I remember reading a proposition in some book that boredom might be an explanation for why some people commit horrible crimes. The idea is, the human mind is designed to want to do productive things; this is why boredom is generally a negative feeling, often leading to depression, lonliness, etc. So anyway, when a person has nothing to do, no friendships to maintain, no artistic skills to refine, and no desire for such things as exercise, the mind starts getting desperate, grasping for things to do that will give the person a sense of accomplishment, and leave a mark on the world. When no constructive options seem to be available, destructive acts start to look more interesting. This certainly doesn't mean that all people who do bad things were simply bored at the time, but when I think about it, I can see how even normally decent people could start engaging in anti-social behavior given enough time with nothing to do.

In fact, I've done all kinds of bad things due to boredom. I've re-taken up smoking clove cigarettes, for example. I bought this pack a few days after my 18th birthday, telling myself I was doing it "because I could", but it was really just because the walk downtown and back would kill a couple hours, and having a smoke is one of the best motivations I have for getting myself out of the room. Each time before I go to smoke, I stare at the pack for a couple minutes, and go over the various reasons why I shouldn't smoke: it's bad for my lungs, it doesn't really give me that good of a buzz, it makes me smell bad, I'll have to spend five minutes brushing my teeth after I get back, I have a shitload of homework I ought to do right now, and there are a few people who live on campus that would think much less of me if they saw me smoking. But every time, I end the argument in my head by simply figuring, "well, shit, I don't have anything better to do."

Just about anything destructive I've ever done can be traced to boredom: breaking ceramics, cutting myself, putting cigarette burns on my shoulder, destroying a book loaned to me by a girl I used to like... nothing real bad, because I don't have the kind of personality that allows me to do bad things to other people, but all induced by not having anything to do. Probably much worse is the way I tend to force myself into a negative state of mind by listening to depressing music, writing bad poetry, and thinking about how shitty everything is. Keep in mind, this is all after I've gotten unbelievably sick of the standard ways of dealing with boredom:

Of course, by far the worst thing I do while bored is watching hour after hour of inane, mind-numbing television shows.
"Mmm.... incapacitating..."

Anyway, the moral is, if you're bored, do something, or you'll probably start doing things you really don't want to be doing. If you still find yourself sitting on your ass with nothing to do even after spend a few hours of noding, take up an instrument, or drawing, or lifting weights, whatever, even if you suck at it and it seems stupid at first. Looking back at my freshman year, if I'd spent half the time I wasted collecting mp3's on something like learning to juggle, I could probably be cascading four of them at once by now. But instead, I've accomplished next nothing in the past 12 months besides clogging up my hard drive, and building up my tolerance for weed.

Boredom is meditation gone wrong. Boredom is a state of mind. The mind is silent and still; not due to practice and desire, but from lack of stimuli. Stillness is acquired by no having reason to move. Peace which I believe to by the goal of mediation is obtained only when one falls asleep. Boredom should be avoided if at all possible. When boredom can not be avioded it should be utilized. I try to read a book I don’t think I am going to like much. I have nothing to do any ways might as well try something new. I am sure you can come up with you own way(s) to utilize boredom.

A few days ago, my family went camping with some family friends. They have two small children. Now, these children are never bored. Their mother sees to that. If there is ever a moment in the day that isn't action-packed, she will tell them, "Go play (insert game here)", or, "Now we're going to watch a movie." I find this kind of sad. You see, these children will never have to fight boredom, which means that their imaginations will never truly run free.

A friend of mine and I lived at the very end of the longest bus route in our school district. Since our bus ride was an hour and a half long, and since first-graders have short attention spans, we got bored all the time. That is, until one day, we thought, "Being bored sucks. Let's use our imaginations to find a way to not be bored." So we made a game called "Space Adventures". Essentially, we pretended that we were on a spaceship, and I would describe to Jory what I was doing. He then told me how he reacted to my actions, and I responded. We had all kinds of crazy adventures, and so it came to pass that I was introduced to RPing at a very early age. It was so much fun, we played Space Adventures for years. In fact, even when we were way too old to be playing spaceman, we still did it. And it all dates back to the boredom of the bus in first grade.

Children need to experience boredom. If a kid just watches a video whenever there isn't anything exciting to do, then that kid won't ever think of fun ways to play on their own. I know kids are perfectly capable of amusing themselves on their own. When the school bus runs into a snowdrift and is stuck for 5 hours, your children will need to know how to fight boredom on their own. And they will never do that if their parents never give them the chance. Yes, boredom sucks. But the resulting thoughts it brings can last a lifetime.

Yes, my bus really did run into the snow. You know what we did? We played hide-and-seek. Hide-and-seek on a school bus isn't that much fun, but it took our minds off of the boredom. And the numbing cold.

What not to do when you're bored
You are going to get bored sometimes.  You can learn to successfully distract yourself from the boredom as soon as you identify its presence, but there will always be times when you find you are just too lazy to find something entertaining to do, and nothing and no one at hand inspires or appeals to you.  It's human nature.  Maybe you can change your diet to do something about it.  Maybe there are some strange people out there who just never get bored (and maybe there is an invisible pink unicorn).  But you, Mr. or Ms. Average Person, are going to get bored sometimes.  Which means that there is a certain piece of wisdom about social dynamics that you should learn now if you haven't already:
Never, under any circumstances, talk about being bored.
This means that the following expressions are verboten, off-limits, interdicted, and right out when speaking aloud somewhere anyone else can hear you or recording in any written medium which might ever be chanced upon by another human, unless you are directly quoting another person or character:

  • "I am bored."
  • "I'm bored as shit/fuck."
  • "My dear chap, it seems I am suddenly overcome by a quite pernicious case of ennui!"
The reason for this interdict is quite simple.  Indeed, Harvey Danger has already put it more plainly than anyone else could ever hope to do again:
"If you're bored, then you're boring."
If you talk about being bored, then, first and foremost, you are doing nothing to stimulate interesting conversation.  Conversation proceeds naturally because the participants are interested and boredom is a state of not being interested.  It is, by its very nature, the very antithesis of interesting conversation.  If you walk into a silent room and announce that you are bored, then you are likely to get the following responses:
  • "Go read a book or something?" from someone who is otherwise occupied.
  • "Join the club!" from someone who is equally bored.
...or no response at all. In any case, without a change of subject, everyone in the room will immediately return to whatever they were (or weren't) doing.  No one is likely to invite you to sit next to them and explain to them all about the origin of this bored feeling you display.  "Oh, that sounds extremely uninteresting!  Let's talk about it!" they might never ever ever say. 
No, your only hope for turning this into an interesting conversation with someone is to immediately change the subject: "Anyone want to go see a movie or get a beer?"  But you may notice that this sentence forms an interesting conversation topic in its own right, so what was the point in admitting that you were bored in the first place?  It's not a very good opening for a conversation about something completely different.  At best, it will serve to show that you have a whiny, complaining side.  And no one likes a whiner.

On the other hand, if you announce in the middle of an ongoing conversation (even if you are just joining it) you are committing an even worse social faux pas.  Announcing to friends who are enjoying themselves that you are bored looks like an accusation: "Hey guys, here you are all having fun, and I'm over here bored.  Why aren't you trying harder to entertain me?"  I don't think I even need to say how selfish that sounds.  Yes, even if you are idly commenting on a mental state without consideration for the topic at hand, you are being a jackass.  At worst, you look like a douchebag that expects your friends to keep you entertained.  At best, you look like a selfish jerk who refuses to pay attention to what's going on around you and try to engage and integrate yourself into the social setting.

And since I know you don't want to be a jerk, I'm going to assume that you, Mr. or Ms. Normal don't go around declaring your boredom indiscriminately.  But keep a look-out for those who do: a surprising number of people do this seemingly without realizing how alternately insulting, selfish, or pointless it is.  (I just grepped my IRC logs for a particular channel and found 185 occurrences of the word "bored" in the last year or so, most of which appear to be the above described declarations of boredom.)  And when you find someone like that, do me a favor and give it to them straight, okay?

Bore"dom (&?;), n.


The state of being bored, or pestered; a state of ennui. Dickens.


The realm of bores; bores, collectively.


© Webster 1913

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