When it dawned on Manoush Zomorodi from “New Tech City” (WNYC’s technology show) that she had never been bored since getting a smart phone, she got curious.
To investigate what’s lost by banishing boredom, Zomorodi spoke to the U.K. psychologist Sandi Mann, who deliberately bores people in her experiments. Mann finds that after 20 minutes of true boredom, participants think up more imaginative solutions to a set task (what to do with two paper cups). Mann concludes that “idle minds lead to reflective, often creative thoughts.” She says, “minds need to wander to reach their full potential,” and encourages “embracing boredom” to allow the resultant dip into the subconscious we know as daydreaming.
The neuroscientist Jonathan Smallwood studies daydreaming, and told Zomorodi he defines it as the “ability to think independently of our surroundings,” a time “when the brain self-generates thoughts that do not arise from perception.” Other scientists call it “the default mental state of the human mind.”
Zomorodi also found this photo essay produced by The Atlantic with pictures of people from all over the world with their phones. I was teary and grateful for cell phones by the end, and somewhat unsettled. They’re everywhere and important.
And I’m a little leery of daydreaming because voices echo about “wasting time.” The scientists above would disagree, they encourage real daydreaming.
So I am curious about the challenge Zomrodi designed for us on Tech Nation: “Brilliant and Bored: The Lost Art of Spacing Out,” to run from the first of February to the sixth. She invites anyone to sign up to participate and receive daily inspiration for changing a relationship to technology (specifically the smart phone). Of course, a free app will measure phone usage.
I am curious about this. I always look for ways to encourage creativity, and although my numbers of views per day aren’t what Zomorodi talks about – hundreds for some people – I could rearrange my phone checking in the name of research. (Candy Crush doesn’t tempt me, but Instagram is a huge lure.)
For a week in February it will be fun to have company in this experiment – I’m signing up!