“To me, at least in retrospect, the really interesting question is why dullness proves to be such a powerful impediment to attention. Why we recoil from the dull. Maybe it’s because dullness is intrinsically painful; maybe that’s where phrases like ‘deadly dull’ or ‘excruciatingly dull’ come from. But there might be more to it. Maybe dullness is associated with psychic pain because something that’s dull or opaque fails to provide enough stimulation to distract people from some other, deeper type of pain that is always there, if only in an ambient, low-level way, and which most of us spend nearly all our time and energy trying to distract ourselves from feeling, or at least from feeling directly or with our full attention. Admittedly, the whole thing’s pretty confusing, and hard to talk about abstractly…but surely something must lie behind not just Muzak in dull or tedious places any more but now also actual TV in waiting rooms, supermarkets’ checkouts, airport gates, SUVs’ backseats. Walkman, iPods, BlackBerries, cell phones that attach to your head. This terror of silence with nothing diverting to do. I can’t think anyone really believes that today’s so-called ‘information society’ is just about information. Everyone knows it’s about something else, way down.”
Boredom is a universal experience. Almost everyone suffers from it in the course of their lives. Existing survey estimates show that between 30 percent and 90 percent of American adults experience boredom at some point in their daily lives, as do 91 percent to 98 percent of youth (Chin et al., 2017). Men are generally more bored than women. There is also a positive link between very low educational attainment and boredom.
“Alcohol makes other people less tedious, and food less bland, and can help provide what the Greeks called entheos, or the slight buzz of inspiration when reading or writing. The only worthwhile miracle in the New Testament—the transmutation of water into wine during the wedding at Cana—is a tribute to the persistence of Hellenism in an otherwise austere Judaea. The same applies to the seder at Passover, which is obviously modeled on the Platonic symposium: questions are asked (especially of the young) while wine is circulated. No better form of sodality has ever been devised: at Oxford one was positively expected to take wine during tutorials. The tongue must be untied. It's not a coincidence that Omar Khayyam, rebuking and ridiculing the stone-faced Iranian mullahs of his time, pointed to the value of the grape as a mockery of their joyless and sterile regime. Visiting today's Iran, I was delighted to find that citizens made a point of defying the clerical ban on booze, keeping it in their homes for visitors even if they didn't particularly take to it themselves, and bootlegging it with great brio and ingenuity. These small revolutions affirm the human.”
The expression to be a bore had been used in print in the sense of "to be tiresome or dull" since 1768 at the latest. The expression "boredom" means "state of being bored," 1852, from bore (v.1) + -dom. It also has been employed in a sense "bores as a class" (1883) and "practice of being a bore" (1864, a sense properly belonging to boreism, 1833). The word "bore" as a noun meaning a "thing which causes ennui or annoyance" is attested to since 1778; "of persons by 1812". The noun "bore" comes from the verb "bore", which had the meaning "[to] be tiresome or dull" first attested [in] 1768, a vogue word c. 1780–81 according to Grose (1785); possibly a figurative extension of "to move forward slowly and persistently, as a [hole-] boring tool does."
In a learning environment, a common cause of boredom is lack of understanding; for instance, if one is not following or connecting to the material in a class or lecture, it will usually seem boring. However, the opposite can also be true; something that is too easily understood, simple or transparent, can also be boring. Boredom is often inversely related to learning, and in school it may be a sign that a student is not challenged enough, or too challenged. An activity that is predictable to the students is likely to bore them.
Second, boredom typically occurs when people have trouble focusing their attention and they believe the reason for this difficulty is in the environment. When sitting in the airport, for example, there is probably a lot going on. There are people having conversations that you could listen to. You probably have something to read. There may be televisions showing the news. But, the stress of waiting for a delayed flight often makes it hard to concentrate, and so your mind jumps from one thing to another. You assume that this is caused by the environment, and so you feel boredom.
Recent Examples on the Web Artist Support Pledge is just one of programs designed to alleviate economic hardship and collective ennui within early-career artist communities. — Anne Quito, Quartz, "Emerging artists pledge to buy each other’s work amid the coronavirus economic slowdown," 20 Mar. 2020 Douglas and Paula Rigby inevitably find no easy answers to their financial travails and everyday ennui. — oregonlive, "‘That Left Turn at Albuquerque’ offers noir-fiction staples, harsh look at American striving: book review," 20 Mar. 2020 The festival was initiated as a way to use community togetherness (and aromatherapy) to combat the ennui of the Great Depression. — Heather Arndt Anderson, Sunset Magazine, "The Best Spring Flower Festivals for Seeing the Season in Full Bloom," 10 Mar. 2020 Shake up the ennui this year with a silicon spatula bearing an illustration of Giggy, the beloved dog of Lisa Vanderpump, the reality-television doyenne and magnificent restaurateur, drawn by Ms. Vanderpump herself. — Helen Rosner, The New Yorker, "Holiday Gift Guide for Foodies: From Murderous Mermaid Salt to Lamps Made Out of Croissants," 12 Dec. 2019 Taylor-Joy, whose searching, wide-set eyes give her the mysterious beauty of an elegant reptile, makes a crackling transition from Emma’s too-cool-for-school ennui to a state of being where the very air around her feels electrified with uncertainty. — Stephanie Zacharek, Time, "A Gorgeous New Emma Adaptation Strikes Just the Right Balance of Modern and Authentic," 21 Feb. 2020 Suddenly, Juliana’s romantic ennui is interrupted by the reappearance, after an 11-year absence, of her scapegrace oldest brother. — Michael Dirda, Washington Post, "First published in 1924, ‘Still She Wished for Company’ makes for a delicious, if bittersweet Valentine’s Day treat," 12 Feb. 2020 Speaking of start-up ennui, more tech workers are seeking therapy — with the help of apps. — New York Times, "This Week in Business: No More E-Cigarettes at Walmart, and an Attack on the World’s Oil Supply," 22 Sep. 2019 While in years past, the top GIFs of the year have reflected a collective energy full of uncertainty and ennui, this year's crop, as curated by GIF master Giphy, is considerably more upbeat! — Aj Willingham And Andrea Diaz, CNN, "These were 2019's GIFs of the year and I Oop!," 17 Dec. 2019