Guest Column: Amy Crouch's 3 Tips for Turning Boredom into Wonder
What’s the first thing you think of when you hear “Gen Z?”
I bet it might have something to do with technology. As a 20-year-old, I know that my generation has developed a reputation for being obsessed with our phones and permanently glued to the Internet.
Would you be surprised to hear that I think my generation might be the start of a revolution in how we use technology—kicking off a thoughtful, wise approach to screens? In my experience, Gen Z is tired with the way our devices manipulate us. While we’re grateful for the help that our devices can bring, we are also concerned about the ways that screens are making us become more lonely, busy, and bored.
However, I’ve noticed that many of my peers are at a loss to respond to these problems. We don’t want to succumb to the pressures of tech, but many of us don’t know how to avoid it.
That’s why I wrote my new book, My Tech-Wise Life, to share my personal story of growing up in what my dad called a “tech-wise family” and encourage my generation to join me in facing technology with discernment, courage and joy.
Technology makes lots of promises, and I don’t believe it can fulfill all of them. Case in point: its promise to entertain us when we’re bored.
Netflix, YouTube, video games and even news websites are all centered around providing us with entertainment in dull hours. And I’m not surprised there’s such a demand; we all get bored sometimes, and it’s appealing to be able to turn on the TV or unlock our phones for endless entertainment.
But I’m worried that tech doesn’t actually fix our boredom. It only disguises it—and makes us more likely to get bored in the future.
Being bored typically results from too much familiarity. If the same thing has been going on for hours and days at a time, the activities we usually do feel too familiar. Tech is so amazing because it offers us something new every time we hit refresh. Its limitations seem endless, especially as it is impossible for anyone to consume all the content on the internet, no matter how long they live!
So, in a dull moment, it makes sense that we want something new and interesting. That’s what tech offers us.
But here’s the problem—leaning on our devices to help get us through unexciting moments actually makes it harder for us to avoid boredom. The real world will never be able to offer us that kind of interest. It’ll never give us as much flashy, on-demand newness as our devices. Tech wins in those comparisons.
But I don’t think that getting used to the pace of tech, rather than the embodied world, is good for our souls. The world is God’s creation! People are made in God’s image! I fear that tech is pushing us to be less content and less willing to rejoice in what God has made—who God is.
See, the real world isn’t actually boring. But it does require attention. Marvels don’t always jump out at us. Sometimes, we have to go on a detective hunt for joy.
I’m worried that tech makes us less likely to want to go on that detective hunt. But I don’t believe that the rewards of tech are as delightful as the rewards of the real world, because we’re made for the real world—created to experience it. Tech is a good thing, but it’s also human-created. It will never rival God’s own creation.
It’s time for us to embrace boredom. Beyond boredom lies wonder.
Here are my top tips for embracing boredom and rediscovering wonder on a regular basis.
1. Leave your phone behind as much as possible. When possible, don’t bring it along with you when you go out. When you’re home or visiting a friend, leave it out of sight and out of mind. For instance, I like to avoid bringing my phone to church. If I do bring it with me, I leave it in my coat pocket at the coatrack. In my experience, urgent and life-altering news rarely comes on a Sunday morning. Being forced to pay attention to the world around you yields delightful rewards.
2. Make time for regular silence and solitude in the natural world. We need to be cultivating the ability to seek out wonder and joy—that detective hunt I mentioned earlier. We need to work on being detectives and searching for the bright and beautiful. In light of this, I recommend setting aside some time to be silent and solitude in nature. Go for walks without your phone. Sit in silence outdoors. It’s deeply grounding. If you just have one tree in the square mile, find that tree. Sit beside it (or in it), take a deep breath and be still for a time.
3. Observe the Sabbath. Sabbath is good for us in a million ways, and its blessings extend to our use of tech. Turn off or withhold from technology and devices on the Sabbath as well. Instead of being distracted by devices, what could restorative rest look like for you? It may look like wonder—experiencing the world in its beauty and joy.
I truly believe that we need to take time to experience the real world—God’s creation—around us daily. The smell and sparkle of sunshine after a rainstorm, the lump in our throats when we hear tragic news, the way our heart swells when we’re hugged by someone we cherish. In-person presence with others is fundamentally different than maintaining connections via technology. Is it more difficult? Yes. But it is infinitely more rewarding.