Your Attention Is Worth Billions—Spend It Wisely
There’s an army of designers, data scientists, marketers, and researchers working around the clock to exploit your reward systems so that you’ll scroll, tap, and buy. But is that really how you want to spend your time?
Your attention is worth billions
Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, Twitter, Snap, and Pinterest are free to use. Hulu and Netflix are nominal monthly subscriptions. Economists are right to say "there's no such thing as a free lunch". All of these lucrative business models rely on you spending countless hours being advertised to so that you will succumb to consumer envy and buy things. Your time is their revenue.
Market capitalization: the value of a company that is traded on the stock market, calculated by multiplying the total number of shares by the present share price. Figures as of October 2018.
Facebook: $439B market cap
Netflix: $133B market cap
YouTube: $75B estimated market cap. Google parent company Alphabet estimated at $758B.
Hulu: $66B market cap
Instagram: acquired by Facebook in 2012 for $1B, current estimations value it at $53B
Twitter: $26B market cap
Snap: $8.5B market cap
Pinterest: $12B estimated valuation after the latest funding round
Now before you call me a hypocrite for promoting this blog on nearly all of the above and binge watching Friends when it came out on Netflix—I’m not saying you should stop using these services altogether. In fact, “Netflix and chill” is my favorite thing about being married, but these "free rewards" are hindering you from reaching your full potential.
[December 2018 Edit: It has just been brought to my attention that “netflix and chill” does not mean sitting in ugly sweat pants with your partner eating junk food while watching Netflix instead of going out on a fancy date. Only a person whose been married for ten years would make this mistake. My husband, Ryan, was also mistaken about the definition so at least we’re on the same page!]
My a-ha moment
Once I turned those things off, something amazing happened: I created this blog.
Stop consuming, start creating
Delete apps from your phone that take up your time
Plenty of apps save time—like Google Maps and online banking. Delete the apps that take your time, starting with your worst offender. I removed Facebook and Twitter from my phone (I don’t use Snap). Sure, it’s annoying to post photos on Facebook without the app—they designed it that way on purpose. Airdrop or email the photo to your computer and post from there.
Resist the urge to reach for your phone
A new study found that just having your phone nearby, not even using it, is messing with your brain. Recently I started an experiment: if I’m out to dinner and my date goes to the bathroom, I don’t take out my phone. This is surprisingly difficult—there is an actual physical urge to reach for the phone. Push through and force yourself to look around, take in the atmosphere, admire that lady’s lipstick, and scope out what the next table ordered for dessert.
“Somewhere along the way we all became terrified of being bored.”
Overcome your fear of boredom
Boredom is the aversive experience of wanting, but being unable, to engage in satisfying activity. We usually scold children for it and accuse them of lacking imagination to remedy it. But somewhere along the way we all became terrified of being bored. A team of psychologists discovered that two-thirds of men and a quarter of women would rather self-administer electric shocks than sit alone with their thoughts for 15 minutes. Do you really want to alleviate your boredom by mindlessly filling the coffers of advertisers? Do you want to be so easily bought? I don’t. Once you get past that initial feeling of boredom, contemplation and daydreaming will arrive to spark your imagination.
Start something new or pick up something old
Turn off screens 2 hours before bedtime
Right around 8 pm I close my laptop and plug in my phone for the night. I dim the lights, apply eye cream, and find something relaxing to do. I love reading, bullet journaling, and playing my keyboard. Sometimes I even shave my legs and put lotion on.
Can’t resist? Try these small changes first
Enabling grayscale will make apps like Instagram and Facebook less addictive with the added benefit of saving a bit of battery.
Color Filters > Grayscale
Not just for airplanes! Turn off your data when you want to focus.
Turning off push notifications will decrease the chances of getting distracted and opening an app when you really meant to do something else.
Instead of just scrolling, reach out to someone directly and let them know how much you appreciate them or support someone's work by sharing it.
Try a documentary instead of fiction. Some of my favorites are Chef’s Table, Cosmos, and The Farthest: Voyager in Space. Do something productive while you watch like fold laundry, stretch your body, or handwrite a note.
Each of us has a finite amount of time and energy and it’s up to us to channel it in ways that we're proud of. By making the hard choice now (deleting apps and turning off screens) to reduce easy choices in the future (scroll, tap, buy), you're setting yourself up to be happier and reach your full potential.
I'll leave you with one of my favorite quotes from Olympic Weightlifter, Jerzy Gregorek: