This article made quite an impression on me the other day.
Numerous studies and much accepted wisdom suggest that time spent doing nothing, being bored, is beneficial for sparking and sustaining creativity. With our iPhone in hand – or any smartphone, really – our minds, always engaged, always fixed on that tiny screen, may simply never get bored. And our creativity suffers.
Spending so much time texting and updating, tweeting and watching, calling and playing at every free moment, from every location, never alone with our thoughts, never allowing our thoughts to drift, impacts our creativity, which in turn can limit our full potential.
I don’t know how much truth there is in boredom contributing to a loss in creativity. I find sweeping generalizations like this are often constructed to maximize their impact. The truth is likely more complex than this simple thesis posits.
But this does have the ring of truth to it on some level. I do think it’s true that moments of boredom – moments when I truly have nothing to do except observe both the outside world and my inner thoughts – have almost disappeared from my life since I’ve owned a smartphone and tablet. And consumption of what I want to call “trivial content” – things that consume time but otherwise have almost no lasting impact on my life – has risen to an all-time high.
Maybe it’s just nostalgia or my inner luddite speaking out, but part of me misses those moments of boredom. I tend to do my best thinking then, and allowing those moments to disappear seems like a mistake.
So much of what we do on our smartphones, however, is decidedly short-term: a few moments playing a game while we stand in line, a minute to scan Instagram as the person in front of us at the grocery store pulls out their checkbook.
I’d rather be more engaged in the world around me than check my facebook feed every hour. I’d rather examine my thoughts and create a more accurate worldview. And I’d rather let my mind wander and potentially even have a creative insight or two.
So, I’m making a resolution. I’m going to stop using my smartphone – or any tablet, laptop, PC, or other gadget – as a time-wasting device. When I’m sitting on the bus, or waiting in line, or in any situation where my brain is free to wander, I will let it do just that. I don’t know if it will be beneficial or not. Maybe I’ll just become more ignorant and bored. But this seems like a good experiment to perform, and it may very well be a good thing. Maybe I’ll be able to think more deeply about fewer things, which in the end seems like an excellent tradeoff to me.