Value your attention

If I told you your attention is worth billions of dollars, would you believe me?

In 2019, Instagram reportedly generated $20 billion in revenue, “an extraordinary success” for a photo-sharing app. That same year, Facebook made $70.9 billion. What exactly is apps like Instagram and Facebook selling to generate such a staggering amount of profit?

Attention.

To generate such profit, the likes of Facebook would do anything to keep us constantly paying attention to their apps and feeds, including offering their services for free. We pay the price in our collectively declining mental, physical, and social well-being.

Attention harvesting and selling attention is a very profitable business model. The slot-machines in our pockets ping, ding, and provide limitless content to command our attention. And, we give our attention away freely.

Why don’t we value our attention as much as Instagram values it?


Unfortunately, the internet, our smart-devices, and the online world are really good at capturing our attention. I call them attention-guzzling beasts.

Although there is, indeed, more, way more, to the internet than social networking sites, Reddit, and YouTube videos, such sites tend to be the most addictive, and if we are being honest, most of us spend the most time on those sites rather than using Wikipedia Random Article Generator & Article Search website to learn about random facts. Such is life.

Despite all the stride I have made in radically minimizing the time I spend mindlessly surfing the web, I still struggle.

Here’s an example.

Do I really need to read another article on how-to-exercise-for-optimal-health? No, I don’t, but facing reality, actually doing the things that would improve my life, is a lot harder than living in a fantasy world of perfection via blog articles promising my best body yet.

Yes, I am bitter.

Yes, it is escapism.

I give my attention freely because I don’t always know what to do with it. Because I don’t always know what to do with it, I don’t value it as much.

To value our attention, we have to be intentional with it. We have to become conscious of how we spend it.

Just like we tend to be more conscious about our money when we have concrete plans for it, like a bill to pay or a vacation planned, we would value our attention more if we have specific plans for it.

Imagine you were to cut out all the mindless surfing and put your phone down. You have reclaimed your attention; It is all yours now.

What things would you want to pay attention to? What do you want to use your attention for?

There are the big things: be more productive, connect deeper, learn a new skill, read more delightful books, sleep better, feel your emotions fully.

There are also the small things: pay more attention to your surroundings, be more present in conversations, feel the sunshine.

By valuing our attention, we reclaim the time, space and energy from mindless scrolling and devout them to more important and fulfilling activities.

Until next time… 

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Published by Mehret Biruk

(re)discovering the pleasures of the offline world.