Lack of Boredom Breeds Absence of Civility?

August 17, 2010 -

In this increasingly connected electronic world, boys are increasingly turning to media that provides sensory entertainment, which, in turn, acts as an immediate and gratifying substitute for happiness, according to an article penned by a clinical psychologist.

In an article written for the New Atlantis, author Adam J. Cox argues that boredom provides an “availability of mental space” that “goes hand in hand with a civil mind.” Today’s kids, he writes, are enthralled for hours on end by electronica, such as games, phones and computers, leading to:

The adolescent mind is nowadays so hyper-stimulated that the absence of stimulation — boredom — is unsettling, while the chaos of constant connection is soothingly familiar. A languishing teenager feels irritable and instinctively knows how to rev up: go online, turn on the TV, call someone, text.

 

Continuous stimulation and communication comprise the new normal.

This new found commitment to media means that today’s youngsters are bored after “thirty seconds of nothing to do,” where as fifty years ago or so, such an onset might only have appeared after a couple hours of inactivity.

Cox continued:

While boredom is hardly something to strive for, its presence confirms the existence of brief gaps in the continuous stimulation that dominates the thinking cycle of many kids. These pauses enable thought and reason to infuse action; they are boredom’s natural habitat, and the genesis of civil behavior.

 

It is only during moments of relative calm that young minds learn to bind empathy to action, and the development of thoughtful behaviors we associate with civility.

To be fair, Cox doesn’t pin the blame firmly on electronics; he also assigns some blame to a perceived notion among boys that acting civil somehow equals being subordinate, the enemy of young males everywhere. He wrote, “Civility feels like submission or servitude to these boys and as such is inconsistent with their idealized selves.”

Having fun, or the new incarnation of fun (being constantly connected), is the mortal enemy of civility writes Cox:

Being civil is rarely fun — it requires patience, forethought, and some willingness to tolerate tedium. While happiness and contentment are civility’s ally, fun, as defined by the relentless quest for pleasure, is tragically its foe.

Cox states that we should “cling to the pauses in cognition that boredom signals as we might cling to a life raft,” before “... the prospect of civility drowns in a wave of electronic thrills, and there’s no air left to think.”


Via George F Will


Comments

Re: Lack of Boredom Breeds Absence of Civility?

If Boredom breeds abscense of civility, how do you explain a lot of mainland China. They spent years trying, in vain, to get their population to do basic stuff like not cut in line, stop spiting on the streets, and not yelling at people for the Olympics. The Shanghai Expo was another grand display of a lack of civility. One officer was pratically gang raped by people because he was handing out tickets to the China pavilion. People were leaping over barriers, punching out reporters, walking the wrong way up packed escalators, touching things despite repeated requests not to, etc etc. And these arent the young people either. The elder people really lack civility.

Re: Lack of Boredom Breeds Absence of Civility?

Hax says somethign modern is the cause of unrest,news at 11.


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Re: Lack of Boredom Breeds Absence of Civility?

The more time I spend on the Internet the more bored I get... so I think this person is just wrong. Of course clinical pyschology is the least scienc-y of the scienes.

Re: Lack of Boredom Breeds Absence of Civility?

If he's complaining about civility on the internet, that's due to anonymity. You're less restrained when you don't risk a punch i nthe face.

Re: Lack of Boredom Breeds Absence of Civility?

I usually think that boredom causes crime and other stuff...

 

You know, usually when someone is involved with gang or that stuff, people say that this is lack of work and proper entertainment...

 

And I agree, in fact we can see on the news, that paramilitary organizations are really happy to ban entertainment in a way to cause boredom, and make people WANT to do something else instead (ie: shoot stuff, alive or not)

 

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Re: Lack of Boredom Breeds Absence of Civility?

Blink.... blink.... huh?

I am not following the author's reasoning... ok, I can see the first part where people are less bored because they have easy access to mental stimulation... but I am completely lost at how he associates bordom with civil behavior.

And then later he touches on what is generally considered one of the real detriments to civil behavior, it is seen as submissive behavior (or more specificly, males in dominate possitions are less required to behave in a civil manner)...

Re: Lack of Boredom Breeds Absence of Civility?

Really?  Two hours?  My father was a youth fifty years ago, and I assure you it didn't take him and his gang of louts thirty seconds to decide to head to the park and rouse some rabble.  (Ah, but that's "constructive" socializing, whereas all this modern blippity-bloop stuff is clearly built for the reduction of intellect.)

I also like how Mr. Cox initially shies away from giving "rebellion" as a reason for the lack of civility in adolescents, but later states that "civility feels like submission or servitude".  So maybe they're rebelling against that, as boys and men are wont to do?  It's not quite full-blown hypocricy, but he's not really making his case to me by shifting his explanations around like this.

After that, it's the usual laundry list of complaints by the older generation against their younger counterparts: people are supposedly naturally kind and it's just the "bad influences" which disrupt that, we have to teach boys to be good lest they grow up to be criminals and drug addicts, and kids these days should respect their elders.  Well, shucks, ain't it a dang shame we ain't livin' in the fifties no more.  Back then you coulda given those kids a couple o' switchings to set 'em straight!

Mostly, I'm just annoyed that Mr. Cox missed the mark with his reference to No Country For Old Men.  Yes, the sheriff does express his despair in society regarding good manners... but at the end of the movie (haven't read the book) two boys, appearing to be between the ages of eleven and fourteen, express courtesy towards the mystery hitman: "are you okay, sir?"  Then one of them offers his shirt to wrap up the broken arm -- I forget if that's before or after the hitman offers him money, but still.  The scene expresses the exact opposite of what this article bemoans: in a world where adults are getting progressively ruder by the day, some kids are still upstanding citizens, and there's hope for the future.  I think that's a far more positive message, one which Mr. Cox could stand to meditate upon, what with his copious amounts of free time between moments of heightened stimulation.

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