The Battle for Our Attention


After a long day, you drop your bag and collapse on your bed, letting out a quiet sigh. You take a breath and a moment of lack of stimulus brings you to pull your phone out of your pocket. Without an ounce of thought, your fingers open your favorite social media app. A couple minutes of scrolling pass by till your satisfaction wears off. Instinctively, you open another social media app, and once again, you browse through until your focus is lost. The cycle continues and you realize that you’ve been opening and closing the same four apps for god knows how long. This is the concentration cycle that pulls each generation down to diminishing attention spans and develops our desire for consistent stimulation.

Our society is becoming more engulfed by the need for stimulus by the day. However, while we continue to talk and laugh about our diminishing attention spans and social media vices, companies are trying their hardest to intensify these feelings. The basis of these tech companies’ business plans is to maximize traffic, maximize the amount of time we stay glued to our screens like flies to a lamp. 

On November 5th 2022, Elon Musk, the new CEO of Twitter, stated that the company is losing 4 Million dollars daily. These companies are losing money and must carve out our focus if required. As they are publicly traded, these companies must find a way to grow and satisfy their investors. The general public must fall deeper into the hole of attention deficit and stimulus addiction to fulfill the business’ desires.

While this might sound over the top or even like a conspiracy theory, whistleblowers have testified to the acknowledgment of these realities. For instance, in 2021, Frances Haugen, a former Facebook employee, leaked tens of thousands of internal records and research that proved Facebook’s knowledge of how their company was fomenting hate and disinformation in the name of engagement. Haugen describes how Facebook realized that its algorithm was a radicalization catalyst that led to additional time on their application and, therefore, more revenue for them. 

“Facebook makes more money when you consume more content.” 

“If they change the algorithm to be safer, people will spend less time on the site, they’ll click on less ads, they’ll make less money.”

These whistleblowers have provided concrete evidence that social media companies have explicit knowledge of how their algorithms function to keep you on the app as long as possible, regardless of the consequences. The speculation on the dark intentions of these companies is founded on how their revenue streams function and concrete evidence. 

Millennials and Generation Z have generally recognized these detrimental habits and consequences from the competition for our focus. We make memes and discuss how our phone and social media usages are prejudicial and counterproductive for our lives. Our technologies have lessened our attentiveness and consume considerably more of our time than they should. 

However, these two generations have begun to witness and comprehend these ramifications and still have the opportunity to correct these conducts. They have detected the progressive technological immersion of society but still remember a world without perpetual stimulation available at every waking moment. Nevertheless, I fear the aftermath of these overwhelming distractions on Generation Alpha. If these older generations have felt the tangible effects of the last decade on their demeanor, I cannot imagine the consequences for people who know no other reality than to be constantly hunted down for their engagement. The attention deficit and dissociation that this generation will face are unprecedented and unfathomable. 

Corporate social responsibility must take these matters seriously and find ways to have a profitable business without radicalizing or addicting its users. While the bottom line is the basis of a company, the well-being and stability of society should have priority over profits. We also ought to take responsibility for our actions, notice these bad habits, and make a conscious effort to better ourselves and our children. Taking technology breaks on a daily basis can help elevate some of these urges and prevent further issues in the future, breaking the chain to those hypnotizing black mirrors.

Featured image by: Eric Chow // The Guardian

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  1. Good read and so true!! Scary how social media algorithms play our short span gratification to consume more and fall deeper into this perpetual dependency with our phones.


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