You’re born with two assets in limited quantities and a lot of businesses want to get their hands on them…your time and your attention.
Entire industries have sprung up around using these assets for financial gain…not yours, of course, they’ve trained you to spend your time on these platforms so they can sell your attention to others.
This seems harmless. You get something out of it while you’re on the platform… entertainment, connection with friends, the chance to show off.
At what cost?
If your time and attention are being spent on social media platforms, exchanging your attention for hits of dopamine, your time isn’t being spent on doing work that matters.
You can tell yourself, as I did, that your time spent on these platforms is marketing, you’re building your brand. If your valuable time and attention is spent producing witty captions and curated photos of your life…how are you improving your craft?
There’s an opportunity cost to every minute you spend absorbed in memes and comment drama.
I used to get my “you’ve spent 30-minutes on Instagram” warning almost every time I logged on. I’d try to skip a day between visits, but even at the low end this means I was spending anywhere from 2-5 hours a week on that platform.
Harmless entertainment, right? Not if I look at my billable hourly rate and start to ask if I could have spent that time in better ways. While investing my time in making money for Instagram I wasn’t investing in myself.
Even if I wasn’t working, would I rather scroll or go hiking? Would I rather scroll or connect with a friend for tea? Would I rather scroll or snuggle up with a book that makes me think? It’s built to be easier to choose to scroll, so we do.
We’re sacrificing boredom for a bottomless bowl of attention-grabbing inputs. And boredom breeds invention.
The best ideas don’t come from oversaturated attention, they come from a deep focus on the problem, or from being bored enough to let your mind wander. Distraction slaughters these mental states with notifications and interruptions.
Spend your time wisely. Shouting into the void “look at me” is a short term approach to being seen.
What really takes you places–and of course it’s the scarier, harder path– is to do work that matters. To put yourself out there, to write, to share your work, to make art. To spend your time deliberately, on the things that may not get you likes right away but that will over time ratchet you closer to achieving the change you’re trying to make in the world.