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Mindful : February 2019
Manoush Zomorodi launched a six-part “Bored and Brilliant” challenge on WNYC, asking us to back off our devices and let real face-to -face life intrude. It was part of her ongoing passion to investigate how technology is transforming humanity—and see what we might like to change. Why do you think boredom can be a good thing? Our parents always said, “Only boring people get bored.” So you think, “If I’m bored, I’m insufficient!” Then when we have our own kids, we’re told we have to make sure those little minds are constantly stimulated. We think boredom is something to be avoided. But we’ve gone to an extreme, which is that technology means we don’t ever have to be bored. Because all those little cracks in our day, those moments of walking someplace or waiting in line for coffee er baby is colicky. That’s how it begins. The only way Manoush Zomorodi’s infant son can be soothed is when she walks him in his stroller through the streets of Brooklyn. She walks for hours. Any noise sets him off, so even talking on her flip phone is off limits. She grows bored. She finds herself spacing out, her mind wandering in a way she hasn’t experienced since childhood. Years later, she has a new job as a radio reporter. She’s given the chance to host her own show. It’s called Note to Self, about how technology is shaping our lives. She sits down to brainstorm. You know, as many ideas as you can dream up. No idea is a bad idea! There’s only one problem. She has no ideas. She tries to think back to a time when ideas came easily. And she remembers: those long walks with her son. Before her smartphone. When she was bored. That’s how Manoush came up with the Bored and Brilliant challenge, in which she asked her listeners: Will you join me in a week-long experiment? Will you change your digital habits, get bored on purpose, and see what happens? Twenty thousand people signed up within 48 hours. I sat down with Manoush to find out what she and her listeners learned. or sitting on the subway, are filled with our phones. The moment we get that uncomfortable feeling, we can immediately be distracted with texting or scrolling. So once I started to notice I was never bored anymore, I wondered: Is that a good thing? What would happen if we got rid of bore- dom entirely? Would we be missing something? What did you find out? I discovered that neuroscientists and cognitive psychologists are coming to understand that boredom is actu- ally very important because it’s the gateway to mind-wandering. And allowing your mind to wander—some people call it daydreaming—is neces- sary to your creativity. It’s the time when you take one disparate idea and another disparate idea, and you smash ABOUT THE AUTHOR Barbara Paulsen is a freelance writer, editor, and podcast producer, who was formerly the longtime award-winning story development editor at National Geographic. PHOTOGRAPHBYSTEPHANIEDIANI 52 mindful February 2019