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[Photo by joshme17; Creative Commons license through Flickr]

Imagine you are standing in a long line at the grocery store. You’re frustrated by how slow the cashier is moving and curious as to why the person in front of you bought so many fish sticks. Do adults still eat fish sticks? Perhaps he has kids. Is there a real Captain Gorton? Hmm…I wonder what would happen if he fought Chuck Norris. My money is on Gorton…

You’re getting bored! As this curious feeling starts to take ahold, you reach into your pocket and grab your smartphone. What a lifesaver. Having a smartphone or tablet means you never have to be bored. But before you break out the champagne, you should consider just what you are giving up by removing every moment of possible boredom. You’re giving up the potential for creative sparks and real-time social interactions.

Think about what you did yesterday. How much of your time do you spend doing, and how much time do you spend being? The rise of ever-present smartphones and tablets has allowed us to swap every idle moment in our life with moments of action. Stuck all alone for twenty minutes? Not to fear, our smartphone can transform this time of solitude into a moment of action-oriented connectivity. We are treating this feeling of disconnection or boredom as something that needs to be eliminated as opposed to embraced. The tradeoff is that we are becoming less and less present of the authentic world around us.

The good news is that the pendulum is starting to swing the other way. Although technology will continue to get more and more ubiquitous, creating challenges for a healthy online/offline existence, a growing number of people are starting to question the always-on culture. We want to embrace technology, not be engulfed by it. We want to enjoy the many benefits of being connected to the virtual world, while also maintaining a strong connection to the real world.

Who is leading the charge to reframe our relationship to technology? The most tech-savvy individuals who occasionally reach a breaking point with maintaining a robust Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Tumblr account. A recent New York Times article outlined the growing movement towards recognizing the value of not always being plugged in. Individuals who were awash in status updates, tweets, and viral videos made their way out to Navarro, California to stay at Camp Grounded—an overnight camp for adults where no smartphones were allowed.

So next time you are at the grocery store and get bored, embrace it. Allow your brain to both wander and wonder. And if you are wondering why that guy is buying fish sticks, ask him. You might just strike up a real-time conversation that is both random and refreshing.