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Handhelds Science

Why It's Bad That Smartphones Have Banished Boredom 351

Posted by samzenpus
from the bvut-I-want-it-now dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Doug Gross writes that thanks to technology, there's been a recent sea change in how people today kill time. 'Those dog-eared magazines in your doctor's office are going unread. Your fellow customers in line at the deli counter are being ignored. And simply gazing around at one's surroundings? Forget about it.' With their games, music, videos, social media and texting, smartphones 'superstimulate,' a desire humans have to play when things get dull, says anthropologist Christopher Lynn and he believes that modern society may be making that desire even stronger. 'When you're habituated to constant stimulation, when you lack it, you sort of don't know what to do with yourself,' says Lynn. 'When we aren't used to having down time, it results in anxiety. 'Oh my god, I should be doing something.' And we reach for the smartphone. It's our omnipresent relief from that.' Researchers say this all makes sense. Fiddling with our phones, they say, addresses a basic human need to cure boredom by any means necessary. But they also fear that by filling almost every second of down time by peering at our phones we are missing out on the creative and potentially rewarding ways we've dealt with boredom in days past. 'Informational overload from all quarters means that there can often be very little time for personal thought, reflection, or even just 'zoning out,'" researchers write. 'With a mobile (phone) that is constantly switched on and a plethora of entertainments available to distract the naked eye, it is understandable that some people find it difficult to actually get bored in that particular fidgety, introspective kind of way.'"
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Why It's Bad That Smartphones Have Banished Boredom

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  • Games (Score:5, Funny)

    by Dupple (1016592) on Thursday September 27, 2012 @08:11AM (#41476079)

    I think they may have a point. Every time I go for a dump, I take my phone with me and have a quick dash around with Temple Run

    Sometimes though, it's just a quick dash with the runs

    • Or sometimes you provide TMI to /.

    • Re:Games (Score:5, Funny)

      by camperdave (969942) on Thursday September 27, 2012 @08:48AM (#41476347) Journal

      Every time I go for a dump, I take my phone with me...

      Cell phones may encourage people to do a more thorough job of expelling their wastes. People will sit there until they clear the level, or get to the next save point, or finish the round before... um... getting started on the paperwork. To justify the time spent clearing the level on the cell phone, they will attempt to, shall we say, clear the level internally. Thus they wind up with a cleaner colon. This could lead to reduced instances of colon cancer and other diseases.

      Of course, it leads to longer line-ups on the other side of the stall door.

  • Compared to what? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AmeerCB (1222468) on Thursday September 27, 2012 @08:17AM (#41476103)
    Why is reading a crappy magazine in the doctor's office more productive than using your smartphone? I hate when people spew opinions like this without showing at least ONE piece of data/evidence that using a smartphone is more harmful than the alternative (the other things we do when we're bored).

    And didn't people make the same arguments about television? And then, later, about videogames?
    • by O('_')O_Bush (1162487) on Thursday September 27, 2012 @08:22AM (#41476129)
      I don't recall a time when talking to other people in line was the thing to do. Most people either daydreamed or tuned out everyone else.
      • Re:Compared to what? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by tehcyder (746570) on Thursday September 27, 2012 @09:40AM (#41476917) Journal

        I don't recall a time when talking to other people in line was the thing to do. Most people either daydreamed or tuned out everyone else.

        I talk to people in queues and I am (a) English and (b) anti-social, so I'm sure if I can relax my stiff upper life then you can too.

        • Yes, us anti-social Americans.

          I am standing in the queue for free organic-grown vegetables on a college campus. The students doing this are very professional and capable and not like the hippie farmers in Easy Rider, but still, standing in a queue for free organic vegetables is a kind of hippie "share the love" kind of thing not for "uptight" people and squares. Still . . .

          The dude standing in front of me is making minor doodles on his spiral-notebook work journal. The notebook entries have some famil

    • by ciderbrew (1860166) on Thursday September 27, 2012 @08:41AM (#41476271)
      Agreed.
      Reading a 3 year old copy of Cosmopolitan or some other women's magazine in a doctor's waiting rooms only fills me with contempt. Mostly with myself for reading it I guess. Lists of "50 ways to please your man" or "Know if your man is cheating" should be covered by some mental health warning. Please tell me women don't believe that shite. Inane twitter and facebook posts have more worth.
    • by tehcyder (746570) on Thursday September 27, 2012 @09:32AM (#41476827) Journal

      Why is reading a crappy magazine in the doctor's office more productive than using your smartphone? I hate when people spew opinions like this without showing at least ONE piece of data/evidence that using a smartphone is more harmful than the alternative (the other things we do when we're bored). And didn't people make the same arguments about television? And then, later, about videogames?

      The point is that occasionally being "bored" (in the sense of lacking external stimuli) is a good thing as it encourages introspection and, you know, thinking.

      And BTW reading shitty magazines, watching shitty TV or playing shitty vidogames are all just as bad as wasting time playing Angry Birds, or posting facebook photos of your dog, on your phone. if you do them all the time and never give yourself time to think.

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        The point is that occasionally being "bored" (in the sense of lacking external stimuli) is a good thing as it encourages introspection and, you know, thinking.

        That's what load times are for.

        reading shitty magazines, watching shitty TV or playing shitty vidogames are all just as bad as wasting time playing Angry Birds, or posting facebook photos of your dog, on your phone. if you do them all the time and never give yourself time to think.

        Well, the average person probably has a lot of time in traffic, if they're not on public transportation. Here's the thing I don't get, if I give myself time to think, questions occur to me, and I want answers. Should I avoid looking them up in a timely fashion so that I can "give myself time to think", or should I look them up and get an answer and then have the next question occur to me? It seems like this may well be the next step in human evolution, where the quality of our

        • by jeffmeden (135043)

          The point is that occasionally being "bored" (in the sense of lacking external stimuli) is a good thing as it encourages introspection and, you know, thinking.

          That's what load times are for.

          reading shitty magazines, watching shitty TV or playing shitty vidogames are all just as bad as wasting time playing Angry Birds, or posting facebook photos of your dog, on your phone. if you do them all the time and never give yourself time to think.

          Well, the average person probably has a lot of time in traffic, if they're not on public transportation. Here's the thing I don't get, if I give myself time to think, questions occur to me, and I want answers. Should I avoid looking them up in a timely fashion so that I can "give myself time to think", or should I look them up and get an answer and then have the next question occur to me? It seems like this may well be the next step in human evolution, where the quality of our thought improves because we are able to feed our minds with the information needed to answer our questions, and that trying to encourage more down time is just another example of luddism.

          You're spending all your time finding answers that are already out there. You are probably more likely (although i am not a behavioral psychologist) to prefer asking easy questions since you know the answers will be on hand, and you will avoid asking hard questions since you don't get the same instant gratification from finding the answer after three clicks.

          When was the last time some groundbreaking discovery was made by reading a wikipedia article, other than finding out how awesome Chuck Norris is, or ho

      • Re:Compared to what? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by X0563511 (793323) on Thursday September 27, 2012 @11:35AM (#41478375) Homepage Journal

        Angry Birds isn't empty, like stupid TV or magazines.

        You're exercising several parts of your brain and are interacting.

        Specifically: trajectory analysis, cause and effect, planning.

        • by i.r.id10t (595143)

          And much like fly fishing or learning to use a bait casting reel, you can increase your vocabulary at the same time too!

        • Ah LOL!

          You are following scripts and pre programed algorithms with fake sandboxed physics. I think its hilarious when people try and justify playing angry birds as having any real world uses at all. What do you think you can now throw a shot put ball with a more proper trajectory? Give me a break!! It may be technically more interactive than tv, but that is made up for by having the smartphone turned on and receiving 24x7. Like having a tv strapped to your face, which auto detects where your drool lands on

      • by starfishsystems (834319) on Thursday September 27, 2012 @03:59PM (#41481643) Homepage
        This is a fascinating topic for any student of the human condition.

        Most people are conditioned to experience boredom as a deeply unpleasant experience. I recall a program that Bill Moyers did a few years ago on the mind/body duality, in which he joined in a sitting meditation. It might have been zazen or something like it. He couldn't stand it. He found that he just couldn't remain in stillness, not even for a few minutes. Instead he became agitated and had to stand up and leave the room. The way he described it made me think it was a kind of panic attack. Of course he was deeply curious about this powerful reaction to nothing at all. I'm sure he's been thinking about it ever since. And so he should.

        If you reflexively avoid boredom, you are not able to access the enormous richness of experience in just being. In my view, that's a terrible loss. Read any of Arthur Ransome's "Swallows and Amazons" books for children and you will get a taste of that experience of just being, as it was even a generation or two ago: people not always rushing about, multitasking and never really experiencing their real environment, but instead sitting and watching all the minute and lovely activities of the world. It's a child's way of looking at the world, and Ransome perfectly captures the wealth and innocence of it.

        Or consider Hermann Hesse's "Siddhartha", in which the main character, when asked what makes it possible for him to succeed where others have so often failed, answers, "I can think. I can fast. I can wait."

        The thing is, boredom is not real. It's an illusion, a passing symptom of addicive withdrawl, Beyond it lies a world of real experience, exquisite in its quiet subtlety. "Pay attention" says the Zen master, who is roundly ignored because the advice he gives isn't mysterious enough, doesn't require any shiny technology.
  • by NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) on Thursday September 27, 2012 @08:25AM (#41476155)
    Slashdot leaps to mind...
  • I'll do what I want. I don't care what you used to do in the olden days. If you want to be bored, go for it.

    It's like people whining about magazines closing. Apparently one is closing now, in the UK. Some people are signing a petition. Who are they going to present it to? I bet hardly any of them actually bought it.

    • by wonkey_monkey (2592601) on Thursday September 27, 2012 @08:38AM (#41476245) Homepage

      Stop telling people what to do.

      Who's telling you what to do?

    • The thing is, with so much less boredom, people dive to their iPhones all the time. There's no sitting around college in the dorm, staring at the ceiling with an 18 year old freshman, "Wanna go somewhere?" "Maybe... where?" "I dunno, it's boring here." "Yeah, but there's nothing to do on a Thursday night." "Bah..." ".... wanna have sex?"

      No, it's more like, "Bah..." "...*starts playing Angry Birds*"

      • by rioki (1328185)
        Not it is scientific! Smartphones lead to the downfall of humanity.
      • by tehcyder (746570)

        The thing is, with so much less boredom, people dive to their iPhones all the time. There's no sitting around college in the dorm, staring at the ceiling with an 18 year old freshman, "Wanna go somewhere?" "Maybe... where?" "I dunno, it's boring here." "Yeah, but there's nothing to do on a Thursday night." "Bah..." ".... wanna have sex?"

        No, it's more like, "Bah..." "...*starts playing Angry Birds*"

        I think you need to expand your social circle a little. Any 18 year old who would rather play Angry Birds than have sex is not someone you should be hanging around with, as they are almost certainly deeply psychotic.

        • by bluefoxlucid (723572) on Thursday September 27, 2012 @10:02AM (#41477177) Journal

          It's not so much that as pool size and opportunity. The whole "nice guys finish last" thing has a subversion: those guys hanging out with extremely bored, cute girls might not have the easiest time getting laid, but when there's fuck-all to do they just start snuggling up on anyone they're fairly comfortable with. You don't need to push the right buttons anymore; you just need to not push the wrong ones.

          In other words, bored girls are a heck of a lot looser than occupied girls. Girls generally don't have sex every chance they get; courtship is hard.

    • by jeffmeden (135043) on Thursday September 27, 2012 @09:19AM (#41476701) Homepage Journal

      I'll do what I want. I don't care what you used to do in the olden days. If you want to be bored, go for it.

      It's like people whining about magazines closing. Apparently one is closing now, in the UK. Some people are signing a petition. Who are they going to present it to? I bet hardly any of them actually bought it.

      Agreed. I bet there was the same argument about 50 years ago about broadcast TV. "Kids these days, instead of staring out the window (a pastime that served us well for centuries!) all they do is flip on the TV and bang, they aren't bored any more! Windows will go un-stared-out! The humanity!"

      Look, there are always things to do and adults can always make decisions on what they want to do and when. If it's so horrible that people aren't bored, the ones who figure out that boredom is some sort of innate marketable skill will rise to the top and become our new overlords. Until then, it's business as usual.

    • by fafaforza (248976) on Thursday September 27, 2012 @09:43AM (#41476945)

      No one is telling you what to do. They're just positing the idea that it's hurtful to you. But I guess you'd prefer that they do not study and contemplate things like this, and get back to playing games on their iPads.

    • by dywolf (2673597) on Thursday September 27, 2012 @10:01AM (#41477161)

      its not about tellng you what to do. its about suggesting that the phone gives a false sense of productivity. Equivalent to "empty calories". Being bored leads to wanting to do things. The phone satisfies that, without actually being productive, since the chief way of occupying time with a phone is with a game of some kind. The suggestion is that without the phone you would do something else more worthwhile with that small bit of time. That the game on your phone is a more compelling boredom relief than many other activities, yet in the end less rewarding than those other activities.

      Remember we arent talking about life goals or long stretches of time, but small chunks that used to be filled by introspection or conversation. Staring out the window on a bus (the "greatest philosphy school known to mankind"). Waiting for an order at a diner. Waiting for the dentist. Etc. The trend now, I know you've seen it, a group of friends at a restruant out to eat, no one saying a word, everyone just staring at their phone. They're there together, yet each alone.

  • I hated boredom... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by malakai (136531) on Thursday September 27, 2012 @08:25AM (#41476159) Journal

    I can remember waiting awkwardly in line with other people with nothing more to do then stare at some advertisement or products around me. I, and certainly no one around me, wanted to start up a random stranger dialogue and shoot the shit. This alone caused me to be anxious. I hated waiting because I didn't know what to do, shuffle shuffle shuffle, hands in pockets, out of pockets, sigh, yawn... shuffle.

    I welcome the soft glow of my phone. It makes DMV, Passport agency, and anything in a municipal building _just a bit better_. Likely a few years from now an anthropologist will do a study about how fewer people are going 'postal' while waiting in line for some bureaucracy. How after waiting in line a few hours, the ability to play angry birds kept them from thinking about how much money they were going to be docked when they got back to work. It just may save someone's life.

    Also, lets not drone on about this 'habitual stimulation' always being entertainment. I see people on the subway who somehow manage to play games and watch videos, but I see just as many reading. Not to say reading can't be entertainment ( or that games and video can't be learning tools ). Just grouping everything people do with their smartphones into 'entertainment' is wrong.

    tl;dr: anthropologist overreacts.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 27, 2012 @08:56AM (#41476449)

      tl;dr: anthropologist overreacts.

      Not quite. Doug Gross is a writer for CNN.

      It took me a bit of time to read through this. Basically it's a CNN article with a link to a somewhat interesting (but mostly unrelated) piece about social groups and smoking, and another to the front page of some web site (which I don't care to explore to find why it was linked). I'm still not entirely sure what point he's trying to make, but it seems to boil down to this:
      "If you release a long-winded article with lots of vague terms and a scary-sounding headline, it generates page hits and I keep getting paid to write more just like it."

    • by rioki (1328185)
      I started to read the newspaper; on my phone! Beforehand I never bothered to buy a newspaper or even get a magazine. Just getting it was to much effort. Now I have online subscriptions to newspapers and I read them on my phone. Now someone tell me that reading newspapers on the way to work is considered bad? At least now I don't punch my neighbor in the nose when opening a new page...
    • by tehcyder (746570)

      I welcome the soft glow of my phone.

      Pass the sickbag, Alice.

    • by dywolf (2673597)

      People used to talk all the time. To random strangers.
      People didn't used to fear everything and everyone around them.
      Now, everyone you meet is a potential rapist, terrorist, or something else.
      Thank the news media and the politicians.

      • by Belial6 (794905)
        It starts with the kids. We have multiple generations now that spent their entire childhood being told, "Don't talk to strangers". Those kids grow up, and it is a lesson that sticks with them. That is something that I have gone out of my way to avoid teaching my child. The problem is that if you don't just tell your child that all strangers are out to kidnap and kill them, you do have to start talking to them about how to evaluate who they should be talking to, and who they shouldn't. That means actual
  • I have the solution. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 27, 2012 @08:26AM (#41476165)

    It's called a Portable PC -- AKA Laptop / Notebook. Instead of fucking around with those damn consumtion centric smart phones and tablet devices I use a fully functional portable computer instead. I can make phone calls with it too (even better: Hands Free Video Chat), but typically I just use a cheap dumb "feature" phone for voice. If I can't compile my C programs on it, it's a worthless toy that I don't need. I've tried installing Debian on an Android Tablet, got a stand and portable bluetooth keyboard working... Then I realized how assinine it was to NOT be using a Laptop instead. Yeah it weighs a little bit more than a phone, and is slightly more cumbersome to cary than a purse, but I've got a messenger bag anyway and I'm not a fucking wimp.

    Not that I don't have the constant urge to be doing something -- I do, that sense of urgency is due to my limited 70-100yr lifespan. What I do to "kill time" is actually creative. When the urge strikes I make something, or jot notes on how to realize the idea later. I'm just as habitually a creator as most smartphone "addicts" are media consumers. The difference between me and smart phone users is that I don't whip out my laptop while I'm supposed to be socializing at a restaurant -- Oh, that would be rude... Protip: I think it's just as rude when you smartphone users do that.

    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      You could just get a smartphone with a keyboard and not carry around a purse.

  • Shower (Score:5, Informative)

    by gr8_phk (621180) on Thursday September 27, 2012 @08:28AM (#41476179)
    I get a lot of my most useful ideas in the shower. So lets hope they don't make a waterproof phone or I will stop innovating all together.
    • Re:Shower (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Hardhead_7 (987030) on Thursday September 27, 2012 @08:38AM (#41476249)
      I don't even really see that as a joke. It's in those quiet moments that my brain will often present me with an idea seemingly out of thin air. Who hasn't been dealing with some particularly tricky problem, mulled it over, banged their head against the wall on it, and then while they're eating lunch or taking a shower - BOOM - your brain suddenly puts the right connections together and you have some new insight.

      Smartphones seem to be stealing away all the quiet moments of our lives, and I've come to realize that those quiet moments are important. Not just for our peace of mind, but for our ability to really let our brains work well. Lunch has disappeared as a quiet time. The toilet has disappeared as a quiet time. I honestly think it's a problem.

      I experimented with not doing any "compulsive consumption" on my phone a few months ago, and while this is purely anecdotal, I felt like it really did improve my concentration overall.
      • Re:Shower (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Hatta (162192) on Thursday September 27, 2012 @10:33AM (#41477505) Journal

        Thoreau covered this 150 years ago:

        Just so hollow and ineffectual, for the most part, is our ordinary conversation. Surface meets surface. When our life ceases to be inward and private, conversation degenerates into mere gossip. We rarely meet a man who can tell us any news which he has not read in a newspaper, or been told by his neighbor; and, for the most part, the only difference between us and our fellow is that he has seen the newspaper, or been out to tea, and we have not. In proportion as our inward life fails, we go more constantly and desperately to the post-office. You may depend on it, that the poor fellow who walks away with the greatest number of letters, proud of his extensive correspondence, has not heard from himself this long while.

        I do not know but it is too much to read one newspaper a week. I have tried it recently, and for so long it seems to me that I have not dwelt in my native region. The sun, the clouds, the snow, the trees say not so much to me. You cannot serve two masters. It requires more than a day's devotion to know and to possess the wealth of a day.

        Life Without Principle, 1863

  • Go out for a walk (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rasmusbr (2186518) on Thursday September 27, 2012 @08:29AM (#41476183)

    Just go out for a walk whenever you need to gather your thoughts and zone out for a bit. Touchscreens and walking don't mix...

    This tip works great until you get to the point where you subscribe to a large enough number of podcasts that there's always a queue lined up for you in your podcast player. If you're like me you can still zone out or let your mind drift a bit during the boring parts of the podcasts. Also, obviously, if you go out for a walk without your headset you commit to not listening to podcasts or music.

  • Meditation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 27, 2012 @08:29AM (#41476185)

    When I started my meditation practice I was a full blown smart-phone addict. One of the hardest earliest barriers to get over was the idea of sitting idle for 30 minutes. Somehow mindlessly browsing reddit was okay but just sitting and watching my breath was not. I'd get flooded with all kinds of thoughts about how I should be doing something productive and typically that was accompanied by anxiety.

    At some point I had to stop and ask myself, who exactly do I think is judging my behavior? Why do I even feel like I need to justify what I'm doing with my personal time? Of course the realization came that it was all me, all my mind, and I let go of the habit.

    Now I meditate regularly and still use my smart phone. I look forward to sitting and knowing I get time to just be. I'm comfortable with that and reap the benefits. I'm significantly less stressed during the day and my mind is calmer. I understand myself and my actions better. I still use the phone, but sometimes I don't. Sometimes it's nice to just be with your own mind.

    I wouldn't say smartphones have only banished boredom though. They, like many of our modern baubles, have also lowered the bar for when boredom sets in.

    An aside I feel is related I can't remember the last time I had a good meaningful conversation with a group of friends or even one on one. Hell, even meaningless conversation with depth seems to have left. It seems like on average things are being reduced to one or two sentences on a topic and topics which require multiple layers of thinking just don't come up.

    I find it paradoxical as someone who was a loner in school I can look at my life now and see more friends, supportive family, great co-workers, technology like facebook, SMS, and smart phones to be always connected and yet I feel more alone than I ever have. I feel lacking in community.

    • by mcgrew (92797) * on Thursday September 27, 2012 @12:09PM (#41478727) Homepage Journal

      One of the hardest earliest barriers to get over was the idea of sitting idle for 30 minutes... An aside I feel is related I can't remember the last time I had a good meaningful conversation with a group of friends or even one on one. Hell, even meaningless conversation with depth seems to have left.

      I love it when someone gives me a reason to like being old enough to remember when phones were tied to walls and had no user ID. I'll crank up the stereo and sit on the porch with a beer and watch traffic go by for hours. Go to the bar and have meaningless conversations with the drunks (Crazy John is often amusing). Go to McDonald's with my daughter... I pity you kids.

  • Example - Kalman (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gr8_phk (621180) on Thursday September 27, 2012 @08:30AM (#41476191)
    A classic example is the Kalman Filter. Devised by Kalman while he was waiting in a train station. We may not have that innovation today if he'd had an iPhone.
    • by dido (9125)

      We would not have the iPhone or any cellular telephony at all for that matter if the Kalman filter were not invented. The phase locked loop is a simple Kalman filter and it sees ubiquitous use in all sorts of radio circuitry.

    • Re:Example - Kalman (Score:5, Interesting)

      by rasmusbr (2186518) on Thursday September 27, 2012 @08:59AM (#41476493)

      And Harold Stephen Black invented the feedback amplifier on a short ferry ride in New York.

      The thing about inventions is that most inventions are made by multiple people around the same time and this happens because the ambient culture, knowledge and technology is available to them around the same time. The Kalman filter is based on a simple enough idea that it would almost certainly have been invented by someone else within years of Kalman's invention, if he hadn't made it then. The feedback amplifier is an even simpler idea.

      There are people who don't play angry birds or produce triple digits numbers of tweets every day and there will always be people like them.

  • by fluor2 (242824) on Thursday September 27, 2012 @08:32AM (#41476203)

    Sometimes he felt the need to take it out and hide from the real world.
    Always in his pocket, the temptation grew stronger and stronger.

    • by TeknoHog (164938)

      Sometimes he felt the need to take it out and hide from the real world. Always in his pocket, the temptation grew stronger and stronger.

      I admit, I have one of those too, and it's spelled almost like "bilbo".

  • by Greyfox (87712) on Thursday September 27, 2012 @08:37AM (#41476239) Homepage Journal
    I know a number of people who must have a TV going, no matter how mindless whatever show is that's on. I'm sure they probably have infomercials going at 2 in the morning. I always assumed that if they didn't have constant inane chatter going, they might actually start thinking and realize their own mortality or the meaninglessness of their lives or something. If you get one of these people someplace that doesn't have a TV, they will just natter on. If you want to make them really uncomfortable, just grin and don't say anything when they wind down, and watch them start to fidget! Just about the time they open their mouth to say something else, ask them what they're so afraid of. That freaks them out!
    • You sound fun at parties.
      • by Greyfox (87712)
        I usually latch on to the nearest person and show them pictures of my cat being cute on my smartphone for the next hour! My entire existence is one big piece of performance art!
  • Not just phones (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Phones are just the most immediate example. Computers, tablets, TV, video-game consoles... there are thousands of ways I can keep occupied. I never have an opportunity to be bored because I have so many alternatives.

    I'm trying to write a novel. I find it EXCEEDINGLY difficult because when I'm staring at that blank screen trying to coalesce my thoughts into words, I am constantly reminded of all my other options. Maybe just a quick jump to Wiki for some "research" or, maybe I'll take a break on the XBox. Ooo

  • It's all TL;DR.

    *goes back to playing angry birds*

    Huh? No, I am not over stimulated! My attention span is just fine, thank you ver-

    *angry angry birds*

  • I'm never bored. My imagination can keep me occupied for hours. I don't know if this is good or bad, it just is.
  • by SirGarlon (845873) on Thursday September 27, 2012 @08:48AM (#41476351)

    I don't get it when people lament about what technology has made them "lose." All one needs to do is change one's behavior, and instantly go back to the way things used to be. Or back to how they are now. Look! Options! More options than we had before!

    I fail to see how anyone has lost anything of value. If, instead, the whiny writer is complaining that he can't put down the smart phone and smell the flowers, then his real problem is a lack of willpower.

    • by tehcyder (746570)
      No, your fate is not entirely in your own hands. Although the pressure of social conformity is not as strong as (for instance) the need to find food or water, nevertheless in civilised affluent countries it becomes important. And the social norm nowadays in the West is to sit there with your fucking phone, texting, chatting, facebooking or whatever. I bet if you went and sat in most coffee shops for an hour staring out the window they'd call the cops.
  • "This invention is the ruination of society, and will corrupt our precious bodily fluids!" --- all people afraid of the future throughout history ever

  • by Overzeetop (214511) on Thursday September 27, 2012 @09:04AM (#41476539) Journal

    If your cell phone is a "distraction" all the time, you're using it wrong. Not that having a distraction from time to time is a bad thing. Still, my phone is a tool to get things done, which allows me to do more of what I want to do. Between work and my hobby/social activities, I probably have the equivalent of three pre-smart-phone full time jobs, and almost nothing gets lost or dropped or forgotten.

    I still have "down time," it just gets interrupted less by all those nagging items I used to have to keep track of manually. My down time is of a higher quality now.

  • Each new advance in consumer gadgetry affords the hyperactive lemming a new channel for mindless amusement. The creative and the imaginative among us are thereby amused by the playful lemmings, in much the same vein as the Darwin awards. An ironic win/win, isn't it?

  • by cvtan (752695) on Thursday September 27, 2012 @09:14AM (#41476635)
    Unfortunately, the 18-year-old is so preoccupied with responding to text messages on her phone and posting to Facebook on her iPad that she can't read this article, answer a simple question or have a normal conversation. I am not exaggerating. She comes to see me because I have internet service and Wi-Fi. She drives, but I'm not sure how. Every time I try to engage her to discuss something important, the phone beeps and she has to leave to see someone. She has a minimum wage job and the other day she announced she was getting an iPhone. Cell phone companies have done a great job convincing poor people that they need $100/mo cell phones when they can barely afford a place to live or pay for medical expenses. I fear her mind is gone.
  • I ride a lot on commuter trains, and I notice that most folks who are talking on the phone really aren't saying anything. But many seem to have a fear of not talking on the phone. As soon as they end one call, they call someone else, to talk about what they talked about on the last call. When they lose their connection, they break out in a sweaty panic.

    It reminds me of little kids, who get afraid and cry when their parents leave to room. The kids have a feeling of being abandoned: that their parents will be gone forever. It's almost the same way with folks with phones now. If they are not talking on the phone, they lose their lifeline to this universe, and will cease to exist.

    • It's not that they're afraid they'll 'cease to exist' but separation anxiety is a bit closer to the truth -- anxiety disorders have become epidemic in recent years for a number of reasons I won't get into here, and talking to someone familiar is a typical way of preventing panic attacks due to agoraphobia, or claustrophobia, both of which become a factor when you're locked on a train with strange people. The part of your brain prone to panic doesn't understand that the familiar person you're talking to isn'

    • Sometimes I think we as humans can't stand to be alone with ourselves doing nothing...so we call people for the social contact. In the old days, this need was satiated by writing letters and sending them off....despite the obvious latency. On the flip side, my commute is often the only time of the day/week when I have time to make personal calls...so all my relationship maintaining calls get crammed into an hour or less each day when I'm commuting.

  • by smooth wombat (796938) on Thursday September 27, 2012 @10:04AM (#41477211) Homepage Journal

    There was an article on CNN's web site the other day from a supposed comedian about how he was challenged to go an entire day without his phone.

    He wrote about how he was able to look around as he walked around New York, observing other people, looking in shop windows, etc, all for about 15 minutes when he started to get anxious that maybe someone, somewhere was trying to contact him. Maybe by voice, maybe by email.

    So he made a big production of trying to finding a Net cafe wherein he was able to check his email and found, contrary to his narcissism, only some generic emails but nothing of importance.

    He also regaled us with his commentary on finding a pay phone in New York, and how it smelled and looked like a latrine, and when he called his voice mail, miracles of miracles, there were no messages.

    So yes, smarthphones may have "banished" boredom, but it has created a whole host of other problems with people having separation anxiety if they're not hooked in for five minutes.

  • by RonTheHurler (933160) on Thursday September 27, 2012 @10:04AM (#41477217)

    I like to ask my kids- what would have happened to the United States if Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin were hooked on watching The Amazing Race or playing Angry Birds instead of reading history and writing the constitution? That couldn't happen to such smart guys, you say? What if they had been trained from early childhood to just sit and watch whatever was on the TV or to play twitch games instead of doing something constructive?

    When I was a kid I built a lot of models, rewired telephones and I watched Star Trek. One scene that helped define my life was when Spock was apparently staring off into space, and Kirk asked: "Shouldn't you be working on that warp implosion equation?" (or something like that) To which Spock replied with utmost confidence, "I am."

    I was so impressed with that, that I started looking for problems to solve and solving them in my head -- things like calculating the length of a train based on my speed in the car, the train's speed and how long it took our car to overtake it (this required having my dad match the speed of the train and then drop back far enough to accelerate to a steady speed to overtake it. Good thing I had accommodating parents!) I got so good at this kind of thing that I failed a math test (multiplying matrices) in High School. "But I got all the answers right." I confidently told the teacher. "Yes, but you didn't show any work, at all. There are only answers here. You obviously copied someone else's paper." I reminded her that I was the first to tun mine in, by a long shot. She begrudgingly gave me the 100%.

    You can imagine that this skill helped out tremendously in software development.

    All I have to say is, if you ever get bored, ever, then you're not doing it right, even if you don't have anything to play with but your wits. Temple run? I tried it once. Once. Boooooooring!

  • by Bigbutt (65939) on Thursday September 27, 2012 @10:07AM (#41477239) Homepage Journal

    It's one of the things I like about taking a motorcycle out on a trip or even a day ride. Since you can't browse the internet[0] or make phone calls[1], I tend to enjoy the ride free of distractions. After a bit of time, I've flushed all thoughts of work out of my mind and start thinking of other things. It frees my mind to come up with interesting ideas.

    It's a problem my wife and I have had. She wants to go out for a hike and spends the time just being in the woods, one with nature. I'm constantly thinking of other things while walking or even things about the hike itself. Especially since I'm a gamer, I'm thinking tactics or even historical information (more like, "I wonder who found this trail, think about what it would have been like to be trailing a mule up into the mountains looking for gold").

    The bad part is even when I write them down, when I get home I'm distracted by all the other stuff again so I have several partially started or projects that aren't started at all sitting around the house. I find I have to really force myself to shut out reading Slashdot or any of the other forums I follow in order to get other computer type stuff done.

    [John]

    [0] There are folks who'll try anything. I've seen pictures of guys on cruisers talking on their cell phones.
    [1] Technically you can use a bluetooth headset or wired connection to make calls. I've used them and they're fine for accepting them but making a call is a bit more difficult unless you stop first.

  • Boredom, like retirement, is an artificial modern thing. Our ancestors weren't bored. They had a tremendous amount to get done. Be busy, prepare for winter, drought or what ever or you will die.

    Our family has a small farm. We're never bored. There is alway plenty to do.

  • Even though I have a "smartphone" and enjoy it sometimes for all it can offer I purposely go out of my way to read magazines waiting in offices(if its something cool like NG, et al). When riding the train to/from work(the worst place to see gadgetophilia) I listen to music or read a book or magazine.

    I noticed when the iPhone and Droids first came out, that within a few months it had become the norm in our society to "veg out" on these devices, not only to the detriment of public safety(driving, walking,
  • Science? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Zalbik (308903) on Thursday September 27, 2012 @10:39AM (#41477575)

    Why is this story tagged science? I RTFA, and I didn't see any science there. I see an opinion piece from an anthropologist, without a shred of actual science attached to it. No studies, no control group, no data, nothing.

    With their games, music, videos, social media and texting, smartphones 'superstimulate,' a desire humans have to play when things get dull,

    Really? And where are the psychological studies to back this up? Neurological data? I thought not. Typical ivory tower "publish or perish" piece crapped out by the soft "sciences".

  • by mveloso (325617) on Thursday September 27, 2012 @11:16AM (#41478107)

    Most people don't have an iota of creativity in them. None. Zero. Nada. The smartphone won't change that.

    Are there creative geniuses being suppressed because of non-stop access to entertainment? Probably not. Being creative isn't just coming up with ideas, it's executing those ideas. Execution requires focus. If you're distracted by your phone, you'd be distracted by pretty much everything else as well.

    I think that process discipline counts for more than creativity. If you read "how I write" books, a common theme is to dedicate X hours a day for writing, period. You can write or not write, but you have to sit there and do nothing else.

    That sort of discipline is probably something they should teach in school, but they don't. Of course the phones don't help, but if you can't ignore your phone you won't be able to ignore anything else either (like windows solitaire, the bane of authors and writers everywhere).

  • by misanthrope101 (253915) on Thursday September 27, 2012 @02:29PM (#41480575)
    You can also *read books* on your phone. Right now I'm reading Proust. So there is quite a bit of angsty introspection going on in my life right now. So just because someone is looking at their phone non-stop doesn't mean they're playing a game, or tweeting, or whatever. And if you're shallow, don't blame it on the phone, or the internet, or connectivity. Just spend less time with Angry Birds and more time with Thoreau.

I use technology in order to hate it more properly. -- Nam June Paik

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