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We can think that the economy is based on matter and energy as it has been called since the industrial revolution, as if the interpretation of the nature of this industrial society was about the means of production. But since the 20th century, the great economists were already pointing out how the entire society was based not on capital, natural resources, or work, but on knowledge. If there is knowledge, the other factors of production can be obtained; knowledge step to make a utility to obtain economic results.

The economy had to adapt to the fact that the most precious resource in the world was something immaterial, that is why the customs, the rules, the skills to be able to capture, preserve, discover and exploit information are now the most important thing, as Walter Wriston said, the former president of Citybank. The problem with the information resource is that instead of being scarce, it is excessively abundant, which results in a scarcity of what consumes it, that is, attention. Human attention is what gives meaning to information, what converts “data” into “information.” But given the abundance and accessibility of information, there is a conceptual shift that considers that information is now that subject that competes for human attention. Of course, it is not really a subject that consumes because it lacks consciousness.

Attention economy

However, thanks to this shift, the concept of attention economy was born, where attention is a good, which, through the quantification and efficient management of exposure to advertising content, generates economic resources through marketing to third parties. That is to say, attention is the new currency that, in any case, once it has been created, the message manifests itself in an independent way and that is why we take information as a subject that competes for access to attention. human.

We can exemplify this more easily if we ask ourselves: How much time do we spend on digital platforms or social networks? When you get up or are working and a notification rings on your cell phone, how long do you stay hooked? People's attention is framed in the limited daily time of 24 hours a day, plus the ability that each person has to stay focused on what is being consumed. And since we have more free time than people in the last century, we go through the immediacy syndrome, that is, we want information to be quick and accurate so that it does not take us a long time to understand it, which makes it increasingly more difficult to keep users' attention on something, consequently, for the economy it becomes a search through the big data to know how to retain and make people's attention last much longer. The longer the attention time, the more likely we are to buy or consume the product that is being offered to us. Attention equals winning.

All of the above was understood very well by the digital world, and especially social networks. For this they turned these platforms into another habit, therefore, many of them have “autoplay” options in which you can watch a video or a chapter of a series immediately afterwards as soon as the one you were watching ends, or the “scroll”. ” in which it continues loading or slides to continue viewing endless content or photos. But behind all this there are psychological studies that address the main ingredient of this attention economy, which is nothing more than the chemical that our brain produces called dopamine, the one that gives us the feeling of pleasure or happiness. Which means that these platforms work just like drugs, since little by little we look for more content that makes us feel those sensations. So most everyday things, like eating or working, are done at the same time as looking at the cell phone screen.     

These social networks use the financing model that is in mind at the moment, which is financing through advertising, which was already done in traditional media such as radio or television, but which is now also based on selling information to companies to transform it into guaranteed consumption content. In short, since we do not pay anything to consume these social networks or platforms, we are the product that the economy consumes.

What is the problem

Now, what is the real problem? Some experts attribute the mixture of the adaptation of the economic model, the commercialization of private data and the massification of the smartphone to the trigger of the problems derived from the consumption of digital content. Since smartphones allow a permanent connection, something that could not previously be achieved with a computer or television, there is no limit on how many hours to try to capture people's attention and their personal data. What makes it go from being a habit to have attention on these platforms, to being an addiction, by trying to no longer provoke reactions but emotions. Emotions become the most efficient link for a message to have the best economic return. The philosopher Byung-chul Han He constantly discusses this aspect in his psychopolitics, saying:

“Not the use value, but the emotional or cult value is constitutive of the consumer economy. […] It is now when emotion becomes a means of production. […] The acceleration of communication favors its emotionalization, since rationality is slower than emotionality. Rationality is, in a way, without speed. Hence the accelerating impulse leads to the dictatorship of emotion. […] Things cannot be consumed infinitely, emotions on the other hand can.”

This becomes a problem when instead of controlling our free time, thoughts and emotions, they are controlled by this digital world, without thinking that the information fed by the actions of users can lead them to see the world uncritically, which It is very dangerous in all political and social aspects. We must remember that being the product through our personal data can be used for many more things than just selling products. When people don't question their world around them it becomes easier to fall prey to a single thought from the one who has the power of this information.

 But in addition to this and no less important is that the majority of people consume information in an unfocused way, which generates high levels of unproductivity, loss of self-esteem, and an impact on mental health by not being able to fulfill goals or dreams due to the amount of these distractions, or by seeing the world through stereotypes and lives that are not completely real, which creates gaps in how people perceive themselves. Namely, a zero tolerance for frustration. We are ceasing to live in a real world to move on to a virtual life that brings us very ephemeral gratifications. So we connect better with a screen than with people.

What can we do

Many reflections could be numbered and arrived at on the problems and consequences of this economy of attention, made by all kinds of experts and areas of knowledge, but we must also contemplate the solutions. Given this scenario, the most important thing is to be aware of how we are using our time, how the time we spend browsing these platforms affects our personal life and our relationships with others. Generally, and keeping these problems in mind, smartphones usually have in their configuration a summary of the time we spend daily on each application, the ideal would be that we start by reviewing this configuration.

After this review, we must be very honest with ourselves and analyze how the time we have spent in these applications has affected us, which we have stopped doing by browsing them. We must be critical and learn how social media algorithms work, we must become digitally literate. We need more conscious education about the use of different platforms, understanding that their objectives are to create that addiction, and perhaps this may sound alarmist, but the very concept of the attention economy points to this objective. 

So we need to learn and be knowledgeable about technology to be able to detect irrational thoughts and stop them. Possibly if we become aware of these problems and the number of hours we spend on social networks, we need a detox for a while to do things that we have stopped doing or land in our real life. This means establishing a schedule to review these applications, we must learn to modulate time, setting a limit of hours, thinking about leaving enough time for homework, family and even rest, since it is mistakenly believed that rest is being in application. in application. Sometimes we may have to eliminate these apps completely for a few days or weeks, this can be helpful as long as it does not affect us personally, pay attention if we have problems sleeping, if we find ourselves irritable, or if we feel apprehensive. If all of the above is too complicated, we can seek professional help, identify this as an anxiety problem or something similar, to follow up.

We will have more awareness of the above things if we begin to value our attention. Since our attention is the product of this economy, it must be worth what or who we give it to. We have the responsibility to understand that our life is gone in the blink of an eye, and that it is truly valuable. So let's be conscious and responsible consumers, deciding to whom, where, for what, when, why we give our estimated time. So that, as Aldous Huxley says, “a world in which you see everything, but do nothing” does not happen. If we develop better habits, we can have control over our lives, a more autonomous one.

In conclusion, the excessive use of information provided by social networks and other platforms has reduced attention time, to such a point that it is estimated that new generations only concentrate for 9 seconds, a little less than the concentration level of a fish. Triggering several problems in social, emotional, cultural and political relationships for humanity both for the immediate present and for the near future. It is urgent not to underestimate the power of technology, which has impressive power and is getting out of hand, due to not understanding it. Let's give more value to our time and control of our life, from a necessary self-criticism.



Everything is not bad...

After the above, it seems that we are facing a dark outlook, with no positive things to take from these technological advances. Which is not true, the immediacy of the information also translates things that have helped us and are useful to us if we know how to take advantage of them. We have great access to information that allows many more people who could not access it before, now can, which makes the world in these aspects a little more equitable in terms of education. This is an advantage that students have by having many tools and ease of consultation and learning, which was once intended only for people with great economic resources.

Furthermore, since companies strive to capture our attention, they make much more effort to generate useful and valuable content for different aspects and professions, from which we can learn to get the most out of. Also in the area of information in our social context, we are more likely to have access to different media and that said information is not biased just by a thought, where different opinions can be contemplated.

What we have to do is learn to manage not only our time, but also the valuable information that the new economy has with the digital world. In this new era there are also many people, entities and even companies that strive to make great use of technological tools, so that they manage to attract donations for many people, better education, non-biased news, opportunities for people who never had them before. they would have, etc. If we know how to search and educate ourselves as to the best way to use social networks or platforms, we will find that the benefits can be very diverse.


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