Hurry Up and Wait: Boredom and Technology
Is the experience of waiting patiently an obsolete concept? Is it possible to be bored in an age of technology?
The year is 1984. A teenaged girl sits outside a mall at closing time waiting for her sister to pick her up after work. As time passes and the crowd thins, she notices every car's headlights looking for the familiar square ones. Is that her? Is that? The people watching becomes less interesting, the details of the concrete and the graffiti on the lamppost are recatalogued. The conversations from earlier in the day are replayed and an odd bit of song starts repeating in her head. She wonders if her sister forgot, or if the car had troubles or maybe an accident. All she can do is wait.
Fast forward to 2012. She texts her sister that she's ready to get picked up. The reply comes back, "k." She sits on the wall and checks Facebook, then Twitter, then sends a text to her classmate, then back to Facebook. She watches a video and then checks her calendar to see if she has another day to finish her homework. She asks her best friend what the story is with the party on Saturday via text while she looks at that new guy's Tumblr. Her sister is running late, but time flies and she hasn't heard there is any problem. In fact, the car's horn is needed to get her attention when her ride pulls up.
With the technology in the typical American's pocket, you have access to the Internet, music that could play for days, games or at least the technology to make a phone call or text. You don't have to spend time stuck in a pre-determined spot and wait to see if you can connect with your friends; each arriving early and staying late just in case one or the other hits a snag such lost keys or a last-minute phone call.
Whether you are stuck in a doctor's office or at the DMV, you have options to read material more interesting than months-old magazines or driver's manuals. The line for your movie ticket is no longer an exercise in shifting your weight from foot to foot while you try to count backwards from 142 in units of three. Little games such as seeing shapes in clouds or recalling each of the states alphabetically are less likely to seem as worthwhile entertainments to pass the time when the bus doesn't come on schedule.
Is being bored extinct? Or have you ever thought that "Wow, I've read everything on the 'Net, why isn't anyone posting?" Maybe boredom has changed and what can truly surprise and entertain us is the look on that dog's face as he walks across the street, or the way the water drips down the side of that building. With technology, we can always find something to watch but by disconnecting from the tiny screens we can open our eyes to the world around us.
Perhaps we did lose something when we have access to millions of distractions. Maybe we can all experiment with leaving our devices in our pocket the next time we are waiting for a train or standing in a line. Say "hi" to a neighbor or make small talk about the weather. Learn to let your brain have a little bit of slack and start to count the leaves on a tree. Of course, when things get too boring, you can always rejoin your friends on the Internet or watch a movie about two people who meet on a park bench.