Paul's Internet Landfill/ 2014/ Never Bored Again

Never Bored Again

I shouldn't find smartphone use irritating, but I do. Everywhere I go I see people keeping themselves entertained by praying to their phones. At the skating rink people text instead of skate. Today I saw somebody riding his bicycle while using his smartphone. People walk through Victoria Park, staring at their screens. I have argued previously that I would prefer people use technology outside rather than sitting isolated at home, so it is hypocritical for me to find outdoor cellphone use irritating. Fine. I am a hypocrite, and I am irritated. I wish people engaging in outdoor activities would focus more on their activities and less on Facebooking.

I feel smug because I have neither a smartphone nor Internet access at home. (I should not be proud of either; it makes life difficult for those around me.) I ought not to be smug. I am no better. I own several computers, and more corrosively I own an MP3 player I use constantly -- in particular to relieve boredom. It takes conscious effort to turn off my MP3 player so I can talk to cashiers at the store instead of ignoring them. When walking through the park I do not listen to birds or children playing; I listen to podcasts.

Thanks to our electronic distractors, we never need to be bored. As a child, our family would go grocery shopping at Knob Hill Farms, and I would stand in line for half an hour to get a bag of chicken legs. I never remember being bored during those lineups -- usually, I played with pocket Transformers while I waited -- but I can imagine that others in line were pretty bored. If Knob Hill Farms still existed and people still waited in half-hour lines for chicken legs, I suspect most people in line would be smartphoning and few people would be bored.

I do remember boredom during my daily commute to university, back when I first moved to KW. My walk took an hour and a quarter. Some days I would sing. Some days I would read the local "alternative weekly". Some days I would just talk to myself. And some days I would be bored. When I purchased my first MP3 player in 2007 I felt great relief, because I would be able to keep myself entertained during my commute. But now I rarely have conversations with myself, and I never sing. Was getting an MP3 player a good tradeoff?

Once in a while I run out of podcasts on my MP3 player, and then I panic. This is not a healthy response.

I may never be bored, but I hardly feel fulfilled. I feel upset about my failing body. I feel empty and sad because I have little to look forward to. Podcasts might distract me from those feelings, but the underlying problems remain.