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THE SPECTATOR

The Student News Site of Berkley High School

THE SPECTATOR

The Student News Site of Berkley High School

THE SPECTATOR

Understanding the Power of Boredom in the Digital Age

Oxford Languages defines boredom as the state of feeling weary because one is unoccupied or lacks interest in one’s current activity.

Although this is categorically a bad feeling, the ways in which we responded to boredom as kids evokes nostalgia. Boredom left us with no choice but to start a lemonade stand, choreograph a dance, decorate the sidewalk with chalk, and play with neighbors in our lawns.

This response to boredom, though, seems to resonate less and less with the current day and age. The 21st century is the digital age, meaning that everything has become available on an online forum. Phones not only enable communication between people digitally—whether that be through call, facetime, text, Snapchat—but also entertainment—such as Instagram, TikTok, and apps of every game imaginable. Put simply, daily life is filled with a multitude of screens, from TVs to computers to phones, which serve as entertainers, time-occupiers, and distractors. Endless amounts of information and amusement are at our fingertips, readily available 24/7/365. Free time is increasingly filled with ceaseless scrolling on social media and gaming. We are no longer living in our boredom or finding creative solutions, like a lemonade stand, to fill our time.

Subsequently, it is this fact that illustrates how people’s lives are decreasingly filled with boredom. Our brain’s are being constantly stimulated, leaving no time to sit in an idle, bored state. Or, conversely, as Mayo Clinic Health puts it, people overcome boredom through the avenue of electronics. They state that “many people spend hours on electronics” because “it’s easy not to feel the passage of time while scrolling TikTok or watching YouTube.” The digital age has, in a sense, made the act of living in the state of boredom obsolete.

While it is satisfying for people to have this easy and permanent solution, Mayo Clinic explains that this is not necessarily a positive: “For all that time spent, people don’t necessarily feel refreshed. Rather, most people experience greater fatigue.” Mayo Clinic goes on to explain the reason behind this greater fatigue; during an intense activity, your brain exerts a lot of energy, and when the activity is finished your brain has a chance to return to a default state. This default state is like a resting state, which allows your brain time to restore. During this time, “Several interconnected brain regions are active during this time. These regions seem to act in unison as a connected network. This is referred to as the default mode network.” This network enables many important functions to occur: the brain is “consolidating memories and reflecting on lessons learned. The brain plays through scenarios and applies what was learned and how it could be used in the future. People spend time thinking about themselves and others. They reminisce about the past and daydream about the future.” Further, education scientists know that our memory consists of encoding, storing, and retrieving information. If we are not spending time in this default state, encoding the information we learned in the day, it is easy to wonder if our memory strength will be impacted.

By constantly turning to screens to cope with boredom, our brain is not given time to be in this free default state. Phones direct and influence people’s thoughts, and therefore reflections, which means people’s brains are decreasingly thinking by themselves. This is harmful, as an unguided default mode is crucial for making sense of days and experiences. By ceaselessly overwhelming our senses and decreasingly allotting time for mindfulness, reflection, and relaxation, it is no wonder anxiety has increased in our generation.

Boredom is beneficial in another aspect, too. Fatherly cites a 2019 study done by an Australian research team that found that boredom can lead to creativity. “They found that people who completed a boring task (sorting beans) were more creative and productive in idea generating activities than participants who completed an engaging task (coming up with excuses for being late).” Fatherly cites another study conducted in 2012, which found that a wandering mind—which occurs during an undemanding task—can aid a person to think of more evolved and creative solutions to problems.

Although it is instinctual to respond to boredom by turning to screens, boredom itself is actually a very beneficial state to remain in, even if it doesn’t feel fun. Boredom promotes problem solving, and reflection and understanding of our world. Moreover, responding to boredom with activities other than technology, we are enhancing our creativity.

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About the Contributor
Aria Dwoskin, Editor-in-Chief
Hi! I am Aria Dwoskin, and this year I am the Editor-in-Chief of the Berkley Spectator! I am a senior, and this is my fourth year on The Spectator.  I joined Journalism because I love writing, and love collaborating with an amazing team to create important articles! I enjoy writing about news and politics. When I’m not writing, I am usually playing tennis or reading. I’m so excited to grow as a writer and an editor this year! And most importantly, my favorite donut cutter donut is strawberry frosted with sprinkles (obviously).

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