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The Virtue of Boredom and the Shadow Side of the Digitized Age

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The Virtue of Boredom and the Shadow Side of the Digitized Age

Creativity takes time. There is often a cycle to creativity. There are moments of unknown. What do I say, how do I begin? There are times when there is a lack of direction and a lack of clarity. What’s the central core idea? What’s not necessary? And then once the main element is established, the journey of embarking on development and refinement arrives. In the end, when something does emerge, I often recognize that the struggle was worth it. That something was born and came to fruition. There is a sense of deep satisfaction.

Sometimes, I find myself avoiding that lull before the creativity sparks. Avoiding that time when I just stare at a blank screen. Avoiding the inner struggle of not being sure what I want to say, or how I want to say it, or if it needs to be said.  In this avoidance, I find it tempting to check email, check Slack, respond to my texts, and then start that digitized cycle all over again.

Several email, texts, and Slack messages later, I am left with a sense of being scattered, frustrated, and ultimately, a sense of not having created that which would have arisen had I stayed with it.

I have personally come to find that the quiet times, the times when we experience a lull or even boredom, those times that we don’t necessarily revere in this society, are actually vital and critical to moving into the next part of the creative cycle.

As a 40-something CEO, I can recognize the seductive power of the digitized world in luring me into something that I don’t necessarily believe is the best use of my time is a challenge. How does this seductive power of the digitized world get translated into our youth and young adults?

In the book Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digitized Age, Sherry Turkle examines what is happening with the constant feed of input that our children and young adults are experiencing. One of the many trends Turkle has found is that the incessant wave of being online does not give space and time for pause, or for boredom.

It’s not just our creativity that suffers when we lack quiet. Turkle claims that our capacity for self-reflection, for solitude, is disrupted. This disruption in solitude and self-reflection also impacts our human development. Being able to be with oneself is fundamental to being able to be with others. Our relationship with ourselves is directly intertwined with how we can relate to others. And I would claim visa-versa, spending good quality time with others nourishes who we are.

Another point that Turkle examines is that the constant engagement with texting, social media, etc. generates a way of living, where when we are with others, we are only halfway present. The other half is attending to being with those online. In this state of half-attention, one finds that the quality of conversation is weakened. The conversations are not those that can arise when we know we have a person’s full presence and deep listening.

All conversations are not equal. In short, the quality of our relationships is at stake! This trend is affecting our family dynamics, our friendships, our romantic bonds, and our professional relations.

To be clear, Turkle is not anti-technology. The challenges are not inherent in technology. Rather, Turkle is provoking us and perturbing us by revealing the shadow sides in our habits, patterns, and practices of how we use technology. For example, when you go to your computer to work on a project, do you mindfully choose how many screens you open? Do you intentionally turn offline when you are writing? Do you delegate specific times to check your email?

How do we relate to our devices in a way that empowers our creativity? How do we teach ourselves and our youth to take on practices that support rather than hinder cultivating self-awareness and deepening relationships?

Rather than being left to the mercy of technology’s shadow side, we can be proactive in engaging in the art of conversation. Through conversation, we can design practices regarding how to best use technology to enrich our lives. Beyond that, Turkle reminds us that the art of conversation provides the fertile ground for us to learn how to be present and how to listen deeply.  When presence and deep listening are foregrounded, our capacity to bond is strengthened, our empathy blossoms and our capacity to face challenges increases. In short, our humanness thrives, hence the need to “reclaim conversation.”

At Newfield, we believe we are in part constituted by our conversations. In other words, we learn, grow, and are shaped by the conversations we have. Ensuring that we learn how to have powerful conversations in life enables us to live a good life and to generate relationships that serve ourselves, our families, our communities and the world at large.

What practices and habits are you taking on to ensure you are engaging in nourishing and generative conversations?

Big Picture Questions for Reflection:

  1. How does the new digital age affect our humanness?
  2. What happens to the development of our identity, to our family dynamics, to the depth of our friendships as we live digitized life?
  3. We all know cultivating emotional intelligence is essential. What if the way we are using technology is lowering our children’s capacity for empathy?

Personal Questions to Reflection Upon:

  1. What are your patterns with devices?
  2. Which of these patterns nourish you and your relationships?
  3. Which of these practices leave you scattered and deprive you of connecting deeply with yourself and others?
  4. What practices do you employ to create device-free moments in life?
  5. How can we use technology to generate powerful conversations?
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Author: Veronica Olalla Love

Veronica Paz Olalla Love, M.Ac., NCC®, PCC is the Chief Executive Officer for the Newfield Network, United States branch and is an international presenter for the Newfield Network programs.

She combines over 15 years of experience working in the holistic health field with over a decade of immersion in the ontological coaching domain. In addition to being a somatic and program leader for the Newfield Network, she is co-founder of Enjoy Vibrant Living: a natural medicine clinic in Boulder, Colorado that blends ontological coaching and Chinese medicine within an integral context. She received her master’s degree in Acupuncture at the Tai Sophia Institute in Maryland, and her bachelor’s degree in Women’s studies and Cultural Anthropology from UC, Santa Cruz.

Veronica is a transformational leader who assists others to dive heart first into the inherent magic of life. In her unique and passionate style, Love invites us to remember the depth of potential we have as evolutionary beings. Veronica Olalla Love lives a profound commitment to carry on the Newfield lineage and ensure that its inherent brilliance is passed on with integrity for generations to come.

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