We each have only 24 hours in the day. What we choose to do during these 24 hours and where we choose to allocate our attention during this time will increasingly determine who we become and the quality of our lives.
Now we’ve all heard some version or the other of this “quote” in our lives. I’d like to add an extension to this adage, I believe where we choose to invest our attention, not only determines our future success, but it also determines the future of various organisations around the world. We live in the era of “Attention Economics”.
So what exactly is “Attention Economics”?
Economics is the study of people and the choices they make. One of the core fundamentals of economics revolves around the topic of supply and demand. When a particular object is high in demand and low in supply, it’s said to be “scarce”. Scarcity is the simple idea that there is not enough supply of some resource to meet it’s demand.
“Scarcity is literally everywhere.”
We face scarcity when we’re trying to book movie tickets for the latest blockbuster or when we have to study for an exam which we have procrastinated for till the last minute and we have only 6 hours to cram up about what went on the entire semester (relatable?).
I think the most common example, which all of us would relate to would be when we want “someone’s” attention, but they’re all-consumed in their mobile-devices. Sigh…
Either way, there’s no denying, the internet is an amazing place! It can show you cute cat videos, allow you to connect with your loved ones and it can also offer you access to amazing educational blogs and websites wherein you can learn complex topics in a simplified manner (ahem – Coffee Time Finance?). Basically, all of us have access to more information than we’ll ever be able to process. While one might be inclined to think that most of this information is free, it’s actually not. While you may not be paying for every google search you make with physical cash, you are actually paying with another, more valuable currency — your attention.
Organizations all around the world are competing with each other for this very valuable, finite commodity “Attention”
Champions of the “Attention Economics” League
For instance, consider Facebook.
“Facebook is free and always will be,” is the company’s famous slogan. But we’re paying them with the most valuable commodity, our attention. That is what brands are competing for. That is what social networks are optimising for and they are making billions off it!
This my friends, is the Champions League of “Attention Economics”.
For an organization/product to be successful in this new-era, wherein consumers are incessantly bombarded with new adverts and information every second, these organizations need to resort to new and innovative techniques to grab our attention.
They use a plethora of tactics to do the same.
Facebook acts like a caring friend and asks- “What’s on your mind today?” Instagram gives you the platform to receive all the social validation you need. YouTube and Netflix, start playing the next video even before you’ve decided to watch it and Snapchat uses daily streaks to compel people to use it every day!
Every network uses a combination of elements like reactions, emojis, tags and shares to keep you engaged for as long as possible. Every time you like something, you feel like you’re supporting someone. Every time someone likes something you’ve put out, you get an instant dopamine hit and you get the validation you were seeking. It makes you feel good. It makes you want more of that feeling.
So maybe, cut-yourself some slack when you find yourself feeling pathetic for scrolling through social media all day. It’s designed to be that way. It’s designed to be addictive.
So, it’s not you. It’s them?
And honestly, none of this is all that surprising, yeah? Social networks clearly have all the incentives in the world to get users to spend more time with them. Our rational minds know it. But we all get sucked into it anyway.
In the internet age, the new scarcity is attention. And companies all around the world are competing with each other to get a slice of the attention pie.
Though we’re at the end of this article, I’d like to leave you with a lingering thought:
We each have only 24 hours in the day. What we choose to do during these 24 hours and where we choose to allocate our attention during these 24 hours will increasingly determine who we become and the quality of our lives.