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.
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.
“Time is quixotic because it can torment us. When we have insufficient stimulus to fill our lives, we resent the relentless quality of time, and we engage in activities designed to “kill time.” Time that passes slowly creates insufferable boredom; time that passes to quickly makes us aware of our accelerated death march. A person’s perspective on time depends mostly on what they are most afraid of, boredom or death.”
The French term for boredom, ennui, is sometimes used in English as well, at least since 1778. The term ennui was first used "as a French word in English;" in the 1660s and it was "nativized by 1758". The term ennui comes "from French ennui, from Old French enui "annoyance" (13c.), [a] back-formation from enoiier, anuier. "The German word for "boredom" expresses this: Langeweile, a compound made of lange "long" and Weile "while", which is in line with the common perception that when one is bored, time passes "tortuously" slowly.
^ Vodanovich, Stephen J. (November 2003) "Psychometric Measures of Boredom: A Review of the Literature" The Journal of Psychology. 137:6 p. 569 "Indeed, a shortcoming of the boredom literature is the absence of a coherent, universally accepted definition. The lack of an agreed-upon definition of boredom has limited the measurement of the construct and partly accounts for the existence of diverse approaches to assessing various subsets of boredom."
Thomas Goetz, the lead researcher of the work and a professor at the University of Konstanz in Germany, says the multiple types of boredom can be loosely characterized along two dimensions. First, whether it is associated with a positive (score of 1) or negative (score of 5) emotion, and second, by degree of arousal, from calm (score of 1) to fidgety (score of 5).
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