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New Year’s Resolution: Rediscover Boredom in the Smartphone Age

Smartphones have changed the way we inhabit public space and more specifically, how we fill our time while waiting. Consequently, day-dreaming, thinking, speculating, observing, and people-watching are diminishing arts. So, what happens when you put down your phone, look up and start noticing?

Though hotly contested, the social, physical, and cognitive effects of our slavish devotion to the smartphone are said to include symptoms and risk factors such as neck problems, limited attention span, interrupted sleep, anti-social behavior, accidents, and other health risks.

Rarely mentioned in this litany of side effects is how phone use has changed the way we inhabit public space and, more specifically, how we fill our time while waiting. Every moment of potential boredom can now be ameliorated or avoided by all manner of tasks, modes of entertainment or other distractions conveniently provided courtesy of our minicomputer.

Some years back, in response to my own smartphone symptoms, I decided to look up from my screen and look around. We constantly use electronic devices to distract ourselves from the tedium associated with waiting. Instead, we could see boredom as an invitation to look up and then look around, to people watch, daydream, or take the time to observe and develop our own [observation of the beauty of the world] beyond hyperlinks and tags.

Possible Preaching Angle:

Make a New Year’s resolution: Don’t reach for your smartphone the next time you are forced to wait. Instead, use this time to set your mind on God: Read the Word, pray, meditate on God as revealed in nature, destress yourself by centering your thoughts on God.


Julie Shiels, “Waiting: rediscovering boredom in the age of the smartphone,” The Conversation (9-25-17)

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