I walk up to the men’s room and pull on the door, someone is in there already. Not even five seconds go by and I’ve pulled out my phone, opened up Instagram and am quickly scrolling away. I’m able to escape the potential boredom that would have doomed me otherwise. What was my life like before I had this tool to transport me out of any potentially unpleasant moment?
“Are we there yet? Are we there yet?” Boredom is often seen as something we do not enjoy. Parents don’t like it when their kids are bored because they become annoying. Being bored makes us feel frustrated, especially when boredom comes unexpectedly or uncontrollably, like when a flight is delayed or there is excessive traffic. That frustration makes it almost impossible to concentrate on something other than being upset. Now that we have computers in our pockets everywhere we go with various infinite feeds we can almost completely eliminate boring moments. If Instagram is boring, check your Twitter feed. So is life without boredom as perfect as this simple logic might suggest? Of course it is not.
Pulling out our smartphones everytime we start to feel bored, as our nervous habit and invisible crutch, is really just a misguided diversion. You cannot escape boredom in the long term by consuming more noise on your phone, and as we consume more quickly we will require even more stimulation to combat a much deeper existential boredom at the core of the problem. The smartphone is not a cure of boredom, it is a temporary avoidance. It is merely killing time. When we consume so fast, there is no way for us to appreciate anything, and it is in that appreciation that our lives have meaning and purpose.
In remembering how much I used to cherish solitude and watching myself become victim to the constant unconcious checking and checking again, we came up with the idea to begin building the Light Phone. The Light Phone is credit card sized cell phone that only makes phone calls; it is your phone away from phone. It keeps your same phone number, stores a few speed dials and lets you go light, leaving your smartphone behind. In many ways encouraging us to choose to intentionally put ourselves in little boring situations.
The Light Phone is really a question. Aside from the interesting discussions that arise with friends or strangers as I pull out my Light Phone, when I am alone I’m able to have the important conversations with myself. Now that I am free, now what? What am I going to do? What am I doing with my life? Who am I? What is life? It’s not easy, and many of our earliest users can attest to the anxiety that comes along with leaving your smartphone behind. Easy things have never been the most meaningful or deeply satisfying. We want to get to the hard questions, that’s when we actually feel most alive.
What if we change the perception of boredom? Instead of boredom can we see these moments as idleness; intentional, luxorius, and sacred. Our time and attention are the two most important things that we often take for granted. The Light Phone is an object that makes solitude special. We want to see boredom not as a prison that keeps us stuck and fustrated but rather as a blank piece of paper and infinite possibility. Instead of trying to kill time, let’s make the time come alive. Solitude is an essential element to creativity or any serious work for that matter. Capacity for boredom is at the root of observation. Observation inspires science, art, change, and opportunity. Have we become afraid of our inner lives? I think that we will find ourselves much happier when we are able to look forward to boredom, and to actually aspire for it.
In a restaurant in San Francisco a few months back, Kai and I overheard a little girl saying, “Dad I’m bored, I’m bored,” and the father calmly stopped her and said, “Remember what we said about boredom dear, boredom is a time for learning.” EJ
Words and images by JOE HOLLIER
(Co-Founder of The Light Phone)