People used to talk about boredom as though it were a thing, not a mood—a sort of physical object. It “descended” on you. You “escaped” from it, you “fled” it. Or you “dispelled” it, as though it were a fog. This wasn’t always easy to do; sometimes the boredom was just too thick, too “heavy.” Trapped in the back of a car on a long road trip, stuck on a flight without a book or magazine, or seated beside a dull stranger at a formal social gathering, the best you could do to “lift” the boredom, to muster a bit of leverage against its mass, was to imagine that you were somewhere else (or perhaps even someone else), doing something else.
But suddenly, this old-fashioned trick has become unnecessary. Thanks to Twitter, iPads, BlackBerrys, voice-activated in-dash navigation systems, and a hundred other technologies that offer distraction anywhere, anytime, boredom has loosened its grip on us at last—that once-crushing “weight” has become, for the most part, a memory. Even the worst blind dates don’t bore us now; we’re never more than a click away from freedom, from an instantaneous change of conversation partners.
But what else has been lost? Creativity, just maybe. Because when one thinks about the matter—though we really have no reason to think about the matter, or to think about anything since boredom disappeared—the keypad and the touch screen now do the work that used to be the business of the daydream. Remember daydreams? No, of course you don’t. How could you? Three new text messages have just arrived and another three, in a moment, will go out.