Perspective: Our Attention Economy

Mar 4, 2021

These days, where is your attention most directed? And does that matter? I’ve been pondering these questions for some time. Recently I read an article about “attention,” from Charlie Warzel in the New York Times. He lifts up Michael Goldhaber, a former theoretical physicist who had a revelation in the mid-80s that the enormous access to news, opinions, and forms of entertainment were more than one could handle. And this was before the arrival of the internet, streaming, and other social media platforms.


Goldhaber’s epiphany was that human attention – one of the most finite resources we have – was becoming scarce. He named it “the attention economy.” When we spend a lot of time attending to Facebook, news programs, podcasts, Twitter, etc., our attention is not only focused on a limited area of our lives, but also can feed a craving for attention from others. How many “likes” can I collect or even fashion something that goes viral – becoming an instant star.


I want to reflect more on how I value my time. How might I spend my attention economy in more focused, intentional ways? I could pay more attention to people who need and deserve to be recognized. I could allocate more of this precious resource to efforts of equality and justice that are sorely needed in our fractured communities. And I could direct more attention to impulses for creating something beautiful and lasting.


How do you value your time and expend your attention resource?


I’m Connie Seraphine and that is my Perspective.