Some of the most vivid examples of the recent economic impact of boredom included amateur traders late last month, including many followers of the Reddit forum Wall Street Bets, who piled into stocks of GameStop, a retailer for gamers. These investors took their stock to astronomical highs before falling back to earth.
Part of their motivation was the idea that they could hold it up to hedge funds that had bet GameStop would fall. Part of it was boredom.
“I’m bored, I have 8,000 free funds to invest in for at least a small profit,” wrote a Reddit user who runs biged42069 on Wall Street Bets at the height of the hype. The answer was unanimous: GameStop.
On Thursday, the House Financial Services Committee held a controversial hearing on the GameStop saga. The emphasis was on market volatility and stock trading, but some witnesses admitted that they may have found themselves in this situation because people had plenty of time to spend.
Jennifer Schulp, director of financial regulation studies at the Cato Institute, cited several factors that may have drawn amateur traders into the public markets, and said that “more time at home may have even played a role during the pandemic.”
Of course, during the pandemic, millions of people were busier than ever. Nurses, grocery store workers, and other key employees have rarely seen boredom. Women who have left the workforce to take care of children who cannot go to school are often exhausted and overwhelmed. Your days are a stream of zoom classes, dinners, and bed times. Large numbers of families grieve for their loved ones, a painful and harrowing change.
In a sense, boredom is a luxury experienced by those who have unfulfilled and unfilled time.
And some groups of people are more likely to experience boredom than others. People who live alone, for example, are more likely to get bored, said Daniel Hamermesh, an economist at Barnard College who researched loneliness during the pandemic.