Tag Archives: modern society

The War On Boredom: Generation Z Already Bored With The Internet?

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There’s a recurring theme in the history of conflict, crises, and panics of all kinds. Most of the time, there are obvious signs. From the Great Depression to the Great Recession of 2008 to telling signs that something was up with Harvey Weinstein, there were ominous hints that something much bigger was going on. By not heeding those hints, we made things worse in the long run.

Granted, those hints are obvious through the lens of hindsight. I don’t mean to make it sound like predicting a crisis is easy. If it were, then nobody would ever lose money in the stock market and terrorists would be out of a job. It’s an unfortunate, but unavoidable theme in human history. The various signs of looming issue are subtle and the implications require more foresight than our brains permit.

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That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t make an effort to sniff out a crisis before it happens. The cost of being wrong is usually far less than the anguish of being right, albeit with a few notable exceptions. I’ve been talking about a particular crisis that may very well be in the early stages as I write this. It doesn’t involve harassment, wars, or economic collapse, though. It involves boredom.

I’ve speculated that boredom may be the plague of the future. I’ve even hypothesized that Generation Z, the current cohort that is barely out of their teen years, may be prone to the kind of nihilistic mentality that further compounds the effects of boredom. I sincerely hope I’m wrong, but I’ve yet to see anything to discount my points.

Call it the boredom wave. Call it the coming War on Boredom. Call it whatever you want. It’s an issue that we’ll have to address on some levels. As more and more of society becomes automated by machines and streamlined by artificial intelligence, more and more people will have more and more free time on their hands.

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Even if we get to the point where society has a universal basic income so that nobody has to work or toil, we still have a problem. What are people going to do with all that free time? What happens when there’s so much of it that the boredom becomes infuriating? It’s hard to say, although there have been some disturbing signs.

Recently, though, another sign emerged, courtesy of The Daily Beast. In a recent article, Taylor Lorenz explores some revealing anecdotes about how the emerging youth in Generation Z is getting bored with the internet activities that have kept Millennials so entertained for the past couple decades. If the War on Boredom is to be a real conflict, then this could end up being the catalyst.

Say what you will about the veracity of these anecdotes. There’s a reason anecdotal evidence is considered weak evidence by the legal and scientific community. These stories still offer distressing insights with equally distressing implications. This is just one that the article highlighted.

“When I’m bored while I’m on my phone and I’m switching between different apps… I’m just searching for something to do,” said Addie, a 15-year-old in Long Island. “It’s like walking around your house in circles.” Often, they’ll find nothing on their phone entertaining and simply zone out and daydream.

Now, I’m sure every previous generations, from Millennials to the Baby Boomers, will roll their eyes at that complaint. I can already hear the condemnations of this emerging generation. A part of me, a Millennial, even feels that way.

They say things like, “You kids have no idea how great you have it! You’ve got a gadget in your pocket that gives you unlimited access to the entire library of human knowledge and an endless stream of entertainment, from books to videos to pictures of cats. How the hell can you be bored by that?”

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However, that’s easy to say for those who are old enough to remember a world without the internet, smartphones, or streaming media. I didn’t have internet access in my house until I was about 13-years-old and even then it was a dial-up connection that was painfully slow and prone to cutting out suddenly. In terms of combating boredom, my generation had different tools and different methods when we were kids.

To us, as well as the generations before us, the usage of smartphones and the entertainment content of the internet is still amazing to us. I still remember what it was like being at the complete mercy of what was on TV and having to play video games with no online multiplayer or DLC. Those time seem so distant now, but the teenagers of Generation Z have no such perspective.

From their point of view, smartphones have always existed. The internet has always been this ubiquitous thing that they’re a part of. It’s not a modern wonder to them. It’s a trivial, mundane part of their lives. People like me can’t see it like that because we still remember a world without it.

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As a result, Generation Z isn’t going to see all the entertainment and media as a wonder. They’re going to see it as part of their normal and no matter what form normal takes, it’s still going to be boring to some extent. That’s part of what makes normal what it is. The article itself even acknowledges this.

It’s tempting to think that these devices, with their endless ability to stimulate, offer salvation from the type of mind-numbing boredom that is so core to the teen experience. But humans adapt to the conditions that surround them, and technical advances are no different. What seemed novel to one generation feels passé to the next. To many teens, smartphones and the internet have already lost their appeal.

It goes even further, distinguishing how Generation Z sees their smartphones and contrasting it with their Millennial predecessors. When someone my age or older sees a teenager on a phone, we don’t usually assume they’re just bored. We think they’re just another self-obsessed teenager who can’t resist checking their social media feeds every half-second.

While it’s much easier and more self-serving to assume that teenagers are just that self-obsessed, it’s probably more likely that boredom is a larger factor here. I would take it further than that. I would go so far as to claim that this is one of those signs that we foolishly overlooked in the future.

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These teenagers have access to the same technology and media that has kept other generations so engaged and enthralled. However, they’re seeing it and they’re bored by it. Anyone who knows anything about boredom understands that when boredom reaches a certain level, you’ll go to extremes to feel any kind of stimulation.

With that in mind, what kind of extremes will Generation Z resort to in their efforts to combat boredom? If they can’t get it from their phones or their computers, how will they combat this issue? To them, it’ll be a war. To every other generation, it’ll seem asinine. However, it may very well consume the social and political landscape of the future.

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Boredom Vs. A Lack Of Belonging: Which Drives Outrage Culture More?

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Here’s a quick non-rhetorical question. Which is worse, crippling boredom or social isolation? There’s no right answer, but every answer has distressing implications. More than anything else, those answers reinforce why solitary confinement is rightly considered torture.

I ask that question because I had an interesting conversation with someone on Reddit about what drives certain people to be constantly outraged about whatever happens to be controversial that day. I’ve talked a bit about outrage culture before and how professional trolls exploit them, but I haven’t really dug into the mechanisms behind it. Given how new controversies seem to trend every day, I think it’s worth scrutinizing.

In the discussion, I singled out boredom as a possibly underrated factor. Having highlighted the power of crippling boredom, I felt qualified to make the case that boredom may very well be an understated, under-appreciated cause. I still feel there’s a case to be made.

In the grand scheme of things, humanity is in uncharted territory when it comes to boredom. For most of human history, we had to live our lives under the constant threat of plague, famine, war, and natural disasters. Whether we were hunter/gatherers or subsistence farmers, life was chaotic and unpredictable.

Say what you will about those harsh, pre-modern eras, but they weren’t boring. They couldn’t be. There was always work to do. Given the lack of effective birth control, there were children to raise. Even if social media had existed 100 years ago, who would have the time or energy to even be outraged about a man wearing a sexist shirt.

Fast forward to the 21st century and things like war, famine, disease, and crippling poverty are all in decline. This is objectively good on so many ways, but for some people, especially in well-to-do middle class people, it leaves a large void that quickly becomes boring if not filled with something. Sometimes, it can get so bad that it can lead to outright murder.

When I made this argument, I think more than a few people took it seriously on Reddit. It was easy to see how someone whose life is so affluent and devoid of heart-pounding conflict that they will latch onto petty outrages just so they can feel something. Like someone stuck in solitary confinement, they’ll do anything for some sort of stimulation beyond counting the tiles on the floor.

Given how our brains can’t always discern the source of arousal, sometimes it’ll settle for whatever adrenaline rush we get from righteous outraged. Some go so far as to call the rush we get from outrage an addiction and it’s not a wholly inaccurate idea.

However, one person in that discussion pointed another element that also relies on that part of the brain that can’t always discern what gets it aroused. Instead of combating boredom, though, this issue deals with our inherent need to join a group and become part of a larger movement.

It’s very much an extension of tribalism and, like seeking stimulation when there is none, human beings are well-equipped by evolutionary biology to form groups. Whether we’re a small band of hunter/gatherers or a group of Taylor Swift fans, it doesn’t take much for us to form those groups and our brains reward us greatly.

Being part of a group feels good. Being part of something gives us a rush. It’s a major reason why peer pressure works and why tribalism often overrules reason. That solidarity we feel when we’re part of a group isn’t just intoxicating. It’s a fundamental component of any highly social species, which includes humans.

What this means for those constantly outrage isn’t that far off from the implications relating to boredom. Like boredom, our current society is pretty unprecedented in terms of how easy it is to form a close-nit group and share in that solidarity that has been driving our species since the hunter/gatherer days.

Thanks to social media and mass communication, it’s possible for people to do more than just share their opinions, no matter how outrageous they might be. It’s also possible to connect with those who either share in those opinions or despise them. In terms of forming a tribe, it’s a two-for-one-deal because it creates both a sense of “us” while revealing a “them” to rally against.

For anyone who has spent any amount of time on social media, it doesn’t take much to see the whole us versus them mentality to take shape. If any amount of disagreement goes on long enough, Godwin’s Law usually takes over and the battle lines are set.

On top of this, the social issues in 2018 aren’t quite nearly as clear-cut as they were in decades past. In the past, there were some pretty egregious injustices surrounding civil rights, women’s rights, and LGBT rights that required major social movements to combat. By and large, society has done a lot to improve the state for these marginalized groups.

There’s no question that being part of such righteous movements is laudable. We, as a society, rightly praise civil rights leaders who stand for such righteous causes. Naturally, some people seek to emulate that. Whether by ego or altruism, it’s only natural that they want to experience that kind of accomplishment.

Thanks to the sheer breadth of human progress, though, there causes on the levels faced by Martin Luther King Jr. or Mahatma Gandhi. However, because that drive to be part of a movement is just that strong, those same people will settle for pettier movements that protest sexy women in video games or bemoan the lack of diversity in old TV shows like “Friends.”

Make no mistake. Those outrages are petty and asinine when compared to the real injustices that past social movements have fought, but the brains of the outraged can’t tell the difference. From their perspective, their movement is every bit as righteous as every other civil rights movement in history. The outrage they express and the solidarity they feel is every bit as fulfilling as something that alleviates boredom.

Even if these causes are petty and the outrage is shallow, it’s important to note the alternative here. If these same people who protest the lack of diversity in the tech industry didn’t have this sort of thing to drive them, then what would happen to the group they’d formed?

Absent that outrage and protest, the group has nothing to rally behind. The person has nothing provoking arousal, be it anger or excitement. Without this dynamic, they don’t belong to something bigger anymore. They’re not the ones marching alongside famous civil rights leaders of the past. They’re just alone, by themselves, contributing nothing of value.

For many people, that’s just untenable. I would go so far as to say it’s almost as untenable as crippling boredom. Even self-proclaimed introverts and ardent individualists, we seek an identity and a constant source of stimulation. When we lack one or both, we lack a core element of any social species. In the same way we’re driven to meet the rest of our basic needs, we’ll be driven to find that somewhere, no matter how misguided.

In the past, we might have found that sense of belonging and purpose through our small communities or organized religion. Today, the world is much bigger and more diverse, thanks to technology and civilization. Organized religion is also not effective anymore due to factors too numerous to list. People are still going to seek belonging.

It’s somewhat ironic that civilization has advanced to such a degree that there aren’t as many clear-cut, good versus evil movements to be part of anymore. However, there’s still this longing to be the hero of our own story and be part of something greater, even if it means actually going out of their way to feel outraged.

Getting back to the initial question I posed, I think the influence of boredom and belonging are inherently linked. We agonize over escaping boredom and over having a sense of belonging. We can’t get that same rush our ancestors felt when surviving bear attacks and hunger so we’ll settle for whining about protests during football games. It’s still annoyingly petty, but distressingly understandable.

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Filed under Current Events, gender issues, Reasons and Excuses, War on Boredom

How To Tell If Someone Is Serious (About More Than Love)

In every great love story, be it a play from Shakespeare or a terrible Hugh Grant movie, there’s usually a point where one or both aspiring lovers asks a simple question.

“How serious is he/she about loving me?”

It’s not an unreasonable question. You could argue that it’s one of the most important questions any lover can ask that doesn’t involve a marriage proposal, meeting their partner’s parents, or elaborate role playing during sex. I would tend to agree with that argument.

In addition, that same question is often asked, albeit in a slightly less romantic context. At some point in our lives, we encounter someone who has all these ambitious goals. They want to become a famous singer. They want to become a famous movie star. They want to protest the injustices that every straight, white, cis-gendered male ever committed throughout all of human history.

The scope and extent of those goals vary, but most will come off as dead serious about them. They’ll claim they want to achieve these goals every bit as much as two lovers seeking to vindicate their love. Since the stakes are so high, involving love and people whose goals may help/hinder/frustrate our own, it’s an important question to answer.

There are many who claim to love someone with all their heart, only to cheat on them. There are those who claim to oppose a particular injustice, but turn out to be total hypocrites. In general, we want to know how serious these people are before they become an unflattering meme on social media. It spares everyone in our lives more heartbreak in the long run.

So how do you sift the potential hypocrites from the potential allies/spouses? Well, I have a method. I’m not saying it’s a perfect method. It’s just something I’ve noticed in writing sexy novels and exploring romantic themes. Feel free to incorporate it as part of your own. It’s simple and doesn’t require you to invest in any elaborate life coaching. It only requires that ask and answer one additional question.

“How much is he/she willing to inconvenience themselves?”

It’s a more specific question to answer. The first question can’t be answered without reading someone’s mind. Since we haven’t perfected that technology yet, although we’re working on it, we have to stick with something more practical.

In my experience, the most telling signs of someone’s sincerity comes largely through what they do when compared with what they seem willing to do. They’ll never say it out loud. They may never even get asked. It’ll show in subtle ways, though. If you can see the signs, then you’ll get a rough idea of just how serious this person is.

Here’s a quick example that comes right out of one of my novels. In “Passion Relapse,” the main character, Mary, went out of her way to reach out to Peter from the beginning. Doing so was only a mild inconvenience, at best. However, it didn’t stop with just reaching out to him. She went out of her way to build more connections with him and he returned the favor.

Mary’s actions made clear that she was serious about forging a meaningful connection with Peter. If you want to know how meaningful (and sexy) it got, I highly recommend you buy the book. It’ll make my point that much clearer and make you horny.

For a more classic example, look at the original “Star Wars” trilogy. Specifically, look at how far out of his way Han Solo went for Princess Leia. He got paid a lot of money for saving her, but then he came back, risked his life, and helped the Rebels destroy the Death Star.

He went even further than that, though. He ended up getting frozen in carbonite, but still went onto love her. That’s not just dedication. That’s real, honest love. Ladies, if a man is willing to get frozen in carbonite for you after you gave him a lot of money, then he’s a keeper.

Contrast this with a character like Zach Crenshaw in my book, “Skin Deep,” or someone like Cal Hockley in “Titanic.” They never say it outright, but their selfishness says it for them. They refuse to go out of their way for others, unless it benefits and/or harms them directly. They’ll even resort to violence and make terrible excuses to justify it.

In real life, it’s not as obvious, but still plenty apparent. It often crosses my mind whenever I see politically correct types protest about overly sexy advertising or uptight religious zealots complaining about who or how many other people we’re having sex with. Sure, it’s still annoying, but you can surmise the sentiment indirectly.

These same politically correct types may complain about a sexy female character in a video game, but they won’t say a word about real horrific injustices that actual women endure in other countries. Those same religious zealots may complain, but they’ll never fly to New Orleans for Mardi Gras and try to actually stop these people from doing all the sinful things they love to do. That would be both hard and inconvenient.

That’s usually the most telling sign. If someone is not willing to inconvenience themselves, be it for love or for a goal, then that shows they’re not as serious as they claim. Sometimes, they’ll just say what others think they want to hear. They’ll even virtue signal to make themselves feel better about what they’re not doing.

Think of this next time you see some protest on a street corner. Think of it next time you find yourself with someone that you think you could build a life around. Will they be like Han Solo and willingly freeze themselves in carbonite for you instead of paying off Jabba? Will they ditch you on a sinking ship the second they get the chance like Cal Hockley?

You can’t always answer those questions directly, but you can look for clues. If you find out that the person you’re dealing with isn’t willing to be too inconvenienced, then chances are they’re not going to be serious with you, their goals, or damn near anything that would hinder their ability to binge-watch the new season of “House of Cards.”

It may be hard to distance yourself from those people, especially if they’re family members, but the sooner you know, the sooner you can be proactive. You don’t want to find out on the deck of the Titanic that the person you’ve placed your love and trust in can’t be too inconvenienced to share their life vest.

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Filed under Jack Fisher's Insights, Love Or Obsession, Reasons and Excuses