The square rocks embedded in a path

Attention as a resource

Is anything more valuable than attention? While it’s a strange thing to see as a commodity, it’s increasingly seeming one of the most sought-after ones within modern life. Given how we talk of “paying” attention, though, maybe some have always been aware of the value of an attentive mind and the power it has over our individual and collective lives.

Isn’t it going to be true, on some level, that what we give our attention to grows? The fuel of our focus on any given thing serving to increase its importance in our lives – effectively giving it more power, more weight. Especially in this world of trends, views, likes and followers: the tangible size of an audience and saliency of a topic having become that much more clearly visible and contagious online.

Almost like there’s this battle for our minds happening on the global scale as everyone’s fighting to capture our interest; win our trust; direct our behaviour. And, perhaps it’s the fact that people – particularly in the West – are largely free to think and do as they please that has “created” this marketplace for ideas and patterns of influence? (Notes One)

Thinking about it, if our moments of freedom are “the things we believe and act upon” then power for directing things presumably rests in gaining our cooperative interest. The field of human psychology – social instincts, persuasive communication – having then become one of the most lucrative subjects to leverage and utilise for whatever ends we might have in mind.

It’s incredible to think how much is now vying for our attention each day; let alone the amount of strategic intelligence applied to finetuning those messages. If we’re being constantly assailed with thoughts about reality – be they optimistic, one-sided, empowering or filled with despair – how much does that impact the conversations we’re having, ideas we’re entertaining and attitudes with which we’re approaching life?

If all we take in is what’s eventually finding its way back out into reality through us, how are we to use the force of our attention? Do we just open the doors and let everything flow in; allowing all these images and emotions to fill the recesses of our minds? Whichever sources we’ve chosen becoming the channels through which we’re establishing our beliefs, assumptions and conclusions. (Notes Two)

There seems such intense interest, now, in gaining loyal followings then using those platforms to affect change. This sense in which so many actors – individuals or organisations – are gathering together those open to being guided by their influence, suggestions and ideas. Whether that’s used for commercial or social, constructive or destructive ends – the agenda behind it – perhaps making all the difference.

It’s strange to think that, the world over, people are trying to gain our ear and shape our thinking. Also, that people are cultivating audiences then giving others access to them – letting them borrow your voice. At every stage of spreading information or understanding, isn’t there immense responsibility to how we’re wielding the power we all have?

Notes and References:

Guardian article “Technology is driving us to distraction” by James Williams, 27 May 2018:

Note 1: Freedom, responsibility & choice
Note 1: Being trusted to use our discernment…
Note 1: Points of sale as powerful moments
Note 1: Reading between the lines
Note 1: Too much responsibility?
Note 2: Where do we get our ideas from?
Note 2: Information might be there, but can we find it?
Note 2: Is this the ultimate test?
Note 2: All that we add to neutrality
Note 2: Which voice can we trust?

The value, power and significance our attention has, personally and at the level of society, was also the focus of the Guardian article “Technology is driving us to distraction” back in 2018.

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