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Social media may prevent users from reaping creative rewards of profound boredom

University of Bath – “People who turn to social media to escape from superficial boredom are unwittingly preventing themselves from progressing to a state of profound boredom, which may open the door to more creative and meaningful activity, a new study of the Covid pandemic shows. Researchers from the University of Bath School of Management and Trinity College, Dublin, identified that the pandemic, furlough, and enforced solitude provided many people with the rare opportunity to experience the two levels of boredom – ‘superficial’ and ‘profound’ – identified first by German philosopher Martin Heidegger. Superficial boredom – the most common state of boredom – can be defined as a feeling of restlessness familiar to us all, of being bored in a situation such as waiting for a train where we seek temporary distractions from everyday life and in which social media and mobile devices play a significant role. Profound boredom stems from an abundance of uninterrupted time spent in relative solitude, which can lead to indifference, apathy, and people questioning their sense of self and their existence – but which Heidegger said could also pave the way to more creative thinking and activity. The research examined the experiences of boredom during the pandemic of people either placed on furlough schemes or asked to work from home.

The problem we observed was that social media can alleviate superficial boredom but that distraction sucks up time and energy, and may prevent people progressing to a state of profound boredom, where they might discover new passions,” said Dr Timothy Hill, co-author of the study ‘Mundane emotions: losing yourself in boredom, time and technology’.

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