The Otherwise Hidden Attribute Of Boredom


IN FILE - Anti-Instagram social media paste up street art on 29th June 2021 in Birmingham, United Kingdom. This graffiti is a social comment by an unknown street artist about the perceived negative affects that social media can have on humans. A recent study reveals a similar impact and highlights the advantages of boredom. PHOTO BY MIKE KEMP/GETTY IMAGES

Social media could keep users from benefiting from the profoundly creative benefits of boredom, new research reveals Its addictive nature has the capacity to squander time and resources that could be used to discover new hobbies and acquire new skills.

Succumbing to profound boredom could open doors to more creative and meaningful activity. However, instead of allowing boredom to take over, people often turn to social media to escape the feeling of superficial boredom.

IN FILE – Young people read and play on mobile phones in a shopping center. Meanwhile, beside them, a statue of a young lady seems to peek at the phone screen of one of them. With the popularity of smartphones, more and more people are addicted to mobile phones and indifferent to the real world, which has become a severe social problem and psychiatric disease. (Photo by Zhang Peng/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Superficial boredom and profound boredom are two levels of boredom identified first by German philosopher Martin Heidegger. Superficial boredom is the most common state of boredom, which is the feeling we get while waiting for a train.

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In these moments, we seek temporary distractions – this is where our phones and social media can help out and stop us from reaching a profound level of boredom.

Dr. Timothy Hill, an associate professor of management marketing, business and society at the University of Bath, and co-author of the study, said: “The problem we observed was that social media can alleviate superficial boredom but that distraction sucks up time and energy and may prevent people progressing to a state of profound boredom, where they might discover new passions.”

Most people faced superficial and profound boredom during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Researchers from the University of Bath’s School of Management and Trinity College, Dublin, examined people placed on the furlough scheme and those who worked from home during the pandemic.

A man walks past a satirical wall mural portraying a teenager affected by social media addiction in Mumbai on November 25, 2022.  PHOTO BY INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

The team studied 15 people of varying ages, occupations and educational backgrounds in England and the Republic of Ireland.

Dr. Hill said: “This research has given us a window to understand how the ‘always-on’, 24/7 culture and devices that promise an abundance of information and entertainment may be fixing our superficial boredom but are actually preventing us from finding more meaningful things.

“Those who engage in ‘digital detoxes’ may well be on the right path.”

He added: “We think these initial findings will resonate with so many people’s experiences of the pandemic and their use of social media to alleviate boredom, and we would like to see this research taken further.

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“Profound boredom may sound like an overwhelmingly negative concept but, in fact, it can be intensely positive if people are given the chance for undistracted thinking and development.

“We must recognize that the pandemic was a tragic, destructive, consuming experience for thousands of less fortunate people, but we are all familiar with the stories of those in lockdown who found new hobbies, careers or directions in life.”

The study was published in the journal Marketing Theory.


Produced in association with SWNS Talker.

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