Every day we enter the virtual world through our screens – some spend more time here than others. Even if you have no social media accounts, where do you bank and shop or just ask a question, look up a map? How are you reading this?
The virtual world – where does it begin and end? Ten years ago the lines were clearer. Covid 19 has blurred and hastened futures into being that we never really thought about. Now I read of online designers who are selling their fashions for people to wear in the virtual world. It’s a lucrative trade.
[Apparently you choose and pay for your garment, upload a photo of yourself to the designers website and their team of professionals fit it to your image. Once you have the file back you can use the image wherever you choose]. Article
It’s enough to make some of us run like hell towards the “real” world. Only to find that large chunks of what we take for granted are being eroded due to a lack of demand.
I went into two different banks last week, (what I had to do couldn’t be done online). I had a long conversation with the manager – apparently this particular bank is one of only four local banks to stay open for full business hours anymore.
“Some are closed for lunch, others close at lunch” he said.
He was right of course as I barely made it into the next bank and they were closing the doors behind me on my way out.
“What is real?”
Once I would have looked around me and replied “this”.
Yet here we are, you and I, having a conversation in a time and space that if I were to move to a different website, I don’t actually have to physically move. I simply move my attention.
Attention has become currency.
What I have, at this point, this second, is your attention – you are paying me, or rather my writing, attention. Thank-you – sincerely.
When was the last time some virtual facility thanked you for your attention? They should, it’s priceless, and in a market so packed with other forms of entertainment.
Have you viewed the reels and tik toks people are making? This is seriously out there stuff! Somehow, social media moguls have convinced millions of ordinary people to film themselves and display their home movies in front of, not just family and friends, but the entire world.
A great deal of effort goes into getting dance moves and exercise routines just right and this doesn’t even begin to account for the raw and personal outpourings that some individuals record and upload. It’s heart breaking and cringeworthy and strangely compelling which is why…it captures attention (and also a large part of the reason I had to dump most of my social media accounts – far too much distraction)
Facebook and Instagram (and every other social media site) are free shadow boxes that we set up of our own volition and use at no cost, how are they free? They are not of course, we pay with the currency of attention and other people pay with theirs, and all that attention, is what makes the virtual world go around or even exist in the first place.
Attention is currency and power.
In the future, wars will be fought over attention. They will also be caused, largely by people paying and using attention.
It’s occurring already. Big business, governments and guru/geeks will use the attention of vast numbers of citizens to compel and control people who have already handily categorised themselves into alliances according to their data.
Data freely given every day upon the minute, from every corner of the earth.
It’s not conspiracy, it’s simply sense/cents.
For this moment, I have bought some of your time and focus and I value it, but not as much as someone who wants to keep it longer so that they can create harvesting and gathering points then onsell it to millions of interested parties.
Those people will make a far more compelling argument than me and in fact Mark Zuckerberg is banking on creating an entire Metaverse to keep people entertained at the end of his string endlessly.
He envisions a virtual world where people’s attention will interact 24/7. They will work and play online in his Metaverse, their attention ensnared and paying for hours.
It is dark, Matrixy, chilling, surely no one will do it. Yet look at where a large proportion of the population spends its time already, faces down, staring into screens or uploading to them.
If this post has you reaching for something a little more offline, try Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport, it’s a great book and one that convinced me to give up most of the social media accounts I was on the fence about.
If you’re not ready for anything quite that drastic but would like to cut down your screen time, you can always try his 30 day challenge to see how it feels.
Mark Mansons article The Attention Diet is another great read on a similar topic.
Thanks to – Sebastian Lambarri – Unsplash