On Radio Derb, I did a story about rising craziness. I can't quite say exactly how this next story relates to it. I feel instinctively that it does, I just can't figure how.
The survey in that headline was carried out for Bowlero, a chain of bowling alleys. The survey asked Americans how bored they are. What precisely they asked was, how many boring days a year we endure, with a boring day defined as one that involved simply no fun at all.
They found that average-average, Americans experience 131 boring days a year—that's 36 percent of the year.
Boredom seems to be increasing. Quote: "Over 20 percent said 2018 was less fun overall than the previous three years," end quote.
There are legitimate doubts you can raise about the objectivity of this survey. If I were running a chain of bowling alleys, I'd want some talking points to get people out bowling on my lanes.
With due allowance for that, though, and watching people gazing away for hours into their smartphones and iPads, there is definitely something passive about today's fun.
Back in the 1970s I used to go bowling twice a week. It was fun. We drank and smoked and boasted and flirted as we bowled. After bowling there was a wee disco attached to the lanes where you could drink and flirt more, and ogle the wives and girlfriends of your fellow bowlers.
It was fun—not as much fun as skydiving or partying with Charlie Sheen in Vegas, but way more fun than sitting in bed watching Netflix.
So yes, we are overstimulated by our gadgets, but not in a good way: in a way that de-activates, de-socializes, and de-humanizes us.
On the de-socializing point, it's a neat coincidence that a classic study on this was Robert Putnam's 2001 book Bowling Alone. Putnam followed up with a famous 2006 study on ethnic diversity, which I covered in detail in Chapter 2 of We Are Doomed. Ethnic diversity, Putnam found, correlates negatively with social capital. Quote from my book:
In places with more ethnic diversity, people have fewer friends, watch more TV, are less inclined to vote, trust local government less, and rate their personal happiness lower.
Not surprising they're bored. Bored, and alienated.
This is world-wide. Headline, from Voice of Europe, May 7th: Austrians say they're "feeling like foreigners" inside of their own country. Headline, from Breitbart, May 2nd: Ireland: Politicians Back Globalism, But People Fear Country "Changing Too Quickly". I could pull half a dozen headlines like that from any week's news.
Now I confess I'm feeling smug. I'm hardly ever bored. I just wish there were more hours in the day for all the things I want to do: catch up on reading, ride my bike round the local state park, home repairs, visiting, entertaining, fiddling with computer code, family stuff, … I have to struggle to remember the last time I was bored.
Is that merely personal, or generational? No idea: but I don't have a smartphone or an iPad, and my computer is my slave, not my master.