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!
Daydreaming – my favorite sport, and I’m got at it!
I know that is “good at it” – and that’s great! xo
Interesting post Katy! I’m fascinated by our relationship to technology and it will be interesting to see how this relationship changes over time. I do worry about children today that never get to experience the joy of boredom.
Thank you for this thoughtful comment Michelle! Some interesting stuff being written about this issue now, often by creative people who recognize the value of boredom and worry about how easy it is to hand over a device instead of allowing the discomfort of fuguring out what to do.
I recently watched LB, who only gets devices on airplanes, pass through the bored stage to a patch of imaginative play by herself. Joy to see!
“I ❤ My iPhone"
Either I have a lot of catching up to do or I was already halfway into daydreaming when Galaxy announced the arrival of this edition. I glanced at the title and read "I am less than three of my iphones"
When I realized my mistake…lol
I ❤ your blog, Katy 🙂
Oh that’s great – I probably AM less than three of my iPhones! And I ❤ that you like my blog Kim – thank you!
I think I’m guilty of compulsive “just having a peek” at my phone, or madly tapping out texts, etc. Would definitely be a good habit to change. But what really bugs me about seeing people (and I include myself here) tuning out the world around them is not that they aren’t getting a chance to be bored, but that they (and me too) aren’t paying attention. The times when I can let my mind wander – taking a long walk, doing yoga, sitting in the car waiting for my husband to get a soft serve at Micky D’s, lying in bed on a cold morning and not wanting to get up – are when I start to think about ways to pay attention. This sounds like an interesting project. Thanks Katy. It will be interesting to know how the seven days change your relationship to technology.
I am already a little anxious when I walk by my phone issuing it’s siren song, even when quietly and blankly sitting there. Will be interesting!