Sunday, May 26, 2013

Gadgets and the value of boredom

Computers, smartphones and i-pods are great inventions, no doubt. In many respects, these gadgets allow us to multi-task; that is, to get a lot of things done that was nearly impossible a decade or two ago. But just as every strength has a corresponding weakness, it can be said that these modern inventions will relax creativity and deep thought among our younger generations.

I have kids and I see firsthand how they are becoming more dependent on these gadgets not only for basic necessities such as making phone calls on their phone or doing homework on their computer, but for recreational and entertainment purposes. For this reason, as a parent, I have chosen to regulate their use of them as I would regulate their consumption of candy.

As stated, technology brings many blessings to the table. However, I find that children are becoming more isolated from their families and even less creative in their ability to play. About fifty years ago, if you were to give a child a stick and a rock he would, without batting an eye, invent his own games. The field and the pond would easily be transformed into a playground.

But today if you tell a child to go outside and play he may give you a strange look. Or worse yet, he wouldn't know what to do. The reason for this is due to the fact that the fun is already pre-programed on the very gadgets he relies so heavily on. This is part of the reason why these things can be so addictive. An x-box, computer or an i-pod require very little work, imagination and initiative on the part of the child. Take these gadgets away and you are likely to witness a child protest that they are bored.

A question we might want to ask ourselves is: Do children experience any downtime anymore? Are they encouraged to just think? Even on family vacations in which a child used to stare out the window and dream about the future, today it is common for kids in the backseat to watch their own respective movies. One child is watching his movie on one DVD screen; another child is texting a friend miles away; and yet, another child is watching another movie on a different DVD screen.

It would seem that modern technology is alluring us all into our own little worlds; especially children. Indeed, the luxury for every family to watch their own movie or to do their own thing is far from being advantageous. If this tendency is left unchecked, I am afraid we will all be separated little islands. Continents will ceases to exist.

With that said, boredom is not such a bad thing anymore. I mean boredom is good for the soul because so few people can enjoy a moment of silence to think. It can spur creativity and great achievements. More importantly, in order for us to discover the purpose of our place in this world it is imperative that we are allowed to think without distractions.

If you're a parent, a good place to start is to deny yourself the compulsion to hop on the computer to check emails or to see who just texted you. I, to be sure, am a work in progress. But I am also finding that boredom (i.e. silence and being free of gadgets, television and radio) not only occasions thought and creativity, it also allows for self-examination and a more intimate communion with God. That's right. Knowledge of self and knowledge of God can only be had by thinking in silence. For this and many other reasons, boredom is not such a bad thing after all.