Attention Illusion


fortune 16: attention illusion

Generations no longer know what it was like before social media. Our lives have always been social, but what we do when the tools to connect are right at our fingertips can be an authentic creative expression or be primarily based on attention-getting. The latter can lead to an illusory metric of self-worth.

Creativity abounds on social media, it follows different patterns, like seeing the people we know modeling and curating their lifestyles, or being authoritative and accomplished. When we know them in person, we may notice how they have adapted to branding patterns dependent on the likes and comments to determine their self-worth. On the viewer's side, feeds may not be taken as learning or connecting opportunities, instead viewer's eyes hone in as if looking at trophies to imitate and compete toward.

The signals point to attention-getting as being a valuable skillset, looking at metrics to generate similar content to the highest performing posts becomes a practice, and getting an influencer's like becomes a reinforcement of their goals. Attention is key.

Short bursts of surface level information and quick emotional reactions abound, leaving less possibility for longer conversations and building niche audiences. Click-bait headlines are read and taken as truth, but not clicked-through. Heavy tilting to one side of an argument, without seeing the complexity of each situation or reading into sarcasm, leads to divisions.

All of these markers can distort our reality and generate the feeling of a marketing and branding competition with the empty goal of reaching the "masses" and becoming an "influencer." Creating content with the priority of generating attention, means being dependent on others to judge you, and just like one day popularity is flooding, another, cancel culture can be setting in. Often, people's self-confidence ebbs and flows based on these signals, or their lack.

Human identity is so much deeper and complex than what we sometimes experience online. It should be independent of attention and judgement. Being exhalted or put down shouldn't break the balance within, and when it does, it should be a moment to reflect and get back to the center. It should not lean toward what is likely to get approval nor should it be silenced by what is likely to be rejected. It should reflect us.

Imperfection makes us human, to focus on perfection and attention online, feels like when someone goes out on a few dates and pretends to be someone they are not. They may meet someone who is a pretender like them, but they'd be missing out on the one who loves them for who they are.