No, you are not trapped in the attention economy
The attention economy has us by the balls. Every time I read through a discussion online about this topic, there seems to be a widespread understanding, that we are defenseless against the clever engineering behind Facebooks UI/UX-design and endless feeds of kind-of-but-not-quite-satisfying content. This sentiment is often paired with dangerous indifference. I don’t share this sentiments or even understand why this problem isn’t met with a completely different attitude (as it should be). Imagine if the same “it is what it is”-attitude would be applied to healthy food and healthy living. Most western societies are spending insurmountable amounts of money in order to educate their citizens about healthy life choices. You shouldn’t smoke, you shouldn’t eat fatty garbage, you shouldn’t drown your sorrows in alcohol and you should probably be a little more active. While the efforts to get these messages through to people is significant, the progress we make in these areas is arguably slow.
Is this because they don’t get it? I would argue it isn’t. I would argue that most people know that BigMacs are bad for them, yet why does the McDonald’s down the road never seem to run out of customers?
It’s the easy choice. Yes it’s unhealthy, but it tastes undeniably brilliant (at least if your accustomed to the overly sweet and salty modern cuisine). McDonald’s has probably invested just as much and far beyond into engineering the taste of their products in order to maximize the chances of you coming back, than Facebook invested in their UI/UX. And while all this engineering undeniably works like a charm, nobody talks about a fast food economy where we all are just mindlessly hooked on their products without any way of escaping. We much rather talk about making better choices, even if, or espescially since it’s being made really hard for us.
As consumers, we have the power to shape the market and while fast food restaurants continue to rake in the profits, there is also a significant amount of people making conscious decisions to live healthier, creating a market for local and organical produce, ethically produced and traded goods et cetera.
Making the decision to open Facebook (or Instagram, or YouTube, or whatever) over opening a real book is a lot like choosing fast food over healthy, locally produced whole foods. It is the easier decision, it’s cheaper, it keeps your kids quiet, it makes you happier while you stuff it in and fills you with regret once you are done. The attention economy is like the fast food economy. It’s here to stay. It does everything it can to make you consume it’s products. It’s products are bad for you and you know it. You are not helplessly trapped in it.
You shouldn’t drink sugary drinks and you shouldn’t spend your time scrolling through pictures of half-naked instagram models. You shouldn’t eat bacon every morning and you shouldn’t get all your news from headlines on facebook. You should go down to the local store and buy one of those wonky-looking apples that nature has made for you. You should read a blog of a smart person, from top to finish. You should buy a zucchini at the farmers market and you should buy your next Sunday’s entertainment from that tiny book store you keep passing on your way to work.
Keeping a healthy relationship with social media and the internet in general is a question of personal wellness. We should educate people, as good as we can, about the negative effects their uncontrolled media consumption has on them. Much like fast food, social media has added another challenging temptation to modern life The generations alive right now will have the opportunity to lead as shining examples of how to establish healthy habits that can tame and domesticate the most powerful medium humanity has ever had to handle.