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How valuable is our attention? Individually, it might not seem like what we pay attention to adds up to much. When we see that viral YouTube video though, we realize the power of our collective attention. People are able to make their living based on how many viewers pay attention to them on a consistent basis. We've all heard it said that "time is money." What I feel now is that "time multiplied by attention is money."
So many professions now basically involve the buying and selling of our attention as it relates to online media, games, and other content. It is not always the content itself, but rather the advertisements that piggyback themselves on top of the TV program, YouTube channel, or video game stream. We know how advertising works; if we pay attention to something repeatedly over time, it increases our likelihood of eventually purchasing the product or service being shown.
Everyone likes to think they are invulnerable to the effects of ads, and to some extent, we may resist buying into most of what we are exposed to on a daily basis. The other main way ads work is by showing us something we already buy and enjoy in our daily lives. This is more the retention aspect of advertising. If I drink a certain beverage and I see an ad for it before I watch a YouTube video, it will on some level validate my choice and reinforce my likelihood of continuing to buy that drink.
What this all comes down to is the manipulation of our attention in order to create certain monetary results. The Superbowl is a great example of how valuable our attention really is, en mass. The astronomical prices to run commercials during this time are offset by how many people will see said ads and big businesses feel justified in paying for this investment.
The relatively newer phenomenon of ESports is also very much commercialized and made to happen by the investments of wealthy companies. Entertainment, in general, is a great way for different messages to be shown to us since we are in a highly attentive and receptive state as we watch our favorite teams compete with one another.
People who are very creative in the online world of streaming and content creation can find themselves in a strange predicament. They are basically forced to play into this numbers game of seeking more and more viewers in order to make a living. Even those that speak out against this system end up feeding into it because they rely on various advertisements for their own income. What ends up happening is the necessities of day to day survival can influence content creators to align more with big business interests.
Saying that people are "selling out" is too harsh of a judgment in my mind. We can find ourselves doing many things that we would otherwise not choose to do for the sake of earning a living. I myself have written SEO articles for companies that I had no interest in, or even wholeheartedly disagreed with. What we are beginning to realize is that our own authenticity and true creativity is far more valuable than any monetary compensation. What we also see is that the ability to make a living through our authentic uncompromising passion is also easier than ever.
What I want to encourage in people is to remember the old adage, "to thine own self be true." Our integrity is something so priceless that no special interest should be allowed to purchase it. The world is waking up to the emptiness of merely making money for its own sake, and we are driven to find a higher purpose for our gifts than to merely outsource ourselves as a means of manipulating the attention of viewers. Rather, we should seek to empower people who view our content to further themselves in freedom rather than hold captive audiences.