All of us are knee-deep in the Information Age. We must figure out how to manage and consume information that travels at the speed of light. Our attention is in high demand.
I don’t know about you, but I always thought it was time—that time was our most precious commodity. That’s almost it, but not quite.
When we are distracted, our attention wavers. Being distracted not only takes time away from us, but it also takes energy away from us. Refocusing after just one interruption can take up to 23 minutes. This fight for our attention seriously adds up.
You start to see just how precious your attention is. And you’re possibly arriving at the same conclusion as me…I need to be better about protecting my attention.
May I Have Your Attention, Please?
This past year is an endless demonstration of how valuable our attention is. And what happens to our lives when we give too much of our attention away—to the point where we feel like we’ve lost control and some unexplainable force is dictating our behaviors. Hell, dictating our lives.
That unexplainable force is operating this rollercoaster of ups and downs that we never stood willingly in line to ride. We aren’t sure how to stop the ride and get off.
Eventually, our bumpy roller coaster emerges from a dark tunnel and the sunshine hits our faces, blinding us. As we begin to adjust to the brightness, we slowly climb yet another steep hill. It’s simultaneously hopeful and scary.
Wouldn’t it be nice if they pushed the “hope” button more than the “fear” button? It would be. But, fear is a very effective way to win our attention.
We used to be asked nicely: May I have your attention, please? Not anymore. Everything is very much in your face and it’s most certainly something we need to be aware of.
This is Your Brain on Dopamine
Just last week I interviewed a guest for Love Your Enthusiasm and we ended up sharing our substance abuse stories.
We led parallel paths in our post-high school/early adulthood years. Both of us were great students—we had ample love and support from our parents. Yet, we both went down these drug-induced spirit quests and we both had motives for embarking on these quests.
Her motive was focused on having adventures. I used to think I was being adventurous too. Until recently I figured out my real motive was that I didn’t want to be naive anymore. I didn’t want to get hurt because I was so blind-sighted by forces I would never understand until I explored them firsthand.
To not be naive anymore, I knew I needed to improve my street-smarts. I had next-to-zero street smarts at the time. What’s a surefire way to gain street-smarts? Get mixed up with drugs.
Now I have the street-smarts I wanted WAY back when I was 18 years old, but these were not fun personal skills to have to develop over the years. I’m not saying I’m never naive anymore, but I am absolutely less naive.
I tend to be more quizzical and skeptical because of what I learned, dancing while the sun came up at desert raves or debating nonsensical life theories inside scuzzy garages in the middle of the night.
And, if you think getting high isn’t relevant to you…it actually is.
There are countless studies that have related social media dopamine hits to being similar to the effects of a hit of cocaine. Just as drugs have power over you and your attention, screens can be just as addicting and damaging because we are overwhelmed by information, colors, messages, and experiences.
It’s a fucking trip, isn’t it?
Winning Your Attention Above the Fold
Later in life, this street smarts motive led me to a path in marketing. As the digital world became more prominent, marketing knowledge seemed increasingly important. I wanted to understand how it worked, so I began my marketing expedition.
Marketing is all about getting someone’s attention so that person takes a desired action. After years of studying and implementation, I know how it works. But you know what? A lot of people have no idea.
Without these street smarts, it’s difficult to understand how our attention is being targeted. Which it is, everywhere we turn.
The media had to adapt to the Information Age or cease to exist. That’s why they do everything in their power to steal your attention and hold onto it. The media abuses marketing tactics to achieve their goals. Because, yes…they are a business (of sorts) that is selling you something so they can make money.
Media publications reel us in with click-bait titles and hook us with a disarming intro. If you make it past the content “above the fold” and move down into the inner layers of the article, you might find some scrap of actual journalism in there. Maybe. Good luck finding anything when you’re being blasted by ads and pop-ups.
Thank You for Your Attention
Digital communication has become our primary way to connect with the outside world—and it has been fast-tracked over the past year. Even if you fought for your attention before by avoiding social media and the news, you likely succumbed to the same fate as the rest of us.
You had good intentions:
- I want to stay informed.
- I want to stay connected.
I understand. I, too, had those good intentions. But, I have lost full days to these digital distractions. Days. And, I run my own business where I obviously don’t get paid unless I run it.
Technology is an incredible tool. But a tool can build and disassemble—a tool can be used and abused.
It’s all too easy to forget just how powerful this tool is when it slides so effortlessly into our back jean pocket and snuggles so sweetly into the palm of our hand. Like any tool, you need to understand its capabilities and learn how to use it.
I’ve avoided talking about this topic, although it has certainly been burning a hole in my own back jean pocket.
My hope is that this blog makes you more aware of your very digitized life journey so you can be more mindful of your choices along the way. Above all, my hope is that you will see just how precious your attention is…and for you to know that you do have a say in all of this.
Thank you for your attention.