3/7/20191

Boredom

I started writing something about possibly moving back to iPhone from Android after only a year this time - I tend to switch between them every 2-3 years. In doing so, I began to list the reasons (or maybe justifications) for why I was thinking about it.

I wrote about the problems Huawei have been experiencing (although it looks like they've got at least a partial reprieve) and that I couldn't see any Android phone this year being a sufficient upgrade over the Mate 20 Pro.

I discussed how the keynote speech at this year's WWDC had gotten me excited about the new features coming in iOS13 and that, while Apple were sometimes behind Android OEMs on hardware, they did software with aplomb and the three camera setup on the next iPhone would help to redress the imbalance.

I mentioned my return to blogging and how, now that I am using my Mac more and Drafts is available for said Mac, it made more sense to return to a single ecosystem to better sync between devices.

But then I started writing how I like to freshen things up and the truth hit me: I switch because I get bored.

I've always had a very low boredom threshold but it doesn't stop at just gadgets; it's a problem that extends throughout various aspects of my life.

Experts will tell you there are five types of boredom:

  • indifferent
  • calibrating
  • searching
  • reactant
  • apathetic

Indifferent boredom is as its name suggests, the person is nonchalant about their environment and seems relaxed.

Calibrating boredom is slightly negative with wandering thoughts and an openness to things that will reduce the boredom.

Searching boredom is more negative where the person is actively looking for ways out of the bored mindset rather than just being open to them.

Reactant boredom gets worse still with the person being restless and having a strong desire to escape their situation and those responsible for it.

Finally, apathetic boredom results in feelings of helplessness or even depression with the person lacking in the desire to do something about it.

Short vs long

I've always thought of boredom being either short term or long term. Short-term boredom is fairly benign, from the above list it would probably span indifferent and calibrating.

Short-term boredom can be good for us; studies show that getting bored can be a gateway to productivity and creativity. Undertaking mind-numbing, repetitive tasks can help or just letting your thoughts wander can lead to the formation of ideas that may never occur from conscious thought. Daydreaming can also be a good respite from the normal stresses of every day life.

Long-term boredom, however, is a problem - something that deepens and festers, progresses on a sliding scale, I'd say, from searching to apathetic. It takes its toll.

We may start searching for a way out of a rut but, the longer it persists, the worse we feel until, as apathy takes hold, you just can't see a way out. Then it becomes increasingly destructive.

I said I wanted to explore the reasons for my depression and realise that long-term, destructive boredom is just one but, nevertheless, a major factor. I often experience reactant boredom but cross over into full-blown apathetic boredom in my worst periods; it is during these times that I become insular, shutting myself off as I struggle to see any light at the end of the tunnel.

It can be incredibly scary realising you are standing on the edge, about to slide over and there is nothing (you feel) you can do about it. And that's key, the feeling of helplessness, of an inability to take action.

Nietzsche's immortal aphorism "if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you" has never seemed more apt.

He cautioned that one who fights monsters should ensure they don't become one. Staring into the abyss of boredom induced depression creates a mirror that reflects your state, amplifies it, forces you to face what you perceive as the monster within yourself.

Boredom