The iPhone is Stealing Our Boredom
I spent the last two weeks completely unplugged, on vacation with my family in a small stone house in the middle of nowhere in Southern France, not far from where my wife was born.
No email, no internet, no phone.
Which was totally annoying at first.
I kept reaching in my pocket for the phone that wasn't there any more. For the first few days it was as if some part of me was missing. This happened most often in those in-between moments when I had nothing to do — waiting for a train, standing in the security line at an airport, waiting for the waiter to arrive with my food.
After a while I began to notice a little feeling creeping up inside of me in those moments. A little itch, which I could no longer scratch.
I didn't like it at first. The feeling was unpleasant. But since I didn't have my iPhone any more, and not having anything better to do, I decided to just pay attention and observe feeling every time it came up. Which happened a lot, up to 5-10 times an hour depending on what I was doing! — about as often as I habitually check my phone during the day when I'm back home.
It works like this: that little feeling comes up inside which we don't like, so we pull out our smartphones and cover it up.
Try it yourself. The next time you have the urge to pick up your phone for no particular reason — just don't do it. Sit still and pay attention to the sensations that come up inside you instead.
I had a lot of time on my hands for the last few weeks, obviously. What I discovered is that that annoying little feeling, that little nothing of a moment is actually the feeling of being alive with nothing added.
We've come to associate this feeling with something we need to fix. We call it being bored. We turn on the TV our the computer, our we get busy and check out.
But it's this that the smartphone, always available and in our pocket, is taking away from us. And this is a great loss.
The smartphone is stealing our ability to be bored.
That's a shame, because these moments are actually very rich. They're filled with feelings and sensations that are the very essence of our lives when nothing is going on.
Just this, right here, nothing else.
After a while, if you don't run away, you realize it's all right.
/ Photograph by Stephen Shore, 2012, Ukraine.