Smartphones cure boredom, but is that necessarily a good thing?

By on September 26, 2012, 10:30 AM

Whenever I’m out and about around town, I can’t help but notice the growing number of people that turn to their mobile phones to quell even just a brief moment of boredom. I’ve seen couples and groups of friends at restaurants completely engaged in what’s going on in the digital world rather than spending quality face-to-face time with those around them in the real world. I won’t even get into the number of people I’ve seen (on a daily basis even) that don’t seem capable of driving anywhere by themselves without a phone smashed against their ear or worse, texting while driving.

Most would agree that smartphones are the ultimate weapon in the battle against boredom but is there more than meets the eye? Some researchers believe so. Anthropology processor Christopher Lynn from the University of Alabama says smartphones address a basic human need to curb boredom much like smoking a cigarette, biting your fingernails, doodling or even eating junk food.

As is the case with some of the aforementioned habits, playing on a smartphone all the time isn’t exactly a good idea either. The professor points out that when someone is constantly used to stimulation, missing out on it can lead to anxiety as you simply “don’t know what to do with yourself.”

Researchers at England’s Social Issues Research Centre point out that by filling every waking moment of the day with digital stimulation, people are missing out on much-needed downtime that can lead to personal thought, reflection or just zoning out – all of which are vehicles for creativity.

Do you use a smartphone to cure boredom between tasks or are you content with just “sitting around” and relaxing every now and again?

Texting image from Shutterstock.




User Comments: 25

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Guest said:

Some people need their hand held and to be baby sat at all times. Lest they look inside themselves and have a scary thought.

tehbanz tehbanz said:

If I didn't have to have a smart phone for my job, I wouldn't. I'm rarely on it unless its to listen to spotify on the go. I hate cell phones and what they have done to society.

2 people like this | Burty117 Burty117, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Me, being part of this younger generation, I really REALLY hate it when my friends just wander off into their own world on their phone, I mean come on! your here at the fair to enjoy the atmosphere, the rides and socialize, not stood their like a plank playing angry birds...

So yes, I agree it is not a good thing when someone is constantly on their phone, Its annoying as hell.

3 people like this | hitech0101 said:

I am bored of looking at people staring down at their phones all day.

1 person liked this | treeski treeski said:

Like most things, there is a time and place for everything. Also, everything in moderation. Smart phones are a great, great boon to society, but when users get sucked in, it becomes a problem. It definitely irritates me when I'm at dinner with family or friends, and I see phones (smart or otherwise) being taken out to play with.

All good things have baggage that you can't avoid.

Neojt said:

I do use my phone alot when im on public transportation for Movies ,music ,books.

I do see ppl living out their life in texting and FaceBook... checking their wall to see if someone wrote something .....

Smart phones are like anithing else in this world even if its great moderation is the key!

6 people like this | TomSEA TomSEA, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

I was at a BBQ gathering last Sunday with a group of friends. One of my buddies noticed his daughter was already fooling around with her smartphone almost as they were getting out of their car. He told her, "Guess what? We're going to pretend it's 1998 and there are no cell phones. Put that in the car, leave it there and start talking to people."

I loved it...

1 person liked this | avioza said:

There is nothing wrong with being bored once in a while either... it can lead to original insights and new ideas, Instead of your brain constantly being spoonfed information from the entertainment and advertising industry.

It is replacing healthy, face to face communication with friends and family...

1 person liked this |
Staff
Per Hansson Per Hansson, TS Server Guru, said:

Personally I can't stand it, moderation is key but the majority of the population does not seem able to use their phones with moderation.

It's as if they are scared by their own thoughts, afraid of spending even a minute on self reflection.

Guest said:

It's a huge turn off and disappointment to see people in social situations always staring down at their phones. It says a lot about a person that can't or won't communicate face to face. I think that the constant updating of twatter and fakebook is a sign of a very insecure person. Boredom, sure, but I see a lot of people using mobile devices to avoid social interaction which is really sad. whoa

2 people like this | ETF Soldier ETF Soldier said:

I'm 16, and everyone gives me a look of disgust when they see my phone, but I just laugh at them, because my Nokia will beat everyone's in a battle of conkers.

H3llion H3llion, TechSpot Paladin, said:

I was at a BBQ gathering last Sunday with a group of friends. One of my buddies noticed his daughter was already fooling around with her smartphone almost as they were getting out of their car. He told her, "Guess what? We're going to pretend it's 1998 and there are no cell phones. Put that in the car, leave it there and start talking to people."

I loved it...

Nice, that is actually really smart way to tell your child not to do something ;P

18 and I do not even have a phone due to spending all my cash on other things heh. I do want one but mostly its just about getting hold of someone when you can't online or other ways. I have iPod touch 3rd gen and that sort of works like a phone for me but only while connected to wifi.

3 people like this | samuraikata samuraikata said:

I'm proud to say I do not own a smartphone. Zoning out and the occasional nap on the train rule. \m/

2 people like this | psycros psycros said:

Smartphones are lowering our already pitiful attention spans even further. That's a huge negative for any society. Worse, their used as insulation between people, as middlemen for all social interaction..and they cause endless misunderstandings because there's no emotional context involved.

tehbanz tehbanz said:

It is the governments way of controlling us man I swear..*applies tinfoil hat*

gcarter gcarter said:

Whats that saying... "Don't judge someone until you've walked a mile in their shoes"? I personally use my phone frequently to check email, to update facebook, twitter etc. You'll probably see me in coffeeshops and the like doing the same... why...

I work from home, my other half works long hours (8am-8pm), most of my friends are in other cities and rarely get to see them. My parents and brothers live hundreds of miles away.

So yes, I use my phone a lot... helps with the loneliness during the day and keeps me in touch with family and friends afar

treeski treeski said:

I'm proud to say I do not own a smartphone. Zoning out and the occasional nap on the train rule. \m/

Unfortuantely, this is not really a safe option in Chicago's el

1 person liked this | Adhmuz Adhmuz, TechSpot Paladin, said:

It's a saddest thing in the world, watching people at social gatherings who are so oblivious to their surroundings mashing away on their smart phone, 50% of the time they're on Facebook! But that's only part of the problem, now you have the "Always have to prove themselves right smart-phone user" who will Google anything just to prove a point, the only point they manage to prove is how big of a tool they are. There's also the "Always on Facebook smart-phone user" and the "I have a horrible craving for poor quality games smart-phone user" all of which is frankly disgusting. People are replacing normal interaction with pushing buttons and sending text messages with poor grammar and or spelling. This has lead me to change my favorite place from the local bars, to anywhere that has zero cell reception, or where batteries die and can't be charged. Camping or Cottaging, good times, no stupid distractions.

And for the record I got my first "Smart-Phone" this summer, sans data-plan and use it as simply a phone with a built in map.

---agissi--- ---agissi---, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Im so glad we're all on the same page here and we all agree with each other. Its funny how people think they're on their high-horse with their smartphone too. Like everyone is just discovering the technology craze..

davislane1 davislane1 said:

I typically only use my smartphone for music and work. I spend so much time infront of screens that the prospect of using the device to cure boredom is completely out of the question. I'd much rather play the piano or go for a run in the park than spend even more time fiddling with a gadget. The only exception is if I am stuck waiting in a parking lot for an extended period and want to read something or watch a movie.

IMO, these things have gone from being useful productivity tools to becoming some sort of social monster. I've occasionally been guilty of whipping out my iPhone during social events, but I think it's nuts that jumping on Facebook or Twitter during a get together (going out to dinner, for example) has become a norm among a lot of smartphone users, as Adhmuz mentioned. Call me old-fashioned, but I think it's the rudest thing in the world to go out to dinner with somebody and carry on two separate conversations: one with those at the table and another with someone on the other end of a cell tower. The only thing that's worse is when people can't drive without the things glued to their ear the whole trip. Useful, useful device, but terribly abused by our new, perpetually connected culture.

ramonsterns said:

I only get on my phone if I'm just looking like a dolt with nothing to do, or I lean my head back and close my eyes.

killeriii said:

..and they cause endless misunderstandings because there's no emotional context involved.

Sure there is! :p

Guest said:

"When people are bored, it is primarily with their own selves that they are bored." --Eric Hoffer

Your true traveler finds boredom rather agreeable than painful. It is the symbol of his liberty -- his excessive freedom. He accepts his boredom, when it comes, not merely philosophically, but almost with pleasure. --Aldous Huxley

dcnc123 dcnc123 said:

Smartphones are great! It's just that lots of people forget to socialize with the real world and unaware that they are wasting most of their time socializing on virtual world and they are increasing in numbers fast!!! Very good topic here...

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