When superficially bored, “We are held in limbo by a situation that restricts us from doing what we want to be doing, while simultaneously being left empty insofar as the situation does not satisfy us.” Think of being stuck in a useless work meeting or trapped inside on a rainy day.
When repeatedly exposed to superficial boredom, we can reach profound boredom, defined as “a deep state of indifference towards oneself and to the world” leading to “an existential discomfort in which people struggle with their sense of self.”
But social media couldn’t hold off subjects’ profound boredom forever. “I felt empty, an emptiness that was difficult to escape from,” one of the interviewees, Richard, told the authors. “The longer I was bored, the worse I felt about myself. Like, who am I and what do I want to do with my life?”
But when Richard and many of the other subjects became profoundly bored, they cited their listlessness as an impetus for reinvention.
As awful as the COVID lockdowns were, they provided “ideal” conditions for profound boredom, the authors said, which ultimately pushed many to discover new passions. The much discussed Great Resignation, in which employees are now leaving their unsatisfying jobs in far greater proportions than has been seen over the past two decades, could very well have been galvanized by profound boredom during the pandemic.