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A brief history of boredom

https://theconversation.com/leprosy-of-the-soul-a-brief-history-of-boredom-144754

theconversation.com

A brief history of boredom
Over two centuries. the notion of boredom has shifted from an upper-class malady, through existential peril, to a functional emotion.

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Evolution of the term "boredom"

Charles Dickens popularised the term boredom in 1853. Boredom became particularly popular in English Victorian writing in describing the life of the upper class, where boredom was indicating a privileged social standing.

In the second part of the 19th century and the early 20th century boredom was less flattering and one that confronted everybody, not just the upper class. According to Arthur Schopenhauer, boredom was evidence of the lack of purpose and meaning in life.

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A change in perception about boredom

In the 20th century, psychologists gained an understanding of many emotions, but boredom was left alone. In 1972, psychoanalyst Erich Fromm declared boredom as "the most important source of aggression and destructiveness today."

The image of boredom changed again in the past few decades and with it, an appreciation of the emotion.

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The science of boredom

  • Researchers found that boredom can indeed be problematic. Those who get bored quickly are more likely to be depressed and anxious, tend to be aggressive and see life as less meaningful.
  • But researchers also found a much brighter side of boredom. Boredom encourages a search for meaning in life, it increases exploration and inspires novelty seeking. Boredom enables people to reconsider what they are currently doing in favour of more rewarding alternatives.

Thus, it seems that boredom helps regulate our behaviour and stops us from getting stuck in unrewarding situations.

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Boredom is sometimes described as the plague of modern society.

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The struggle to define boredom

Psychologists differ in their definition of boredom.

  • In the 1960s and 1970s, boredom was defined as the feeling generated by a repetitive task. Researchers found that boredom increased alertness to the things happening around you (distractions).
  • From 1986, the opposite was found. A study found that boredom caused less concentration.

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Boredom

Boredom

Boredom is not characterised by the absence of desire. It involves desperately wanting to do something, but not finding anything that can satisfy that restlessness.

Boredom can be useful

When you experience boredom, it is telling you that you've become superfluous and pointless and that you need to reclaim the authorship of your life.

Psychologists call this a crisis of agency. You've become passive and let life happen to you instead of being engaged with the world on your terms, using your skills and talents in a purposeful way.

Don't linger at boredom

Proneness to boredom is the result of difficulties with self-regulation. Those who are inclined to boredom may feel that boredom is a prison.

Instead of using boredom as a passage to something new, they get stuck and struggle to move on, leading to depression and anxiety, problems with drug and alcohol use, and gambling.

How we perceive philosophy

How we perceive philosophy

When most people think of philosophy, they believe philosophers simply argue about arguing. Philosophy is viewed as impractical and irrelevant to current issues.

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Bertrand Russell

Bertrand Russell

"Science is what you know. Philosophy is what you don’t know."

Defining philosophy

Philosophy is examining our understanding of reality and knowledge. Philosophy consists of three major branches:

  1. Metaphysics - What is true about existence.
  2. Epistemology - How we can know that it is true. Epistemology has given us science, logic/reason, economics, psychology, and other theories of knowledge.
  3. Ethics - What actions we should take as a result of this knowledge. Ethics contains concepts such as democracy, human rights, the treatment of animals, and the environment.

When you order your thoughts into a coherent belief system, you are engaging in philosophy. To criticize philosophy, you must rely on philosophy.