The New 5th Type of Boredom

bordeomWhen I was younger, the most common refrain to come out of my mouth was, “I’m bored.” Needless to say, it drove my parents absolutely nuts, and the most common thing they told me to do was learn how to keep myself amused. Usually  I just wanted annoy someone enough with my complaints that they would cave and come play the chosen activity with me, but I have always liked to be entertained, and often do multiple things at once to keep things interesting enough. If I am watching tv, I like to play a game or crochet a scarf at the same time. If I’m running on the treadmill, I listen to music, watch tv, and flip through a magazine. The constant, ever-changing options for entertainment are a big part of the reason I like living in NYC. Well, as it turns out, I wasn’t just a difficult child. I was just exhibiting the signs of active boredom pursuing people to join me in the new activity I had found that was more interesting that my previous.

Boredom is actually a nuanced emotion, and there are now five different types that have been identified. Boredom can occur while fidgety or while calm. It can have positive or negative associations. The categories and their associated characteristics are:

  • Indifferent Boredom:  People with this type of boredom feel relaxed, withdrawn
  • Calibrating Boredom: People feel uncertain, and are receptive to  change/distraction
  • Searching Boredom: People with this type of boredom feel restless, active, pursuit of change/distraction
  • Reactant Boredom: People are highly motivated to leave a situation for specific alternatives

The fifth type that is recently diagnosed is called Apathetic Boredom, and is a more unpleasant form of the emotion that is most similar to learned helplessness and depression. And, as it turns out – people don’t typically experience all of the types of boredom throughout their lives. The recent research found that each type may be linked to a personality disposition making a person more likely to experience the same type of boredom over and over again. So, the next time your friend insists that you leave the happy hour you’re at for another with trivia, instead of getting annoyed just feel self-satisfied that you know they’re experiencing a particular type of boredom and go along with it. Sometimes when people get bored, they come up with the best ideas for new activities.

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