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We can think that the economy is based on matter and energy as it has been named since the industrial revolution, as if the interpretation of the nature of this industrial society was about the means of production. But since the twentieth century the great economists were already pointing out how the entire society was based not on capital, natural resources, or work, but on knowledge. If there is knowledge, the other factors of production can be obtained; the knowledge step to make a profit to obtain economic results.

The economy had to adapt to the fact that the most precious resource in the world was something immaterial, that is why the customs, the rules, the skills to be able to capture, preserve, discover and exploit the information are now the most important, as Walter Wriston said, the former president of Citybank. The problem of the information resource is that instead of being scarce, it is excessively abundant, which results in the scarcity of what consumes it, that is, the attention. Human attention is what gives meaning to information, which converts "data" into "information." But given the abundance and accessibility of information, there is a conceptual shift that considers that information is now that subject that competes for human attention. Of course, he is not really a consuming subject because he lacks consciousness.

Attention economy

However, thanks to this shift, the concept of the care economy was born, where care is a good, which, through the quantification and efficient management of exposure to advertising content, generates economic resources, through marketing to third parties. That is to say, attention is the new currency that, in any case, once it has been created, the message is manifested independently and that is why we take information as a subject that competes for access to attention human.

We can exemplify this easier if we ask ourselves, How much time do we spend on digital platforms or social networks? When do you get up or are you working and a notification sounds on your cell phone, how long do you stay hooked? People's attention is framed in the limited daily time of 24 hours a day, plus the ability that each person has to stay focused on what is being consumed. And since we have more free time than people of the last century, we go through the syndrome of immediacy, that is, we want information to be fast and accurate so that it does not take us long to understand it, which makes it increasingly difficult to keep the attention of users on something, consequently, a search through the economy becomes Big data to learn how to retain and make people's attention last much longer. The longer the service time, the more likely we will buy or consume the product that is being offered to us. Attention equals winning.

All of the above was understood very well by the digital world, and especially by social networks. For this they turned these platforms into one more habit, therefore, many of these have "autoplay" options in which you can immediately see a video or a chapter of a series as soon as the one you were watching ends, or the "scroll ”Where you keep loading or slide to continue viewing endless content or photos. But behind all this there are psychological studies that attend to the main ingredient of this economy of attention, which is nothing more than the chemical that our brain produces called dopamine, the one that gives us the feeling of pleasure or happiness. Which means that these platforms work the same as drugs, since little by little we look for more content that makes us feel those sensations. So most everyday things, like eating or working, are done at the same time as the cell phone screen.     

These social networks use the financing model that is in the forefront at the moment, which is financing for advertising, which was already done in traditional media such as radio or television, but which is now also based on selling information to companies. companies to transform it into guaranteed consumer content. In short, since we pay nothing to consume these social networks or platforms, we are the product that the economy consumes.

What is the problem

Now, what is the real problem? Some experts award that the mixture of the adaptation of the economic model, the commercialization of private data and the massification of the smartphone is the trigger for the problems derived from the consumption of digital content. Given that smartphones allow a permanent connection, something that could not be achieved before with the computer or the television, there is no limit of hours to try to capture the attention of people and their personal data. What makes it go from being a habit to have attention on these platforms, to being an addiction, by trying not to provoke reactions but emotions. Emotions become the most efficient link for a message to have the best economic return. The philosopher Byung-chul han constantly discusses this aspect in his psychopolitics, saying:

“Not the use value, but the emotional or cult value is constitutive of the consumer economy. […] It is now when emotion becomes a means of production. […] The acceleration of communication favors their emotionalization, since rationality is slower than emotionality. Rationality is, in a way, speedless. Hence the accelerating impulse leads to the dictatorship of emotion. […] Things cannot be consumed infinitely, emotions on the other hand, yes. "

This becomes a problem when instead of controlling our free time, thoughts and emotions, they are controlled by this digital world, without thinking that the information fed by the actions of users can lead them to see the world uncritically, which it is very dangerous in all political and social aspects. We must remember that being the product through our personal data can be used for much more than just selling products. When people do not question their world around it, it becomes easier to fall prey to a single thought of who has the power of this information.

 But in addition to this and no less important is that most people consume information in an unfocused way, which generates high levels of unproductiveness, loss of self-esteem, and an impact on mental health by not being able to fulfill goals or dreams due to the amount of these distractions, or seeing the world through stereotypes and lives that are not completely real, which creates gaps in how people perceive ourselves. Namely, a zero tolerance for frustration. We are ceasing to live in a real world to move on to a virtual life that brings us very ephemeral gratifications. So we connect better with a screen than with people.

What can we do

Many reflections on the problems and consequences of this economy of attention could be numbered and reached, made by all kinds of experts and areas of knowledge, but we must also contemplate the solutions. Given this scenario, the most important thing is to be aware of how we are using our time, how the time we spend browsing these platforms affects our personal life and our relationship with others. Generally and keeping these problems in mind, smartphones usually have in their configuration a summary of the time we spend daily on each application, the ideal would be for us to start by reviewing this configuration.

After this review we must be very honest with ourselves and analyze how the time we have spent in these applications has affected us, that we have stopped doing to navigate in them. We must be critical and learn how social media algorithms work, we must become digitally literate. We need a more conscious education about the use of different platforms, understanding that their objectives are to create that addiction, and perhaps this may sound alarmist, but the very concept of the economy of attention points to this objective. 

So we need to learn and have knowledge of technology to be able to detect irrational thoughts and stop them. Possibly if we become aware of these problems and the amount of hours we spend on social networks, we need a detox for a while to do things that we have stopped doing or land in our real life. This means establishing a schedule to review these applications, we must learn to modulate the time, putting a limit on hours, thinking about leaving enough time for homework, family and even rest, which is mistakenly believed that resting is being applicable in application. Sometimes we may have to eliminate these apps completely for a few days or weeks, this can be helpful as long as it does not affect us at the human level, we pay attention if we have problems sleeping, if we are irritable, or feel apprehensive. If all of the above is too complicated, we can seek professional help, identify this as an anxiety problem or something similar, to follow up.

We will become more aware of the above things if we begin to value our attention. Since our attention is the product of this economy, it must be worth what or to whom we give it. We have a responsibility to understand that our life is gone in the blink of an eye, and that it is truly valuable. So let's be conscientious and responsible consumers, when deciding to whom, where, for what, when, why we give our estimated time. So that, as Aldous Huxley says, “a world in which you see everything but do nothing” does not happen. If we develop better habits, we can have control over our life, a more autonomous one.

In conclusion, the excessive use of the information given by social networks and other platforms, has reduced the attention time, to such an extent that it is estimated that the new generations only concentrate 9 seconds, a little less than the level of concentration of a fish. Unleashing various problems in social, emotional, cultural and political relationships for humanity both for the immediate present and for the near future. It is urgent not to underestimate the power of technology, which has an impressive power and is getting out of hand, because we do not understand it. Let's give more value to our time and to the control of our life, from a necessary self-criticism.



Everything is not bad ...

After the above, it seems that we are facing a dark panorama, with no positive things to get from these technological advances. Which is not true, the immediacy of the information also translates things that have helped us and helps us if we know how to take advantage of them. We have great access to information that allows many more people who could not access it before, now can, which makes the world in these aspects a little more equitable in terms of education. This is an advantage that students have as they have many tools and ease of consultation and learning, which was once intended only for people with great economic resources.

In addition, as companies strive to capture our attention, they make much more effort to generate useful and valuable content for different aspects and professions, from which we can learn to get the best out of them. Also in the field of information in our social context, we are more likely to have access to different means of communication and that such information is not biased only by a thought, where different opinions can be contemplated.

What we have to do is learn to manage not only our time, but also the valuable information that the new economy has with the digital world. In this new era there are also many people, entities and even companies that strive to make great use of technological tools, in such a way that they manage to attract donations for many people, better education, non-biased news, opportunities for people who never have before. would have, etc. If we know how to search and educate ourselves as to the best way to use social networks or platforms, we will find that the benefits can be very diverse.


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