Lack of Boredom Breeds Absence of Civility?

In this increasingly connected electronic world, boys are increasingly turning to media that provides sensory entertainment, which, in turn, acts as an immediate and gratifying substitute for happiness, according to an article penned by a clinical psychologist.

In an article written for the New Atlantis, author Adam J. Cox argues that boredom provides an “availability of mental space” that “goes hand in hand with a civil mind.” Today’s kids, he writes, are enthralled for hours on end by electronica, such as games, phones and computers, leading to:

The adolescent mind is nowadays so hyper-stimulated that the absence of stimulation — boredom — is unsettling, while the chaos of constant connection is soothingly familiar. A languishing teenager feels irritable and instinctively knows how to rev up: go online, turn on the TV, call someone, text.

 

Continuous stimulation and communication comprise the new normal.

This new found commitment to media means that today’s youngsters are bored after “thirty seconds of nothing to do,” where as fifty years ago or so, such an onset might only have appeared after a couple hours of inactivity.

Cox continued:

While boredom is hardly something to strive for, its presence confirms the existence of brief gaps in the continuous stimulation that dominates the thinking cycle of many kids. These pauses enable thought and reason to infuse action; they are boredom’s natural habitat, and the genesis of civil behavior.

 

It is only during moments of relative calm that young minds learn to bind empathy to action, and the development of thoughtful behaviors we associate with civility.

To be fair, Cox doesn’t pin the blame firmly on electronics; he also assigns some blame to a perceived notion among boys that acting civil somehow equals being subordinate, the enemy of young males everywhere. He wrote, “Civility feels like submission or servitude to these boys and as such is inconsistent with their idealized selves.”

Having fun, or the new incarnation of fun (being constantly connected), is the mortal enemy of civility writes Cox:

Being civil is rarely fun — it requires patience, forethought, and some willingness to tolerate tedium. While happiness and contentment are civility’s ally, fun, as defined by the relentless quest for pleasure, is tragically its foe.

Cox states that we should “cling to the pauses in cognition that boredom signals as we might cling to a life raft,” before “… the prospect of civility drowns in a wave of electronic thrills, and there’s no air left to think.”

Via George F Will

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