Introduction to The Boredom Experiment
In early 2012, I noticed something. I couldn’t go a day without seeing at least 2-3 of my friends mentioning that they were bored on Facebook or Twitter. And they usually were people that I didn’t think of as the types to get bored. They were interesting people with hobbies and lots of friends and… wait a second. I began to rethink how well I knew them, and I realized that I knew a prior incarnation of their personalities. I knew them in college, or even high school. Now we’re all adults and we have jobs and routines and such. That girl I knew who used to drink any guy under the table with straight up bourbon… she’s got a house in the suburbs full of Pottery Barn furniture, has three kids, and teaches Sunday school. So when I say, “They were interesting people,” I realized that the emphasis is on the word “were.”
I started investigating. I did a search on Twitter for the word “bored” and would get a different full set of results every time I reloaded the search page. Holy crap, there are so many people saying they’re bored. What a waste. What a ridiculous tragedy. Then the gears of my scheming mind started turning. It wasn’t purely mischievous, but there was definitely some element of impishness there. I wanted to poke people. Goad them. But I wasn’t setting out to be a troll by any means. Sometimes enlightenment has to come through confrontation. And often it comes best through confrontation with oneself. Perhaps a reconsidering of one’s own words would bring such enlightenment.
The experiment would be thus: I would create a Twitter account that would automatically retweet anyone who said that they were bored. The difficult logistics of such a broad search quickly made themselves clear. On my first attempt at pulling a live-scrolling search of the word “bored,” the screen filled with rapidly scrolling text just before my computer crashed. I did some quick math in my head, and I realized that there were so many people talking about how bored they were on twitter that it would be impossible to retweet them all with any sort of efficiency or usefulness. I settled on a rate of roughly one per minute.
The account was named @youmeanboring. A background image proclaimed “ONLY BORING PEOPLE GET BORED. YES, THIS MEANS YOU.” The bio for the account further explained, “When people say they’re bored, they really mean they’re boring. Life is short. Take responsibility for your own experience. Only the boring get bored.”
In just over two months of existence (with three periods of being banned due to wieners who couldn’t handle being called out), @youmeanboring retweeted over 36,000 people who stated that they were bored on twitter. The account was fully automatic and I never directly responded to anyone, as the goal was to let people’s own words do the work. The tweets themselves were pretty predictable and repetitive, making the account itself relatively… well, boring. But what made it so very worthwhile were the various responses. The self-shot pictures that often accompanied proclamations of boredom were also hugely entertaining in their remarkable similarity/consistency.
Most of the responses were predictable — of the “fucK u bitch!!!!1“ sort. Many others defended themselves, saying they weren’t boring. Several wanted to fight me and/or warned me against retweeting them ever again. (Naturally I retweeted such statements.) A small handful actually got what I was trying to do.
I wrote up a manifesto of sorts over the course of the experiment. Debated for a long time whether to post it online somewhere, and if so whether I should do so on my own site or somewhere else, anonymously. Then the idea sort of fell to the wayside for a bit. I recently rediscovered this crazy manifesto of mine and relived the hilarity and joy of the whole experiment all over again.
But after a few months away from it, I did see a few things more clearly than I had at the time. Number 1: No matter how much I told myself that I wasn’t trolling, it’s clear in hindsight that I was — at least to some small degree. In my meager defense, though, I really did have a grand point I was trying to make. (More on that in the essay.) Number 2: Since I originally wrote the manifesto with the idea that it would never be seen by another living soul, or if it was it would only be behind the veil of anonymity, I was much more brutal, honest, and cocky than the writing I do that I fully expect to be read any have my real name attached to it.
So I said to myself, I said, “Self — do you not remember the title of your own website? Do you not remember what the whole goal of having a web presence is? You’re supposed to be writing stuff and letting it go. You’re not supposed to be hiding anything or holding back or otherwise sugar coating your words.”
And with that, I decided I’d share this little experiment as well as the ridiculous, rambling manifesto I wrote in response to it. As an extra treat, I’m also going to share some of my favorite tweets from the experiment along with my responses to them.
So here we go. Stay tuned for “one idiot’s thoughts on boredom and the people who embody it.” Warts and all. In the meantime, feel free to browse the 36,000+ tweets and pictures that accompanied them on the @youmeanboring account.