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The Race for Competing Attention

Alexandria Joy - Monday, October 08, 2018

We don’t have bad memories, we have low attention. This is the age of competing attention. So where are you putting your focus? Where is your attention? On your phone? Perhaps.

So many people espouse hustling, posting on social media 20 times a day just to make a million dollars. But is it all worth it? Is it truly fulfilling and sustainable if all you have is a bunch of likes, shares and possibly some bankable cash in the end?

How would things be different if instead of focusing on popularity they instead focused on helping, problem solving or impacting the next million people they met instead?

I recently read Deep Work by Cal Newport. The book impacted me profoundly as it really helped me realise just how much social media and our devices can distract us, pull our attention away from our reality and keep us living fast and shallow. Is it any wonder businesses, marketers and individuals are vying constantly for our attention, trying to grab a little of your eyeball time.

I reflected on my own life and world and considered how much I allowed social media to lure me into its tangled web, an Insta drool, a like here or there, a glance while the kettle boils, a podcast while driving, a beep or alert while brushing my hair to tell me someone had commented on my Facey post. It all seemed to blend into one long phone check,.

So I made myself some rules to keep social media to the peripheries of my day. It lasted about 30 minutes. A slight beep or ding and once again I found myself laughing at a funny parrot, reviewing a clients post and scrolling through inane content.

I realised I needed a stronger habit breaker to manage my persistent and consistent phone checking. So I discovered and downloaded an app called "Moment" where you can set daily limits on your phone and get back to life. Like all good quantum physics - just the act of watching your phone usage makes you more acutely aware of your usage and changes the outcome immediately. On day 1 my usage was 8 hours 49 minutes, day 2, 5 hours and 31 minutes. Today I'm hovering around 3 hours 45 minutes. Not bad given everything in our society is reaching out for our attention.

Within a week in just one day I had written 15 pages of my next book and a full white paper for my business on transforming culture. There is a lot to be said for reducing distractions and doing more deep work.

One of my colleagues and collaborative partners Michelle Crawford from Being More Human spent about a month without email and social media and mentioned how it deepened her family connection, gave her more time for getting her own important tasks done and also she said that for the first time ever she actually caught herself a few times thinking that she was at a loss for what to do with herself. Sitting in a cafe without email or social media to scroll through she thought to herself "What do I do now?" - how delicious!

“If you can quit social media, but don’t, then you’re part of the problem,” Jaron Lanier says.

Has social media marketing hit a saturation point?

What then does this mean for marketers, business owners, entrepreneurs and brands trying to gain more of our eyeball share? Should they be worried that their social media’s impact is going to lessen over time, that social media has reached its saturation point?

The reality is that the world is only going to continue to get more connected, both in terms of internet and social media. True individual networks may wax and wane - think Myspace - however this is not something to fear, it's just the natural rise and fall of the ecosystem.

No matter what platforms come and go, or how much time users may have or may choose to spend on social media, one thing will never change: the best brands and marketers will always find ways to adapt, to interact and solve problems, to be of service and make a difference in the lives of others. The new opportunity is to stop the endless hustle and instead look for where they actually can connect and engage with real humans. It's time for experiential engagement to become the focus. It's time for us to be more SOCIAL.

How will you impact the next million people you meet?

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