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“BOREDOM IS ONE of the most common human experiences, yet it seems continually to defy complete understanding. We all know what it is to feel bored, but what exactly prompts, constitutes, or follows from the condition of boredom is far less obvious. Is boredom a function of leisure? Does boredom tangle desire or personal conditions, or both? That is, when I stare at the full refrigerator and complain that there is nothing to eat, or when I scan 100 cable channels and find nothing to watch, who or what, exactly, is to blame?
A century ago, modernist poets and artists worked to illustrate the disintegrated selfhood of twentieth-century humanity, the way a coherent individuality was being torn apart by new social and political conditions such that we were left with, at best, fragments shored against our ruin. Today, the challenge is urgent in a new fashion, since our selves are deliberately scattered data fragments—Twitter feeds, Instagram posts, shopping preferences, and text trends captured by algorithms that seem to know us better than we know ourselves. What hope is there for integration and stability under such conditions?
All of us, at least in the richer parts of the planet where stimulus is rich, are aware of the problem. I am sitting in front of a screen. If it is the right time of day, there is a muted baseball game showing on the nearby TV. I have my phone on the desk, which relentlessly delivers voicemail messages about daily trivia from people I know. I answer some of them. A web-browser window is open in another tab, in case I want to fact-check something without troubling my failing memory, order a book I almost forgot on Amazon, or suddenly feel like wandering down a hot-link tunnel of scant and certainly forgettable relevance to what I still call my life. I can’t settle on any one thing, let alone walk away from the light cast by the screens and into a different reality. I am troubled, restless, overstimulated. I am consuming myself as a function of the attention I bestow. I am a zombie self, a spectre, suspended in a vast framework of technology and capital allegedly meant for my comfort and entertainment. And yet, and yet…I cannot find myself here.”
JJ Editor's Picks
"Blackface. I’ve been writing about, and researching – and opposing – racism for more than thirty years. And make no mistake: blackface isn’t funny. It’s racist. Ask Megyn Kelly. A year ago, the former Fox News star was filming a segment about..."
"Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s “selfie line” may be a “political phenomenon,” according to CNN, but it’s also a misnomer, twice over: The photos that supporters end up with aren’t technically selfies—campaign aides snap them—and no one waits in a line..."
"In the archives of the Wildlife Conservation Society in New York, there is an old postcard from the city aquarium of a large sea turtle with four boys straddling its back. The turtle lies flattened upon a pathway in front of a fence. At the feet..."
"As we celebrated my granddaughter’s third birthday this summer, I made the following rough calculation: I’d trekked from my home in New Jersey to her Brooklyn apartment roughly 150 times to provide once-a-week day care, plus other times as needed."
"That seems to be the emerging bipartisan consensus. “On the evidence we have, the meritocratic ideal ends up being just as undemocratic as the old emphasis on inheritance and tradition,” writes New York Times columnist Ross Douthat. “Our..."
"It was the 2019 Pet Sematary that finally broke me. Was this really necessary? I seethed in a theater earlier this year, at a loss for why anyone would green light a self-serious update to a 30-year-old so-bad-it's-good movie. "Update," even, was.."
"Tuesday was election day in Israel. But no winner has yet been declared. As of this writing, it appears that the parties committed to supporting Benjamin Netanyahu for prime minister will not win a majority in Knesset. At the same time, the..."
"The last time Netflix asked me “Are you still watching?” I had to think really hard about it. Was I still watching? Or at least enough to make my $16-a-month payment worth it? The subscription economy can be a wonderful thing. We don’t have to..."