Can I have your attention?

Attention. 

The real currency of our time. 

The true measurement of how we assign value. As our days are only defined by time and what we do with that time is decided by what we give attention to. What we choose to “scroll” through on our phone. Who we choose to focus on.

And everyone is after this currency.

Everyone.

Your children, your boss, your phone, your body (that backache is asking for something!). Everyone wants it. Many are paid to do just that, get your attention. That is their sole purpose. Some do this for good like your teachers. They find creative ways to keep their students on task. And some do this to get you to buy their products. But, EVERYONE is in the business of attention, including you as you vie for it too. Maybe you do that through your Instagram feed or through your work, but you are looking for attention. 

As attention is currency. It is how valued you are.

So how are you spending your money? And are you in control? Are you making choices on how you dole out your attention bucks? 

You may think you are making choices, but are you? 

I really recommend watching this Ted Talk by Tristen Harris before answering that question. He understands the problem as he once was the design ethicist for Google and now is co-founder of the Center for Humane Technology. He is an expert on how humans process information and how to hijack that process. Basically, he knows how to steal your attention. He did this for years in the control room where now countless others continue this work. In his TED talk he explains how this is done. 

I found his comments on Snapchat beyond interesting. How by just adding some data on how often you chat with a person, makes us shift our attention and value this communication. How our children will spend their days looking at these numbers and have anxiety that “Sally” and her have snapped less. “Am I no longer her best friend?!” 

How when we were young we had fears of where we stood in our social tribes, but our children will have “real” metrics to worry about. They will value their worth by how much others pay attention to them in a digital world where one can even question if that is REAL attention and connections.

It is worrisome for sure. How this generation will deal with concerns that we never dreamed of. This is just one data point in why generation Z is having more anxiety and depression than any generation previously. So if you skipped this video because your attention was elsewhere…go back now. Take control of that thing!

(I’m waiting.) 

So it all comes down to attention. How we value our time. Where we put our eyes during the day. Will they be looking down or up?

And often you have no choice because your attention has been hijacked by either some algorithm of Facebook, Google or real life. Like how all of a sudden you are sucked into a video that showed up on your feed. I never knew I was interested in DIY home projects, but recently I am. I mean like I REALLY am. I can’t stop watching them. I just calculated that I’ve spent 30 minutes today watching tile being laid. Huh?! How did that happen? Did I do this? Most likely not.

But its not just technology making decisions for you, life does it too. When an earthquake or fire destroys your city, all of a sudden all of the things that once grabbed your attention don’t. You are captivated by the now.

And that is what I’m feeling. 

My attention has been hijacked. Things that used to fire me up, don’t anymore. Things that mattered have changed. Passions have shifted as my attention has changed what I value.

Education was always something I’ve valued. How could I not? My attention was full of 100 teachers and 600 children eager raising their hands. Oh and don’t forget those parents.They absorbed it all and it all felt important. 

And here I am on the 9th floor of Sloan surrounded by kids with cancer. It takes up all of my attention and again life has shifted. What I value has shifted. It has all shifted. 

Life has opened up some new chapters rather I like it or not and I need to start reading.

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