AWOT: I Own My Attention

A response to “How I Got My Attention Back” by Craig Mod, which can be found here:

I love being online as much as I love being offline. I think I am at a point in my life where I know how to balance the two. As this page says, I am always Finding Balance, I think there will always be consistencies and ways to be better, but I guess I am just coming from a perspective where I have already taken a step back and checked myself and my online consumption habits.

I got the sense that Craig Mod got a little unsettled and frustrated with how much time he was spending on a phone game. Clash of Clans? How was the addiction to CC any different to people’s addictions to FarmVille? Some find addictions in other sources of media, besides their phones or besides their computers, and instead to TV’s and video games. Obviously, addictions span more than just the digital, but what I can see from his article is that he got addicted to a game with no end, and then wrote about it.

Maybe that’s too harsh. I know people who went through the same thing. My dad, for instance. He had to delete the game as well, and it’s one of the hardest things to do. I have played similar games on my phone, but find that I never had enough data to keep up with the games away from wifi, and just end up deleting them. In this sense, I may not completely understand the struggle of working tireless hours on a game with no benefits in real life, but I can try to understand the parts in which he relates our attention being battled for in the marketing world.

You’ve always had control of your attention. What ends up happening is people use free services that aren’t really ‘free’, use your information to advertise to you, and then profit off of the data and content you produce. This is online work. Lots of companies will be using this information to try and get your attention, and you can learn to tune them out.

This article romanticizes the past. The past where we weren’t “addicted to our phones” because the dopamine released in our brains said so, where we could wander nature freely, or where we profited off of slave work. The past wasn’t that great either. Trump does it all the time: “Make America great again!” But… when was America ever great? Because of the money it made during war? Terrible wars that are never fully covered in history books because of the horrors and terrible acts committed during those times? I admit, this is a bit of an extremist example. But this is a dramatic response to a dramatic article. Humans have always strived to learn more and more information. I don’t see why having information available to us is so bad. It can drive an educated community. With proper education, you can teach people how to differ between fake news and real news. You can learn to tune out what won’t help you and what will.

My bias is: if you want to be successful, you must be available. You miss opportunities if you don’t. People have been rejected from jobs for not replying to an email fast enough. In Mod’s defence, he does acknowledge this; “it’s important to emphasize that for certain members of certain groups, online non-negotiable”. And as is the point of my website in the first place, he does try to put people’s health first. Organization’s use and sell our eyeballs in more ways than he even stated, but it won’t be the end of the world. First, we must bring the issue to attention. Then, we can work on fixing it. This is no small feat, this is your typical you vs the man. The system is pretty big, and you must own your attention in this day and age. I think more people own their attention than you may think.

Mod’s issue of stolen attention talks about the struggle to be focused on something more productive than endless games. For students, and possibly others, it’s trying to study when you have multiple social media apps demanding your attention. How do we combat this? I believe this is more of a habit to build. When you are trying to do something, such as studying, reading, or writing, turn your phone and computer on silent. Your brain even works better without music or with little music. The notifications and the sounds trying to steal your attention will only succeed if you can hear or see them. Create a specific space where you do this as well. Sitting in your bed will signal your body to get ready to sleep, for example.

One-month vacations completely offline is unrealistic in our world. My generation has been thrown into a world where we must work longer hours to even afford a dirty shared space with people we don’t even know or like. There is more expected from us, with less returned to us. We have had to adapt; just imagine where the future generations will have to be doing.

I implore the community to hold on to the things that are productive to themselves and to their work. Find time to balance your work, your social life, and your personal life. If you have to, record how much time you spend and see if you can be more productive if you have something you love to do after you are done. Set goals, even small ones for the day every morning as you wake up. Find your balance.

EDIT: Perhaps a TedTalks is in need to better demonstrate my point. Instead of focusing on the negatives of where a technologically dependent world will lead to, we can combine our wants and needs for human interaction with the technology we interact with every day. Tristan Harris talks about it beautifully, and gives some solutions to the attention-demanding world we live in today:

Leave a Reply