Should Humans Go on an Attention Diet in 2019?
Smartphones & Social Media – The New Cigarettes For the Millennial Generation!
Not so long ago, Facebook was quite fun. It was about discovering old friends, connecting with family and pursuing hobbies through groups and events. Today, Facebook is all about venting out frustration, political discussion and memes.
If you look back now, there are serious chances that you enjoyed using Facebook rather than the contrary. Looking at it today, Facebook has turned into something that is just too big to fail, so people don’t really know what to do with it or how to use it.
Just like Facebook, every other promising social network is now a constant stream of distress in our lives. Looking back, have you ever spend a day without going online (or feeling) in the past few years. If not, it’s clear that the relationship of humans with technology is changing exponentially, if not changed yet.
Smartphones have reached almost every nook and corner of the planet. In cities, the use of smartphones or rather smart devices such as the iPhones, Oneplus, Amazon Alexa, Google Home, Apple Watch and numerous more gadgets have exploded and infiltrated our daily lives.
Just like the second-hand smoke from cigarettes wrecks havoc on the people around you, smartphones also silently harm our relationships with other people, interrupt us, make us compulsive and in some cases destroy intimacy.
The similarity also continues when you look at numerous studies studying the effect of smartphones uses among Millenials. That alone should shake us but rather we consume our smartphones the same way consume cigarettes – we consume them despite being fully aware of their effects on our health, for a lot of us, it becomes a literal addiction.
And the use of smartphones is so socially accepted, that we don’t even consider it as a distraction. Rather, it’s almost a physical body part of some of us. Some people can’t go without looking at the phone for more than 10 minutes.
Bite-Sized Meaningless Content
Nowadays, everything we see or consume comes in bite-sized packets. The problem with bite-sized content is the fact that it is often clickbait, has no utility and is almost extremely poorly research. It’s the Equivalent of Junk Food i.e. tasty yet not nutritious. Therefore, bite-sized content can also be classified as Junk News or Junk Content.
In the case of news and online content, you are sure to believe that World War III is inevitable and a nuclear attack is imminent. Such news is often toxic, mostly as it tries to create outrage because outrage means more money in the future. Therefore, it’s our moral responsibility to be aware of such junk information and actively eliminate from our lives.
Social Media and Common Pitfalls
Reading and focusing are highly sought-out skills now. By the time you finish reading this article, you would have checked your Instagram multiple times, maybe Facebook too. This type of behaviour has gone from unacceptable to expected. That’s why corporate employers try to limit phones in their offices.
Such behaviour is inverse to our intentions. We often log-on to Facebook and Instagram to check up on our friends and to counter the feelings of unmet social needs. However, we end up doing the opposite – we are bombarded with people having fun, people travelling to exotic locations and we somehow feel inadequate. Exactly opposite of what we wanted to feel!
The only thing to do here is to limit yourself. By limiting, you move towards actual real-life information. As the case, everything will get boring after a while but the interesting part is the fact that boredom has no bias. Long-form content is another way to consume information as there are fewer chances for selective biases and more chances of consuming nutritious information.
Advertising and The Attention Economy
Advertising, it’s everywhere around us. It keeps us hooked and makes us consume more, maybe more than we would like. The autoplay button on Youtube and Netflix isn’t placed on our screens randomly – it’s carefully curated, researched, designed and then placed by a bunch of engineers whose main focus is to keep you hooked.
Of course, this means that our social media and digital media apps aren’t designed to keep our best interests in mind, rather they are created to keep us hooked. The more time you spend on an app automatically more money for its creators.
There are people working 24*7 just to trade your attention, it’s time for you to become aware of this. Other forms of digital junk food include negative political campaigns, inciting violence and fear through fake news. The consequences are not only negative for you but for the whole culture hooked to these media outlets.
Shorter Attention Spans
Tech and Social media platforms today are caught in exploiting human attention spans. This results in shorter attention spans which can then spin into addiction, social isolation and polarisation. This is essentially dangerous to people’s personal and social lives.
Also, it’s not encouraging to hear that after the highly digitized human lifestyle, our attention spans are now shorter than a goldfish, according to a study conducted by Microsoft Corporation.
Fear of missing out or commonly abbreviated as FOMO – it’s a desire to experience something primarily motivated by the loss of not experiencing something. It’s a huge issue among Millenials. It makes us less happy, just by the virtue of missing an experience rather than having a bad one.
Again, its primarily motivated through social tech outlets such as Facebook and Instagram. FOMO is another reason why we must include the attention diet in our digital lives. Instead of making us more informed about our friends and healthy cultural trends, these platforms create insecurities and implant anxiety into our daily lives without us even noticing.
Should We Go On An Attention Diet
We all need to go on an attention diet to reclaim our attention as ‘attention’ is perhaps the new currency of the 21st century’s knowledge economy.
Identity and Eliminate Junk Information
The whole process of starting an attention diet starts with eliminating Junk News or Junk Information from our lives. As we substitute clickbait, highly neurotic content with say something like books and documentaries, we essentially limit ourselves to nutritious information which then turns us into a much calmer individual.
In the process, you also eliminate the mass-hysteria that comes with news. The other benefit is the fact that you increase your attention spans by default which then turns you into a less anxious and a more focused individual.
Redefining Our Relationship With Technology
Planning to redefine our relationship with technology can sound tough, but it’s a lot easier to implement than we think. Compulsively using your phone will never free you from stress and anxiety, rather it will act as a contributor. Hence, a few rules below could help you limit your digital use.
- Certain Time Limit For Entertainment – Limiting our time frees us. This may sound counter-intuitive. But, if you limit your social media usage to certain time blocks along with time constraints, you will begin to feel less anxious and more liberated to focus on the work at hand.
- Going Cold Turkey – Another option is to remove all social media that includes Twitter, Facebook and Instagram from your smartphone. This will ensure that you won’t fall into scrolling loops. It can be difficult at first, but rewarding in the end.
Less is More!
While we feel all the interruptions and distractions in our life are harmless, the growing digital addiction epidemic is only offset for the next few years. We lose more by not going on an attention diet than we gain out of it if we do!
Smartphones have almost replaced everything analogue and transformed it into a digital platform. While that is not necessarily a bad thing, our suffering starts when we use our smartphones to escape our real lives. We have unknowingly or knowingly degraded our attention spans through endless scrolling of toxic and mostly useless content.
Every clip that you watch, every game that you download and every app that you install on your smartphone is an important decision when it comes to the quality of your life. The idea is to understand, become aware of such crucial elements, eliminate aggressively and increase our wakefulness and ability to focus. The more we focus on our wellbeing, the more we control our lives!
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