Signal Fire by Tyler Knott Gregson
Signal Fire by Tyler Knott Gregson
Is This The Death of Boredom? | 4.7.24

Is This The Death of Boredom? | 4.7.24

Why Now Do They Stay? - The Sunday Edition
Two teenagers, lost in the great big everything of the internets. Somewhere outside of Sainte-Menehould, France.

Recently I spoke at great length, and many of you responded and I’m so thankful for that, about the death of mystery. I said that the internets, the social medias, the iPhones, the Androids, the Apple Vision Pros, the whatevers and whatevers that cost a mortgage payment to acquire, may have effectively destroyed mystery, and in doing so, caused a cataclysmic shift in the way we date and eventually find the people we love. It was an essay I loved writing, truly, as it’s something that’s been scaring me as I watch teenagers try their very best to navigate a landscape that I am half-unfamiliar with, and half-all-too-familiar with. I grew up without all the distractions that pull us from the life we should be living, but now I understand them, and they distract me too, only later, only after I found the one I needed to find to live a life of joy.

Watching these teenagers hopscotch their way through adolescence has given me a front row seat on so many things I never thought I’d actually be able to witness, as I never knew if my Autism would be a thing that would prevent me from being any kind of father, step, or otherwise. Luckily, Lady G did the hard work and then so graciously allowed me to dive headfirst into the roll of stepdad, to try to learn as I go, to fail more than succeed, and still be allowed to come back the next day. It has been a ride of rollercoaster proportions, and I am quite positive both kids have somehow absorbed some lessons from me, mostly the importance of curse words and always standing up for yourself, sometimes about being kind despite it all. Nevertheless, the genesis of the “death of mystery” was these kids and their trials and tribulations as high school students, and today, I’m going to add another rantservation (a Rant born from Observation, see?) that was born from the exact same place. Today, I want to talk about the death of boredom.

To do so properly, I must first speak about what it was when I was a kid, though those years seem almost too far away now to even understand. To go forward, sometimes, we must first go back.

Friday was for football games (American football, as true football is what we call soccer, but for brevity sake I’m going to call football in this essay, unfortunately), this was a fact indisputable. I hate football, I’ve always hated watching football. This never mattered. We watched football because it was a Friday, and football happened on Fridays, and in a small town like Helena, Montana, not many things happened on Fridays, or ever, and so when something did, we all went. All of us. Band kids, theater kids, jocks, nerds, stoners, cheerleaders, math-aletes, it didn’t matter, we all bundled up and bounced on the aluminum bleachers and screamed into those Friday night lights like the game actually mattered, like something bigger that we couldn’t put our finger on, depended on the outcome.

There were basketball games too, soccer games, random open-mic nights at little coffee shops, concerts for the Ska bands of our friends that were mostly terrible and held in ramshackle back-rooms of local bagel joints, and I’ll be damned if there weren’t high school dances.

Oh the dances. Homecoming, to MORP (prom backwards you see, the ladies “got” to ask the fellas), to Winter Formal, the the big kahuna…PROM. Everyone went to the dances. Ok, maybe not everyone, but that sweaty gymnasium with that middle-aged DJ pumping out everything from Nelly to the Eagle’s slow dance classic Desperado, was absolutely packed. I know they had the clichè punch bowl table, but hell if I ever stopped dancing long enough to see it. We all went, because it was something, it was something, finally, to do. This was the way of things, and it extended from the great heights of Prom to the more subdued release of movies like Twister in the theaters, the ‘what’ never mattering, as long as it was something we could all do, something to stave off the boredom that settled into all the gaps between these rare, these cherished marquee events.


What then, if boredom goes? What would have happened if we never felt that boredom creep in, if we never felt a single pang of apprehension, because everything we could ever imagine was already right in front of us? Sarah’s kids are juniors and sophomores in high school, and up to this point, have only attended a single dance (begrudgingly), and maybe 2 football or basketball games between them in the collective years they’ve been in high school. Total. On weekends, 9 times out of 10, neither makes plans with their friends, for even when they want to, 9 times out of 10, their friends prefer to stay home.

When we were young, staying home was the ultimate punishment. We were only home if grounded, and being grounded was devastating in a way we couldn’t even articulate to our parents. They held that above us like Death with his scythe, a looming reminder of the power they held. Not grounded, we’d beg and bargain, anything but being locked in at home. Now, it’s teeth pulling and excuses and a million reasons to stay in. Now it’s 4 hours of some evening gone in a puff of smoke, in a half-blink, stolen away by endless scrolling of TikTok, of a million selfies sent out at random on Snapchat. Now, in the palm of a hand any movie can be streamed, any game played, any song listened to instantly. The wait is gone, the anticipation that was always the key, gone.

Now, with developments in spacial computing, with Apple Vision Pro, which terrifyingly is the worst iteration of what will surely only get faster, smaller, better, people will never again have to be away from their own highly curated ecosystems, soon, everyone could be wearing strange ski goggles and pinching invisible air to make their movie screens larger, if only for them, if only in the privacy of their own little world. Already, kids stay in more than they go out, they say no so much more often than they say yes, they don’t need that connection that we were all so desperate for, because they’re always connected.

When no one needs to do anything, everyone does nothing.

This is what I see, and perhaps it’s not the same where you are, perhaps you don’t see what I see, and I hope this is the case. I’ve seen boredom die here, I’ve seen it with my own eyes, as there’s always some glowing light waiting just inside the pocket of their jeans, every friend, every video, every dancing lip-syncing nonsensical bit of nothing that fills up their brains to the tipping point, then spills over and saturates their entire day.

Friday night lights and so few choose to go, Prom and it’s harder to get anyone to care, and I wonder if it’s this way now, where will it be in another 10 years, in 20, in 50? What becomes of so many things when boredom dies?

What, when everyone does nothing?

You tell me. Please…tell me.

To all things we went,

thrust ourselves into it all.

Why now do they stay?

Haiku on Life by Tyler Knott Gregson

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Signal Fire by Tyler Knott Gregson
Signal Fire by Tyler Knott Gregson
Tyler Knott Gregson and his weekly "Sunday Edition" of his Signal Fire newsletter. Diving into life, poetry, relationships, sex, human nature, the universe, and all things beautiful.