle's avatar

I think so boring is a feeling——that we could feel that we are not in denial of one self——it is real—but we have to overcome it in reality that we live in this world——the world that no one can satisfy us…..not unless we do something in our mind to focus to the eternal things that we all have——the peace in our heart that we all——TO BE SAVE from those feelings——and alive and focus to the iternal——which is OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS.

syz's avatar

Seriously? Seriously?!?

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