Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Bored and Brilliant!

After a long weekend and a blizzard to boot, my family had a lot of down time together. We played board games, went skiing, watched movies, baked goodies and....used our devices. It drives my kids crazy, but I refer to any computer, tablet, phone, ipod, droid, or whatever else as "the machine". I might say (alright, yell), "Put the machine down!" more than any other statement to my children...sad state of affairs, I know.

Then while listening to NPR, (another snowy activity) I heard about the Bored and Brilliant challenge. Manoush Zomorodi, host of a podcast called "New Tech City", is reporting for a project called "Bored And Brilliant: The Lost Art Of Spacing Out", a one week challenge to disconnect from our smart phones. Many of us suffer from the irresistible urge to pick up our phones anytime we need a bit of stimulation, but new studies reveal that we may be doing more harm than good to our brains. Research has shown that when the brain is 'bored', we are capable of thinking beyond our conscious and thus enter a more tranquil and creative state of mind. I feel like bored is not the right terminology, but perhaps semantics is something we can discuss while we are disconnected! Variations on the bored term could be a time for "wonder", "daydreaming" or "introspection".  This lost art of daydreaming is what researchers are trying to get smart phone users to rediscover during the week long challenge. An unoccupied mind is the goal, some good, old fashioned down time the means.

In the days prior to the challenge, Zomorodi encourages participants to download an app called "moment" that will identify how many times a day you are checking in on your phone and what your total usage is. Get ready to be alarmed - the average smartphone owner uses almost 3 hours per day! This concept of spacing out being essential to creativity and joy is not a new one. In the Buddhist philosophy, one must learn to shift the mind into neutral, which is considered the natural state of the brain. Achieving happiness and peace of mind becomes more feasible in a neutral mind. There is not a $100/month service contract either!

Regardless of whether you are trying to achieve nirvana in one week or not, I think it would be an interesting campus wide challenge to forgo smartphone usage for a set amount of time. Just to see what happens...and perhaps a week is way too long for most teenagers to "survive" without their technological BFF, but maybe 48 hours could be possible? What do you think? Maybe write me a letter in your downtime.

To learn more about the challenge or New Tech City, visit
New Tech City

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