In conventional usage, boredom is an emotional and occasionally psychological state experienced when an individual is left without anything in particular to do, is not interested in their surroundings, or feels that a day or period is dull or tedious. It is also understood by scholars as a modern phenomenon which has a cultural dimension. "There is no universally accepted definition of boredom. But whatever it is, researchers argue, it is not simply another name for depression or apathy. It seems to be a specific mental state that people find unpleasant—a lack of stimulation that leaves them craving relief, with a host of behavioural, medical and social consequences." According to BBC News, boredom "...can be a dangerous and disruptive state of mind that damages your health"; yet research "...suggest[s] that without boredom we couldn't achieve our creative feats."
Erich Fromm and other thinkers of critical theory speak of boredom as a common psychological response to industrial society, where people are required to engage in alienated labor. According to Fromm, boredom is "perhaps the most important source of aggression and destructiveness today." For Fromm, the search for thrills and novelty that characterizes consumer culture are not solutions to boredom, but mere distractions from boredom which, he argues, continues unconsciously. Above and beyond taste and character, the universal case of boredom consists in any instance of waiting, as Heidegger noted, such as in line, for someone else to arrive or finish a task, or while one is travelling somewhere. The automobile requires fast reflexes, making its operator busy and hence, perhaps for other reasons as well, making the ride more tedious despite being over sooner.
Although it has not been widely studied, research on boredom suggests that boredom is a major factor impacting diverse areas of a person's life. People ranked low on a boredom-proneness scale were found to have better performance in a wide variety of aspects of their lives, including career, education, and autonomy. Boredom can be a symptom of clinical depression. Boredom can be a form of learned helplessness, a phenomenon closely related to depression. Some philosophies of parenting propose that if children are raised in an environment devoid of stimuli, and are not allowed or encouraged to interact with their environment, they will fail to develop the mental capacities to do so.
Only in the last decade has there been much scientific research looking into the nature of boredom. In 2006, a study classified boredom into four different types, with a follow-up study published this month in the journal Motivation and Emotion adding a fifth kind of boredom, called apathetic boredom, to the list. The researchers involved in the study had 63 university students and 80 high school students answer smartphone-based surveys about their activities and experiences over the course of two weeks.
Martin Heidegger wrote about boredom in two texts available in English, in the 1929/30 semester lecture course The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics, and again in the essay What is Metaphysics? published in the same year. In the lecture, Heidegger included about 100 pages on boredom, probably the most extensive philosophical treatment ever of the subject. He focused on waiting at railway stations in particular as a major context of boredom. Søren Kierkegaard remarks in Either/Or that "patience cannot be depicted" visually, since there is a sense that any immediate moment of life may be fundamentally tedious.
If he can maintain his concentration, Goetz intends to continue his own research into understanding the nature of boredom. He wants to measure physiological signs of arousal, which could one day add a new component to wearable health trackers. He’s also interested in investigating whether specific boredom types correspond to different age levels and cultures. “There are many important questions to be answered related to the boredom types,” he says.
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