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On Being Bored

I’m bored.

Now, Neil Gaiman would probably claim that I should be at my peak creativity because boredom, according to him, causes the mind to think in ways it would not ordinarily think. This, however, is not the case.

I think I’m getting stupider as time goes by and I blame the internet and the always-connected nature of our life for this. Now, I no longer am just bored – I’m bored and stupid.

Just ten years ago, I did not have even a mobile phone, let alone a “smart” phone. Ten years ago, I had to carry around every single fact, figure, and detail in my head if I had to carry on a conversation. Now, I just tend to look things up on my phone or on the internet, so I don’t have to remember anything any more. Some may say that it is a great thing, that this frees up my mind to perform other more important tasks. This is a lie – my mind has simply become conditioned to not remember things; any cognitively challenging task is simply brushed aside.

Ten years ago I could effortlessly stay involved in a conversation. Now, with facebook and twitter, and everything else, I have the attention span of what most people would consider to be the memory of a goldfish (which is a myth – goldfishes have memories considerably longer than seven seconds; the seven second myth is something someone made up so as to get over the guilt of keeping a fish in a tiny bowl; I’m sure your goldfish suffers from some sort of PTSD thanks to all the solitary confinement, you monster). Just because I can scroll, like a gay French king, through everything that my friends post on facebook, my mind has lost its training to pay attention, even if the conversation is not interesting. My mind has forgotten that it cannot press Ctrl+W in real life if something fails to entertain me.

Ten years ago, if I got bored, I had to read a book, practice music, write some code – do something. Now, I go to facebook, twitter, youtube and shout “Entertain me!”

Now, I have been comparing ten years ago with the present. This is not to say that the changes that I have described have happened over a span of ten years. To twist Hemingway, this intellectual bankruptcy has come about gradually, then suddenly. If you take a look at the history of my blog, you’ll see that just four years ago, I was writing multiple posts every month. Now, I write once every few months. Four years ago, my posts were (I think) witty, intelligent, and addressed a diverse range of issues. Now, my writing has experienced a steady decline in quality, such as this post, written hurriedly in the course of an hour spent between two tasks.

Writing is an arduous task. In order to write, I need to first select a topic that I think is interesting enough. Then (this is an optional step) I need to research the topic and find out as much as I can. Finally, I need to write. Each of these topics is difficult. Scrolling through my facebook feed like a gay French king is easy.

So what do I plan to do going forward? The obvious step would be to deactivate my facebook account, which is actually very hard to do given the number of services dependent on it, including Messenger, which is how all my friends communicate. However, if I do take this step, I think it will free up time to do the following

  1. Write code for fun, i.e. outside of what I would write for work. This includes completing some of the projects I started earlier, including Free2FA and SmartWeather

  2. Pursue photography as a hobby. I have not written any new content for my other blog The FOSS Photographer in a long time, over three years. I need to revive that blog, starting with designing a better logo

  3. Get back into shape. I have not stepped outside or done any physical activity in over a year. Recently, I have started a routine of 5k runs every other day, and I would like to continue this schedule as long as the weather permits.

  4. Read books. Every so often, I end up buying books because I (used to be) a bibliophile. I have a box set of “A Song of Fire and Ice” waiting to be read for over a year and a half. I have bought a number of books by Neil Gaiman in a HumbleBundle ebook sale. And as with every HumbleBundle, there are a tonne of cheap pulp fiction garbage that was added on, I should probably read that as well in case I find a diamond in the coal mine.

  5. Increase my meaningful social interaction. This means calling up friends instead of sending them IMs, having in-person chats, being involved in meaningful conversations.

Basically, I need to stay away from the internet, and go back to doing things I did ten years ago in order to entertain myself. I hope I can achieve these goals.

More to come in future posts.

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