Constant Connectedness Bores us
How being always on is eroding our ability to be present
Most of us carry the internet in our pocket, we are constantly connected to one another via social media, but some of us still report being bored.
How is this even possible?
In some cases, it seems that tech privilege hasn’t eradicated boredom but exacerbated it instead. Despite having a treasure trove of interestingness and discovery at our fingertips, we still get weary and restless.
Endless choice may have something to do with it.
Now that we can access whatever educational and entertainment content we could ever wish for, many of us get overwhelmed. For example, we while away hours scrolling mindlessly through lists of movies and TV shows without being able to decide what to watch. Before we know it, the leisure time we had set aside to recharge and relax after a long day at work has vanished, we’ve done nothing with it, and it’s already time to go to sleep
And so off to bed we trudge, frustrated, bored, and often a little annoyed at having allowed tech to gobble up yet another too short evening.
Many of us approach social media the same way; instead of using it selectively, we allow our brain to feast upon whatever is put in front of our eyes without discernment or discrimination.
Whether it adds value to our life doesn’t even come into it; it’s there so we dive in gleefully and soak it all up without engaging our critical faculties.
Eyeballs are the currency of the internet and attention merchants will go to any length to hijack them.
For example, notifications are a tool that keeps us hooked on platforms where we spectate the lives of others while forgetting to live our own.
Self-worth is no longer intrinsic but engagement-dependent; we yearn for and have become addicted to daily positive reinforcement. This means many of us are outsourcing the essential work of self-awareness to random strangers online rather than looking inward.
In turn, this affects our ability to forge deep, meaningful bonds with one another because we no longer know who we are: We’re waiting for others to tell us. Out of convenience and laziness, we’re becoming passengers in our own lives rather than the pilots we were always designed to be.
And we feel helpless, lost, and bored whenever we don’t receive our daily dose of praise and appreciation for being ourselves.
If the above isn’t dystopian enough, our insatiable hunger for attention has led to myriad other bizarre behaviors. Chief among them is the compulsion to aggressively brand and market ourselves as if we were commodities on a shelf, complete with tagline.
To get our validation fix and feed our ego, some of us have taken to pawning both our privacy, our humanity, and that of others on occasion.
Nothing is off limits anymore, not even the contents of our pants.
Much like television before it, passivity is what the internet does best.
The difference is that, unlike TV, the internet has democratized access to knowledge so we can choose to use it for our personal edification. Not only is the internet a formidable instrument of education and connection but it also has the power to dispel all societal ills.
Now that self-expression is within everyone’s reach, stigma should already be history as there’s no excuse to be ignorant anymore about the daily reality of those who aren’t us.
Nevertheless, solipsism abounds and thrives in echo chambers.
Many of us naturally seek people like us because they are the ones who massage our ego and make us feel good. We don’t go toward those who are different; we’re getting increasingly uncurious about others in particular and life in general.
Therein lies the reason for our endemic boredom. We are so overstimulated by tech that we’re losing the ability to pay attention to the present moment.
How many of us can have a conversation face to face without checking the smartphone that never leaves our hand several times? We are permanently distracted, split between our online and offline incarnations and never fully ourselves in either dimension.
We don’t even know how to read anymore; we scan copy instead of focusing intently. This affects our comprehension skills and hinders how we communicate, too. Regardless of whether copy is written in clear and accessible language, we often don’t understand what we’ve read because we skipped ahead but we certainly haven’t lost the unfortunate habit of assuming we know more than we do.
Why let facts stand in the way of expressing our opinions?
We’re absorbing more content than ever but getting dumber, not smarter.
Cue the listicle, a format often billed as bite-size inspiration, the catnip of bored people looking for a quick fix.
And we can never get enough inspirational listicles because they take the sting out of intellectual labor by providing us with a step-by-step recipe for life. But we never get to find out whether it works or not because our grasshopper mind is already onto the next shiny thing.
As a result, we’re losing the ability to recall what we’ve read and seen and heard; we’re floating aimlessly in a moment we’re become quite incapable of inhabiting.
Now is all we’ll ever have. Being fully present and paying attention to the present moment by engaging all our senses is the quickest way to eradicate boredom for good.
Here’s a practical idea: Why not go hug someone with attention, linger in that hug for as long as you both can, and observe what happens when two humans share a moment with intent?
Mindfulness is the antidote to boredom, and a hug is an excellent reminder of how to practice it while reconnecting with a fellow human.
I’m a French-American writer, journalist, and editor living out of a suitcase in transit between North America and Europe. To continue the conversation, follow the bird. For email and everything else, deets in bio.