Everything you pay attention to, grows – from your bonsai tree, to your kids, to fake news. The battle for your attention is fierce and doesn’t necessarily do anything for the quality of the media we are bombarded with every day. As online and social media grapple for your attention, they build their apps, tools, websites, etc., to maximize your attention to them. This design and build for attention is called persuasive technology. And it’s addictive. Every ping and like you get gives you a shot of dopamine. This dopamine conditions you to want another shot, and therefore to want another ping and like. Over 210 million people are currently addicted to the internet and social media.
This behavior wreaks havoc on our attention span. If there is something you don’t like, you just click or swipe it away. After all, you are looking for your next fix of instant gratification. Lower attention spans, in turn, affect our relationships because people want instant gratification in this domain too. This doesn’t help us build real, deep, and therefore sustainable and long-lasting relationships. People simply don’t know how to do that anymore. The decline of long-lasting relationships leads to relationship consequences. Relationship consequences result in population consequences. And population consequences result in economic consequences.
A big reason why fake news thrive, is because they fire up the amygdala. This is our “fear button,” and it is very close to your reptile brain. It’s what helped our ancestors flee first and think later, so that they wouldn’t be eaten by a tiger. Your amygdala reacts very well to fear and it used to be a great survival mechanism. Today, with fewer tigers on the loose, it may prove less useful. But we do have all kind of impulses that can still fire it up. This is exactly why fear is often the topic of a fake news item. Those impulses vie for your attention, they shout louder and more, stressing our amygdalas, hence us, out.
But we can overcome this fear. How? By appealing to interests. Interests overcome fear. This works especially well for Gen-Y (Millennials) and Gen-Z. You get their attention by addressing their interests. These younger generations have a strong sense of “Duty of Hope” to safeguard their future and that of the next generation. This is why climate change is currently a hot topic in the media. These generations are very interested in well-being – for example, jobs that have a positive impact and contribute to progress rather than just making money. For these generations, dignity, tolerance, and trust are paramount. They strive for a decent life, not more-more-more.
So, where will you focus your attention from now on? What do you want to grow?
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This blog is part of the “Re-envisage” series.
Check the others here: