Boredom

I cannot remember the last time I was bored.

I’m not sure I’ve ever been bored. Given access to everything I normally have access to, I have virtually unlimited future projects. I even have several Evernote files of projects I want to do categorized by how unlikely it is that I’ll ever do them.

Even if I didn’t have access to my normal arsenal of boredom-crushing projects and activities, I have an active imagination and lots of things I want to think about – I’ve been able to comfortably think to myself without an ounce of boredom many times.

(In fact, true story – my father and I went on a long road trip, just over 8 hours, when I was ten years old. I didn’t make a peep the entire time, just stared out the window. Never slept, didn’t bug my dad, didn’t play with any toys. Even then, I was perfectly comfortable in my own head for extended periods of time.)

So when I read this story, I was really amused. Here’s the short version: psychologists left people alone in a room with no source of distraction whatsoever except for a device they could use to deliver electric shocks to themselves. They only left them in there for 15 minutes, and yet a quarter of the women and more than 70% of the men shocked themselves at least once during that time. Some lots of times!

Now, you may be thinking what the authors of the study are thinking – humans are highly affected by boredom and would rather shock themselves than be bored even for a short time.

I disagree with that conclusion.

You see, as I’ve hopefully demonstrated, I am practically immune to boredom. I’ve never encountered a circumstance where boredom would affect me negatively. At the same time, I can tell you right now that I would shock myself within 30 seconds of being in that room.

Not to alleviate the boredom! But because I, like apparently 70% of my fellow men, am curious about novel experiences.

Let me imagine myself in that room, and then tell you what I’d be thinking: “Hmmm, all alone in a room with just this shocker, huh? Well, since I’m in an environment where they’ve hooked me up to this thing, I can guarantee it won’t really hurt me. So at worst it’ll give me an interesting but harmless sensation, and at best it won’t do anything and someone is just trying to see if I’ll do it. I’ll get a better story either way, so I’m definitely pushing this button and–“ BZZZZZZZZZZZZ!!

When we don’t have anything else to do, we seek out new experiences. But we seek out new experiences even if we do have something else to do. Curiosity trumps boredom every time.

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