Being bored can be uncomfortable. In a culture that perpetuates hustle and the endless scroll of the digital world, being on means access to the infinite. Infinite opportunities to learn and engage—and simultaneously, infinite opportunities to yield to distractions, compare ourselves to others, and succumb to feelings of isolation.
Digital connection is synonymous with performance. There’s an ever-present urge to portray ourselves in a cool, funny, aloof, cultured, or passionate manner. It’s a human marvel and undoubtedly beautiful thing to be connected to everything in an instant. But it leads us to feel inadequate, and that there’s always something to consume and be aware of. Even offline with our friends, there’s a pressure to be up-to-date on the news, domestically and globally, as well as the latest music, shows, books—and then, of course, the digital discourse that each of these gives birth to.
The stream of conscious intake of information—as routine today as breathing—is undoubtedly taxing. We lose sleep, and we can develop eye problems or carpal tunnel simply by being ‘connected’. Technology can disrupt our emotions, and the ability to process and take inventory of both ourselves and the world around us is becoming more elusive.
And this isn’t anything new. Even before Silicon Valley gargantuans and millennial ‘hustling-is-cool’ culture, humans were told that working hard was the key to wealth, heaven, and happiness. But it’s plausible that this has shifted into overdrive thanks to tools that give us the chance to constantly connect to friends, our workplace, and the world at large.
Making time to pause can be a gateway to creativity, a deeper understanding of an idea and even better, to experience the simplicity of life. What some might consider ‘boredom,’ is actually a tool for well-being. Simply being — with no rhyme, reason or itinerary — can lead to endless artistic movements and lightbulb moments.
Let’s condition ourselves to make pause and reflection routine, and to go one step further, challenge ourselves to make it universally expected.
To make boring cool, we have to lose our ego. We have to be willing, and even proud, to miss out and to learn to embrace saying that we did “nothing today.”
This isn’t to say we should approach our entire world with apathy. It’s just an acknowledgement that we simply cannot thrive, think critically, or be our best selves in a 24/7 informational buffet. As much as self-care now is something we encourage our friends to partake in, we should also advocate for silence and ennui.
We can integrate more moments of pause into our daily dialogue by checking in our friends if they seem to be working too hard. On a Friday, we can encourage our coworkers to take it slow this weekend; they deserve it. But more importantly, this all begins with the dialogue we have with ourselves. We can take inventory of how we’re feeling and set a reminder to recharge and disconnect. One step further, we can acknowledge that rest is a necessary component of any healthy lifestyle, as much as sleeping or eating.
Rest is a necessary component of any healthy lifestyle, as much as sleeping or eating
Unfortunately, the ability to shave off schedules and rest is a privilege in itself. Many simply cannot afford to do nothing—from the obligations of being a mother to the employee juggling multiple jobs. For them, and anyone else just looking for the first step, we can aim to integrate boredom within our daily responsibilities. The grocery store checkout line can become a brief moment reflect on our day. Instead of rolling our eyes at traffic or train delay, we can relish in the pause.
We can also encourage ourselves to be bored by the same reasons that propel us online and to do work: escape. If we can be comfortable with ourselves—our thoughts, fears, curiosities—we can INSCAPE to a world simply for ourselves without the anxiety of performance. Yes, being bored is uncomfortable and frowned upon in a culture of ‘on’, but nothingness propels us forward. This sense of ‘boredom’ is essential to recharging and absorbing and participating in society in a meaningful manner. So, next time somebody asks you what you did last night, simply delight in saying, “nothing.” When your coworker says they did nothing this weekend, say “good for you.”