books · screen time

BOOK REVIEW: BORED AND BRILLIANT BY MANOUSH ZOMORODI

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!

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I was thrilled to discover that my local library had a copy and, amazingly, with no holds on it!

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:

  1. Observe your digital habits.
  2. Don’t use your devices while travelling.
  3. Stop taking photos for a day.
  4. Delete an app you can’t live without.
  5. Make yourself unreachable on your phone.
  6. Start noticing the world around you.
  7. 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].”

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8 thoughts on “BOOK REVIEW: BORED AND BRILLIANT BY MANOUSH ZOMORODI

  1. Thanks for that review, Lisa. I hadn’t heard of this book and while I don’t find phone use too much of an issue, I like to broader points about disconnecting from technology to connect with yourself. Also, great tip about checking the library first! Lxx

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    1. Glad you could benefit from this review, Lorraine! So pleased you could find some relevance like I did in these points about technology use. It’s interesting to think that even the most technophobic amongst us are having so much screen time when compared to generations past. I think the author’s message is so important in this day and age. Thank you for reading! xx

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  2. Great review, Lisa! I am so glad you decided to read it. I feel like the book was full of so many good little nuggets of information! One of the quotes you highlighted (from Marina) was also one of my favourites. I’m all for technology (I am a blogger and work in social media after all). But, it bears contemplating what exactly we’re trying to do when we use our technology. Are we using it as an escape from ourselves and our problems? Or are we using it in a meaningful way? I know the answer for me is different at the end of doing the challenge than it was at the beginning.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed the review! A big thank you to you for recommending the book and inspiring me to read it, Britt! I definitely got a lot out of it, so I’m very grateful to you. 🙂

      That quote from Marina Abramovic really is a good one, isn’t it? It really stuck with me and at the end of the book I knew I had to go back and find it! I found it very interesting how her comments link in thematically with her project The Artist Is Present that was also mentioned in the book. The idea of participants staring into her eyes for as long as they want is kind of confronting given that so much of our communication is mediated and carefully planned from behind a screen (says the blogger). That artistic process seems to me like a powerful vindication of the importance of human connection in the digital age.

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      1. I don’t know if I could have participated in her art for that long. Eye contact for me is a real challenge anxiety wise. But it is an interesting experiment for sure! It definitely unscores how little actual real human interaction in get in real life.

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      2. I’m with you on that Britt – I think I would have felt pretty shifty after only a short while, too!! Eye contact is a tough one. I’m trying to focus on keeping it up more and I’ve noticed at work that when I keep it up for even a second too long, people feel uncomfortable and look away. It’s an interesting personal experiment to try and find the right amount of eye contact, one that maximises human connection but avoids discomfort.

        It’s amazing how many things this book has given us to contemplate! Thanks for being part of the conversation! 🙂

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  3. Hi Lisa,
    I’d love to see this book read in high schools! I know some young people who would definitely benefit from it. “Finding equilibrium in the digital ecosystem” is such a great metaphor about our personal responsibility to monitor ourselves.
    I enjoyed this review. Thanks for sharing.
    Cathie xx

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    1. Hi Cathie! Oh yes, wouldn’t it be awesome if this were standard reading in high schools?! Just imagine the discussions that would result. From my vantage point, in general I don’t see young people being taught much about digital self-regulation. So glad you enjoyed this review! xx

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