Do you feel like your phone may be trying to take over your life? Can you even remember the last time you had a sit-down dinner without someone whipping out their phone? Manoush Zomorodi understands, and she wants to help. In Bored and Brilliant, she explains that taking a step back from technology is essential for creativity, and armed with research and challenges, Zomorodi will help you discover the beauty of taking a break from technology. We asked her a few questions about boredom, children’s use of technology and those addicting phone games.
What first drew you to this idea of boredom as a catalyst for creativity?
I’m a sucker for self-improvement, and when I realized I was struggling more than usual to come up with original ideas for my podcast, I went on a quest to pinpoint what my problem was. Turns out, looking at my phone and taking in and disseminating information nonstop disrupts specific brain functions that facilitate original thinking. So, boom! It all made sense. But that didn’t mean there was an easy fix!
What was one of the best outcomes you heard about from someone who participated in the Bored to Brilliant Project?
My favorite quote is from a guy in Brooklyn who said, “I feel like I’m waking up from a mental hibernation.” I think I teared up at that one. How extraordinary to help someone observe their own behavior and then see such a change.
Did you hear from skeptics when you launched the project?
Absolutely yes! Some people (including my producer at the time) were like, “What are you even talking about? I just put down my phone.” But usually their minds changed when they saw how this project REALLY resonated with a friend, co-worker or family member. Look, telling people that thinking is important isn’t a philosophical breakthrough. But combine that with new things we know about the brain and our new digital habits and it’s clear we are living through a grand societal experiment. THAT is fascinating, even if you just have flip phone.
Look 10 years into the future: What do you see in terms of people’s relationships with their devices?
Well, other technology journalists and I differ vastly on this. My 13-year-old neighbor told me she likes to takes breaks on the weekends from social media. I think in a decade it will not be cool to be posting all the time and being on your phone at a party will not be OK.
What kinds of limits do you put on your own kids’ use of technology?
My kids are 7 and 10 and they are in love with the iPad. It’s a constant power struggle. Right now we limit them to half an hour if it’s not a school day. I’ll admit I’m not looking forward to them having phones.
Why do you think boredom gets such a bad rap?
Because there’s a moment when it stinks! Boredom truly is uncomfortable and frustrating. But if you can get through that window of discomfort, you will get to the good stuff. It’s funny how semantics work, right? If you really hate getting bored, just tell yourself you are activating your Default Mode. LOL.
You write about your own time wasting on the game Two Dots. Be honest: Do you ever relapse?
Uh, yes. When I relapse, I know that means I’m mentally exhausted.
You interviewed the creator of Two Dots for the book. What was it like talking to the man who helped you waste so many hours?
David is utterly charming and extremely intelligent. Obviously. I found it very helpful to have a conversation with someone who understands how to trigger specific behavior in his customer (me). We should be having more human interactions with the people actually making the stuff we use all day.
I loved the challenge in which participants are required to identify a problem, then literally watch a pot of water come to a boil, then put their mind to solving the problem. Did you do this exercise? What came of it for you?
I found it extremely relaxing. There’s something about being given permission to focus on one thing that just makes the tension in your neck release. I came up with the idea for another project, which was on information overload (we called it Infomagical).
How do you manage social media to make sure it doesn’t suck up too much of your time?
No notifications. Giving myself a max of 10 minutes to look at Twitter or Instagram. And then it’s OFF.
ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Read our review of Bored and Brilliant.
(Author photo by Amy Pearl.)