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Did smartphones wipe out boredom?

By Jean-Claude Elias - Dec 07,2017 - Last updated at Dec 07,2017

Smartphones have become the ultimate attached toy and have made it impossible to get bored.

Who does not pull out their smartphone to pass the time while waiting at the doctor, at the bank, for their kids at school, in an airport lounge to board a plane, at the car wash, and in countless situations where there would not be much to do without the magical device, the magical wand should I say?

Of course you could always read a book or a printed newspaper, or chat with the human being sitting or standing next to you, but this would not be half as much fun, would it? In the best case it would be so passé.

The habit has become so strong that even a few seconds waiting at the traffic light when driving are sometimes spent playing with the handset. Playing ranges from checking the weather (when it is plain to see it is not raining outside), taking a glance at your Facebook page, browsing the web for breaking news, checking Whatsapp threads or even — definitely not recommended — typing a text message.

By constantly teasing our mind, by permanently keeping us on high alert smartphones do not leave room for one of the most critical, most essential activities — or rather non-activity — of the human race: relaxing, doing nothing, daydreaming, or as the beautiful Italian idiom goes, the farniente.

The question is: “Is wiping out boredom completely a good thing?”

Even outdoor sport clubs and swimming pools make it a point to provide their members with a good WiFi coverage these days, so as never to leave anyone without a good 3G or 4G signal one single minute. No one should be surprised if Internet operators manage to give us WiFi signal coverage underwater one day, to allow us to enjoy our dear smartphones while doing swimming laps.

Besides, several high-end smartphones models already are certified as being completely waterproof and can sustain several minutes underwater. Why not then make the best of their capability?

The web and the social media are crowded with hilarious cartoons illustrating the concept: people looking at their phones everywhere, every second, with no respite at all. With smartphones it’s a “never a dull moment” guaranteed.

A while ago a cartoon was circulating on the web showing teenagers standing by the Mona Lisa painting at the Louvre museum in Paris, with all of them staring at their smartphone screen and no one looking at what is probably the world’s most famous painting. Someone who wanted to have a positive attitude commented “Don’t blame them, they are well read-kids, they actually must be Googling information about the painter’s life...!”

The addiction to smartphones is so widely spread now, so intense, so present among us that there must be thousands of academic social studies about the subject. However, being addicted to using them, to do work or to communicate when there is a real need to is one thing, and not being able to let go of them for a few minutes even if there is no specific need, just because we are waiting for something, is another.

 

On a recent visit to my physician I noticed that the usual pile of magazines on the waiting room table was gone. Just looking at what the patients waiting here with me were doing made me suddenly understand why.

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