I came across this article the other day with the headline: “Man Returns iPad Because He Missed Being Bored.” Of course, my attention was immediately captured. (And how could it not be? i-Headlines pique everyone’s curiosity—don’t they?) The man’s story of trading in his iPad addiction for more free time—especially with his eight-year-old daughter—was, of course, endearing. But his sticky iPad problem and reflections on the value of boredom left me wondering if he—and we—even recognizes what true boredom is.
This audacious management consultant charged with returning the magnificent Apple product (Hmmm, apple—can anyone say temptation?) said he missed the “precious empty moments” and “un-productivity” that were stripped away by the flashy and addicting features of his iPad. This got me thinking…Why does our culture view those moments uninhibited by noisy, distracting technology as the empty ones? Why is time with family and friends—or, dare I say, time spent in prayer—filed away in the “unproductive” bin of our day-to-day lives?
So, was this man—this seemingly absurd fellow who would dare to return the king of all hip, new modern electronic gadgets—really missing boredom? Or is boredom what he was suffering from?
I think it’s the latter.
When the consultant gave up his iPad, talking to his daughter for fifteen minutes in the evenings became his favorite part of the day. I’d hardly classify these times as empty moments; no, these are the full ones, the interesting ones, the surprisingly joy-filled ones. That’s why he’s satisfied now. He’s less—not more—bored now.
When we start to feel like we’re “missing” boredom, it’s likely we’re more bored at that moment than ever. It is possible—and in our culture, quite common—to get bored with being busy, to be bored even in the midst of playing around with one of the most fancy electronic toys on the market. But our culture is teaching us to misdiagnose this boredom as excitement, and this is a dangerous thing. It’s what keeps us away from the truly interesting, enjoyable, unfathomably un-boring things in our life.
Later, when I went back to read the article again, I saw a similar story with a different headline: “Man Returns iPad Because It’s Just Too Awesome.” I think the man returned the iPad because it just wasn’t awesome enough. He got iBored.