There are three types of boredom, all of which involve problems of engagement of attention. These include times when we are prevented from engaging in wanted activity, when we are forced to engage in unwanted activity, or when we are simply unable for some other reason to maintain engagement in an activity. Boredom proneness is a tendency to experience boredom of all types. This is typically assessed by the Boredom Proneness Scale. Recent research has found that boredom proneness is clearly and consistently associated with failures of attention. Boredom and its proneness are both theoretically and empirically linked to depression and similar symptoms. Nonetheless, boredom proneness has been found to be as strongly correlated with attentional lapses as with depression. Although boredom is often viewed as a trivial and mild irritant, proneness to boredom has been linked to a very diverse range of possible psychological, physical, educational, and social problems.
There was also a piano, well littered with music, a sewing bag thrown down upon a cretonned window seat, and the generous fireplace was flanked by two huge baskets, one heaped with magazines, the other a perfectly round mound of yellow fur, which suddenly took form and life as a yellow tabby cat fastened hopeful topaz eyes upon them, blinked away a brief disappointment, and then yawned with ennui.
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."
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.
Boredom also plays a role in existentialist thought. Søren Kierkegaard and Friedrich Nietzsche were two of the first philosophers considered fundamental to the existentialist movement. Like Pascal, they were interested in people's quiet struggle with the apparent meaninglessness of life and the use of diversion to escape from boredom. Kierkegaard's Either/Or describes the rotation method, a method used by higher level aesthetes in order to avoid boredom. The method is an essential hedonistic aspect of the aesthetic way of life. For the aesthete, one constantly changes what one is doing in order to maximize the enjoyment and pleasure derived from each activity.
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.
Finally, a real problem caused by boredom is that it leads you to dislike the things that are the object of boredom. In my senior year of high school, for example, I was forced to read Moby Dick. I struggled to get interested in it and spent long hours staring at the pages trying to lose myself in it. To this day, I really do not like Moby Dick. The negative feelings that came with the boredom have stuck to the book.
This kind of boredom is different from the others. Like reactant boredom, it’s also unpleasant, but a person experiencing it has low arousal and a lack of positive or negative feelings–in other words, a feeling of helplessness or depression. Of the high school students sampled in the study, 36% of boredom experiences were of the apathetic kind, which is worrisome given that other studies have shown that boredom, depression, and destructive behaviors are often linked.
“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 also has its benefits. It is important to see boredom as a “call to action” (Svendsen, 1999). Nietzsche suggested that men of rare sensibility value boredom as an impetus to achievement. Boredom can be a catalyst for action. It can provide an opportunity for thought and reflection. It can also be a sign that a task is a waste of time—and thus not worth continuing.
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