The Puny Pundit

Musings of a big guy with small thoughts.

Whatever Happened to Boredom?

It may seem silly to some people that a person like me (34 years old) can say with authority, “Back in those days…”  However silly it may be to some, sociologists and anthropologists believe that more changes have happened (cultural, technological, global, etc) in the last 10 years than in the 100 years before that.  With the advancements of technology and entertainment I feel like we have wiped boredom off the face of the earth.

HD television with 1000 channels…I remember the days when my dad would make us go and turn the dial on our big 300lb Zenith television, which had VHF and UHF channels.  What was that about? Back in the day, if there was nothing good on the 5 channels you had (unless you were asian or spanish speaking which meant you had 3 more than the rest on UHF)…you actually turned off the tv till your favorite show came on.  Now there are so many channels it is virtually impossible to find a time slot that doesn’t meet your entertainment needs.

Video games…I remember when video games had one button and were so ghetto we had to make sound effects with our mouths to make it more interesting.  Back in the day, it took us a week to beat a game and be finished with it.  Now games take months to beat with sequels and online experience.

RANDOM THOUGHT: It cracks me up that every kid in the world intuitively knew to blow on their Nintendo games to make it work.  What is even funnier is how all of us knew to not only blow on the game but to insert another game on top of the one we were playing because the springs were loose.  How is it that before the internet ever existed (with its web forums) that we all knew to do this?

Smart Phones…I remember the good old days when phones were used to make phone calls.

Internet…don’t get me started on internet.  I didn’t use email till I was 24 years old!!!  I didn’t need it because I had a beeper!  Lol.

All these things are good.  They really are.  It is amazing what this world has accomplished with technology.  However the downside is that our society has found a way to completely rid our younger generation of boredom.

I don’t want to over-glamorize boredom but it does have its benefits.  Creativity.  Resourcefulness. Reflection and introspection.  All of these are almost forced on you when you are bored.  There were so many times during the summer months, my brother and I would be home with nothing to do.  A typical summer day was waking up and playing video games, get into a fight, snack, play basketball, fight again, swim, fight again and then wait for lunch time.

We had to make up games because we were so bored.  We took coins and flicked them against the wall and saw who could get it the closest.  We made paper footballs and flicked them on the table and flicking them to kick field goals.  This btw is soooo dangerous.  If it weren’t for the fact that my eyes are so small I would have damaged them.

We were so bored once, we made WWF Championship belts out of cardboard and aluminum foil using sharpies to color them in.  We role played with our tae-kwon-do outfits pretending to be ninjas…kind of funny when you have two fat kids trying to be inconspicuous in bright white outfits.

Anyways…my point is that I worry about my kids.  For me and my wife starting a church was the hardest thing we have ever done.  In the beginning there was no paycheck, no members, and no guarantee that people will show up.  It looks and feels like a cult when you first start out.  However hard starting a church was, for me and my wife two things emerged that helped us along the way: (i) creativity and (ii) resourcefulness.  I believe in my heart that we possessed the necessary amounts of these two attributes because we grew up in a time where the virtue of boredom actually existed.

How are we as parents going to instill these things in our kids when the single greatest tool (boredom) no longer exists in our arsenal?  Of course you can get rid of tv and video games, but I think it will take more than that.  Hopefully my wife and I will be able to figure it out before it is too late.


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5 Responses

  1. Julie says:

    Boredom happens to be something I treasure highly. I make my kids “go outside and play” everyday, and I love snooping on them talking to themselves about some adventure they’re having in their heads or another. Only thing is, they can only play in the backyard unsupervised, which was not the case when I was a kid. Oh well, it only serves to increase the boredom.

    If they give me the sulky face about it being boring, there is a whole laundry list of chores they can help me with instead, which usually motivates them to run outside. Sometimes they choose the chores. Then we can save the TV watching for the evenings.

    One “kids these days” gripe I have is with 1000 TV channels, several dozen of them completely directed at them AND on-demand streaming content, kids still say “there’s nothing good on TV.” And usually they’re right!

    • thepunypundit says:

      i love the chores idea. we will definitely try that one. also the tv thing is so true. the wife has a very strict list of shows they are allowed to watch and that list is not long.

  2. patrick says:

    Great post. I wonder whether there really is much to fear here, though. While everyone would probably agree that our culture is overstimulated or oversaturated with information/entertainment, I don’t think that implies an end to boredom. Boredom, like poverty, will always be with us.

    But I think I share your concerns about how to foster creativity, inventiveness and thoughtfulness in children in the midst of a debased culture. I don’t have kids so I can only speculate, but I think finding ways to teach kids how to think (rather than what to think) and to recognize the limitations in our knowledge would go a long way. Anything that can give kids the tools to examine ideas (or the absence of ideas) will help.

  3. jane yi says:

    this is a great post p alex
    ive been thinking about technology a lot but more in lines with facebook/twitter/blogging..
    so many of us have no patience to even read a blog anymore, let alone to journal ourselves or read books or sit and let something marinate in our thoughts and meditate..
    we want the 1 line updates on peoples’ lives and see the snapshots in their photos and say happy bday on their wall and the idea of intimate relationships and genuine communication is distorted..
    there is much more to this, and i think this is something we should def take the time to speak more about, esp to the next generation..

  4. Cut the cable..put the TV away. We allowed no television when the kids were little. Occasionally, we’d watch the great classic movies (and they’ve all grown up with a love for them) together as a family. When they got a bit older, they could ‘earn’ time to watch a show or something.

    Oh, yes, there were battles, and it was hard work for me (my husband was in medical training, working 120 hours/week). They wanted to be ‘normal’. But the precious home movies we have from those days are full of personality, creativity, resourcefulness, problem-solving..and “negotiation techniques”! Now, each one of our 5 kids (ranging in age from 20 – 36) treasure our discipline in keeping television out of their early lives. They know they are so much better for it for all the reasons you mention. They’re best friends, share dynamic memories, and all developed a love of books, art, music, “construction”, and a myriad of other hands-on skills.

    It’s hard work. It’s radical in this day and age. But the trade-off is so worth it!

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