[share]Did The Internet Kill Boredom?


by Zoë Pollock

Clay Shirky wonders:

I remember, as a child, being bored. I grew up in a particularly boring place and so I was bored pretty frequently. But when the Internet came along it was like, “That’s it for being bored! Thank God! You’re awake at four in the morning? So are thousands of other people!” It was only later that I realized the value of being bored was actually pretty high.

Being bored is a kind of diagnostic for the gap between what you might be interested in and your current environment. But now it is an act of significant discipline to say, “I’m going to stare out the window. I’m going to schedule some time to stare out the window.”

Nicholas Carr nods:

The pain of boredom is a spur to action, but because it’s pain we’re happy to avoid it. Gadgetry means never having to feel that pain, or that spur. The web expands to fill all boredom. That’s dangerous for everyone, but particularly so for kids, who, without boredom’s spur, may never discover what in themselves or in their surroundings is most deeply engaging to them.


224 Dreams, Frustrations and the Absurd

The dreams I am going to talk about are dreams in the literal sense, not ambitions or ideals.

For me, dreams can be wonderful, but sometimes they can be extremely frustrating. In fact, frustrating dreams impress me more than wonderful dreams do. One major recurrent theme in my frustrating dreams is being late for school. This is intriguing because I cannot even recall a single instance of being late for school in my real life, excluding undergraduate time of course.

There are two major variants in my being late dream. The first variant is that many things happened to me, preventing me from even getting out of my home, let alone going to school. All kinds of annoying things could delay me, such as not being able to find the textbooks. In the second variant, the situation was ridiculous. The bus I took (in real life I didn’t take bus to school, I always walked) did not arrive at the right station. There were a lot of things on the way distracting me. Sometimes I could not recognized the correct routes to school. Sometimes, the whole city was restructuring itself to work against me! This is plainly absurd! When I read Kafka’s novels, like the Castle and the Trial, I was amazed that the frustrating situations encountered by protagonist resemble to the situations in being late dreams. The short story the Metamorphosis, also by Kafka, provides another good example. The protagonist woke up one day and found himself transformed into a insect-like creature, but he still tried to tackle the situation like he did before. At the end he died.

Those dreams also reminded me of a philosophical concept, the Absurd. While there are many versions of the definition for absurd, I prefer the one used by Albert Camus, in his book The Myth of Sisyphus. (Translated loosely from the Chinese version) The Absurd is the conflict between man’s desire to understand the world and the world’s silent refusal to be understood. This silent refusal sometimes may resemble a invisible hand preventing you from achieving anything significant, like I being kept from arriving on time for school in my dreams. I also like the way Sartre phrased the Absurd. He said, (also translated loosely from the Chinese version) Absurd is a state that there are no sufficient reasons for everything in the world to exist in the way they are; everything is contingent.

The second kinds of frustrating dreams can be roughly described in the following sentences. In the dream, I remembered there were something interesting, such as things and books, in a particular place and I was going there to buy it. When I arrived at the destination, I could not spot the thing I desired. Then I discovered something similar but less desirable, so I continued searching for something better. As I searched, the interesting but less desirable books or the items started to transform something mundane. In the end, everything at the place lost their appeals. I cannot find a word to express my frustrations at that moment. The interpretation of this type of dream is actually quite ordinary. It is just the reflection of my hesitation when facing potentially important decisions.

I just checked the site stats. It is still in the well of gravity, so I offer a bonus to my readers who took pain to go through the paragraphs above. I will describe my most frustrating “spring” dream. I will skip the offensive details. So there were me and another female. We were going to have some action. As I stripped off her clothes, her breasts transformed to a flat male chest before I could even touch them. Similarly, the female genitals transformed into male genitals. Could you imagine a situation which is more frustrating than that?