The economy of attention
Updated: Feb 1
A few months ago, in this blog article, I explained what mindfulness means to me and how it changed my life. Simply put, mindfulness is a practice that asks us to bring close attention to our whole experience as human beings and to be with it just as it is without reacting to it. Easier said than done!
Especially since our attention is in very high demand. Social media, Netflix, podcasts & audiobooks, music, and phone calls are just some of the distractions that consistently take away our attention. And if tuning out from professional or familial demands might be healthy and necessary at some point, excessively distracting ourselves can be an unconscious sign that we are avoiding facing unpleasant, difficult, or unresolved situations in our lives. And not only excessive distractions can reveal important aspects of our emotional health, but it also has a huge impact on our physical health as well. When the CEO of Netflix declares in 2017 that they are competing with sleep, that says a lot about how the entertainment industry will do anything to win our attention to the point of depriving us of the sleep essential for our health.
We are in the era of the attention economy. The market treats our potential attention as a scarce resource, and companies adapt their business models to capture it to make money. Sound and vibrating notifications, auto-play videos, as low as 5 seconds countdown before the next episode of a series ... all creative ways to keep our precious attention. Some companies even stretched the expression of paying attention out to where their consumers can either pay financially for ads to disappear or pay with their attention and listen to/watch ads.
This is not new. Our attention has always been limited, valuable, and scarce. When our at