Never in my life did I imagine that living through some of the world’s darkest days would be so incredibly… boring.
I’ve been quarantining at home since March 1, and while I’m more than happy to stay inside, isolate from friends and family, and avoid public settings to help stop the spread of the coronavirus, I have to admit: I’m bored as hell.
In addition to the boredom, I also somehow simultaneously overwhelmed with anxiety about politics, health, safety, the environment, and, basically, the future of humanity as a whole. I’ve certainly experienced boredom and anxiety in tandem before. (The past few years haven’t exactly been a cakewalk, after all.) But in this moment, with the relentless chaos that is 2020, the constant overlap of the two has caused them to blend into a single, troubling new sensation — one that I now call “boredoom.”
Yes caffeine has given me panic attacks, yes I’ve been actively drinking cold brew throughout the pandemic because I’m bored. We exist
— cassidy xcx (@olsencassidy) August 1, 2020
What the heck is boredoom?
It’s defined by a 2009 Urban Dictionary entry as “doomed by boredom.” But I think we can all agree that’s not our current fate. A more recent entry from March 30, 2020 (near the start of the coronavirus era) defines the term as “the intense feeling of boredom resulting from sheltering in place during an emergency.” Closer. But in my mind, boredoom is simply the state of feeling numb and restless while things around you seem hopeless. And if that doesn’t scream “2020,” then I don’t know what does.
Let me be clear: I am in no way suggesting that everything that’s happening right now in the world is boring. It’s absolutely not. And the ability to even be “bored,” that is safe at home and not contending with being sick or having a family member who is, is in itself a great privilege. But that doesn’t mean this drastic and sudden change in the way we live hasn’t taken it’s toll.
Quarantining in a pandemic is essential, but it also prevents you from doing a lot of the activities that you’d typically turn to for entertainment and stress relief. While normal boredom might arise from not having new or especially exciting plans, boredoom happens when you actually can’t have any plans as a result of all the doom.
I’m bored from this pandemic, but not “start drama and possibly end friendships” bored.
I am bored enough to vacuum.
— Adrienne Airhart (@craydrienne) August 6, 2020
I’m so bored I could return phone calls.
— Akilah Green (@akilahgreen) August 15, 2020
I thought I was checking my phone a lot because I was addicted but I’ve now realized I’m genuinely bored.
— Ben Lee (@benleemusic) August 10, 2020
For the past several months we’ve been unable to grab dinner with friends on the weekends, temporarily check our worries at the door of a movie theater, or unwind at an IRL happy hour after work.
Instead of living our normal lives we’re left to entertain ourselves at home with whatever hobbies, chores, and ambitious to-do lists we can come up with. The stay-at-home life had a charming novelty to it back in March, but that quickly faded away and finding distractions has become increasingly difficult.
I’m getting bored with cooking these days..
— Miss Lelo (@MsLeloB) August 18, 2020
I’m so bored I’ve started answering potential spam calls.
— Adam Cayton-Holland (@CaytonHolland) August 14, 2020
When the boredom hits, you have nothing to stop you from dwelling on all the doom. The anxious energy that generates within you then has no outlet for release. So you begin desperately searching anew for ways to occupy your mind. This is boredoom.
Boredoom is what led me to sculpt this flower out of Babybel cheese wax. It’s the reason my colleague Tim runs around his coffee table and turns to these other chaotic time wasters. And it’s why so many people are cutting and dyeing their hair, attempting to bake bread, doing puzzles, learning TikTok dances, and doomscrolling in quarantine.
We’re all just trying to keep our minds even slightly occupied during the slow roll through this seemingly endless calamity.
Is there any cure for boredoom?
Signs point to no — or at least not in the short term. Not only are we in the middle of a global pandemic, but the United States is simultaneously fighting for racial equality and prepping for a crucial presidential election. In such a stressful, chaotic time many people want to be out helping and fighting for causes that are close to their hearts. But current circumstances make that more challenging.
I’m a scaredy cat, so I can count the number of terrifying, dystopian movies I’ve watched on one hand. From everything I’ve seen on-screen, when characters fear their country and loved ones are in grave danger they’re not panic-consuming news, tirelessly refreshing social media, or rage-screaming every time Netflix’s “Still watching?” screen has the audacity to show up. They’re actively doing something to try and stop the doom. The problem is, in a pandemic, staying home is one of the biggest ways we can help reduce the spread of germs.
Until it’s safe to cut down on social distancing, many of us will remain stuck in the vicious cycle of quarantining and searching for ways to distract ourselves from our new levels of fatigue and malaise. If you’re suffering from boredoom, be kind to yourself, but don’t just accept it. Do something to relieve it.
There are a bunch of ways to safely take positive action related to pandemic relief, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the upcoming election… even in a pandemic. If you can find even a few meaningful ways to alleviate your boredom and help those around you, the doom may start to seem less scary.
Boredoom won’t last forever (at least it better not!?), so once it’s over let’s never take regular old boredom for granted again. Deal?