Manoush Zomorodi’s Bored and Brilliant (2017) kept popping up on my radar earlier this year. Most recently, my friend Britt over at Tiny Ambitions did the Bored and Brilliant challenge (check out Part 1 of Britt’s challenge here and Part 2 here). Since in my opinion Britt has impeccable taste, I knew I had to see for myself what this was all about!
If you haven’t heard of the book, in the author’s own words it’s “a tool for teaching digital self-regulation and living a more conscious online existence”. In my words, it’s a handbook for better understanding the potential negative effects of constant connectivity and the hypermediated world we now live in, and using self-awareness and behavioural change to combat these effects. According to Zomorodi, boredom can play a key role in this process by helping to spark our creativity and problem-solving skills, and she takes us through a seven-step program to this end.
Each step of the program lasts one day, with the project culminating in a final Bored and Brilliant Challenge on the seventh day:
- Observe your digital habits.
- Don’t use your devices while travelling.
- Stop taking photos for a day.
- Delete an app you can’t live without.
- Make yourself unreachable on your phone.
- Start noticing the world around you.
- Make yourself really bored then get to work on solving a problem!
I decided not to follow the program while reading the book. It’s mostly focussed on phone use, and since I actually spend very little time on my phone and have only the most basic apps on there, it didn’t seem worth it. Considering my membership of the ‘digital natives’ club, I might be considered a technophobe by my peers, being rather hesitant to embrace new technology and even less eager to figure out how to use it.
So if I didn’t take on the challenges, what did I get out of Bored and Brilliant? For me, the broader perspective of the book was really valuable. The main takeaway for me was the importance of creating healthy boundaries in our relationships with technology. As the author puts it, it’s about “finding equilibrium in the digital ecosystem”. Zomorodi’s stance is not anti-technology, but pro-living, so to speak. I love her emphasis on not eliminating technology from our lives (which would be completely unrealistic), but simply being more present in the here and now and more intentional about our behaviours.
For me, the next step will be using these insights to bring a heightened awareness to my technology use. While I don’t feel I need to reduce my screen time per se, Bored and Brilliant has made me realise just how dependent my life is on the internet. I couldn’t care less about my phone but I do spend my whole working day on a computer, then in the evenings spend time on my laptop doing my uni work and blogging. I feel the path I’m currently on is naturally leading me to a healthier relationship with technology – through greater presence of mind, more time spent outdoors and more time dedicated to introspection – but I know I still have a long way to go and some more thinking to do about this area of my life.
Bringing a heightened awareness to my screen time isn’t necessarily about drastic changes. I feel it’s more about self-awareness, that is, constantly checking in with myself and questioning why I’m doing what I’m doing. It’s about recognising when I’m using screen time as an avoidance strategy and monitoring my attention and focus. It’s also about rediscovering the power of journalling and the written word.
If you’re struggling with your screen time, I highly recommend picking up Bored and Brilliant for some inspiration. You may or may not benefit from taking on the challenges, but regardless, the book is a great starting point when it comes to redesigning your digital life and will certainly leave you with a lot to think about. Zomorodi interviews a host of fascinating people working in different sectors – from academia to tech to art – and shares with us some interesting, thought-provoking research on how our brains and behaviours react to constant technology use.
To finish off, here are three very memorable quotes from the book that I loved and thought were worth sharing:
On busyness: “Embracing boredom requires us to make choices about how we spend our time. And in order to not fall back into filling a day up or downright wasting it, we need to give ourselves permission to say no to the cult of busyness.”
On attention span: “An overabundance of information, through a mindless consumption of … junk information, will lead to poverty of attention.”
On disconnectedness from reality: Marina Abramović, quoted by the author: “You think that you are disconnected. But the question is, what are you disconnected from? You’re actually constantly disconnected from yourself by having all of these things [devices].”