Boredom production

by Rob Horning

6 April 2010

 

This PSFK item about social networks ends with a platitude about keeping fickle consumers interested.

The rapid pace of change and relative unpredictability of when consumers’ rapt attention will become boredom is an ongoing challenge for social media players to continually understand their users, lifestyles and consumption habits – and to adapt to keep them engaged.

This reminded me of my most recent essay for Generation Bubble, where I argue that we are continually driven to produce our own boredom. The gist of my piece is that social media lets us function as our own mini ad agencies, working to exhaust the meaning of things more quickly so as to expand the flexibility of our identities, and to make each identity-signifying gesture seem more significant in the moment. Does that make sense? My point is that we want to expend the meaning in a good in a fireworks-like explosion of broadcasted signification; we don’t want our goods to continue to signify who we are after the contrived moment of their presentation to our public. As a result, we purposely make ourselves bored with things, and boredom is a state of open, uncommitted possibility for us, whereas ongoing engagement with some specific set of thing is confining.

So there is no way to keep consumers engaged without continually presenting them with novelty—to repackage the same crap as something new, if necessary. It’s not “relatively unpredictable” that consumers will be bored; it’s completely predictable, and the pace at which that exhaustion occurs is continually accelerating.

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