The phrase, “Attention Economy,” first appeared on the digital landscape about two decades ago. Today, it’s shaping not only the world around us, but our mental and physical well-being as we navigate our individual paths through it.
Consider Wikipedia’s definition of Attention economy –
Attention economics is an approach to the management of information that treats human attention as a scarce commodity and applies economic theory to solve various information management problems. Put simply by Matthew Crawford, “Attention is a resource—a person has only so much of it.”
For years, individual voices have been popping up here and there voicing their concerns and sharing personal insights around this topic. The numbers are growing. What short and long term side effects is the always-connected world having on our mental and physical well-being? I’m not a huge fan of statistics and polls, but you don’t need a poll to tell that growing numbers of people are struggling.
You can see it all around you.
From general unhappiness to outright depression, a lot of people are “falling through the cracks” of life.
Still, when I look at the overall effects the attention economy has had on my own life, I can see both positives and negatives.
I know what’s it’s like to be hyper-connected… and I know what it’s like to pull back from it.
The same goes for thinking or obsessing about business 24/7.
I guess you can say that I know what it’s like being the driver and I know what it’s like being the passenger – feeling like I have little control over what happens next.
We all have a choice. No one is making us do anything.
You can unplug whenever you want, can’t you?
You Only Have So Much Time and Energy to Give
Maybe you think your business will suffer if you’re not more or less available every waking hour? Or, maybe it just feels that way? Could it be that you’re motivated more by how we feel than by what we think? That’s Marketing 101.
Unless you’re on an emergency call of some kind, why not keep regular business hours as brick and mortar businesses do?
I’ve answered my share of midnight emails over the past twenty-plus years.
Same thing with late-night phone calls.
That approach can work for a while – especially if you’re still in your 20’s and single.
If not, you’re on the road to burnout. Sooner or later you’ll realize the quality of life has devolved into a steaming pile. Sooner or later you’ll realize that one of two things is happening. Either you are controlling your life or others are doing it for you.
These days, even my personal phone is off after business hours until 9:00 am the next morning. Three family members and one friend aside, everyone else goes straight to voicemail. The phone won’t even beep when there’s a text message alert after hours.
That’s what works for me. You may have to experiment a little bit to see what works for you.
How Much Time for “Social Time?”
When it comes to social media and marketing, I do what I want to do. I no longer pressure myself to be everywhere all the time. In fact, if I’m absent for a while, people seem to be more appreciative when I return. My friends who make their living managing social profiles for clients, on the other hand, tell me they’re “always on.”
The thing is – they’re getting paid well for their time. They’re getting paid to be there. That said, they’re creating content – not consuming it. That’s their approach to keep long hours and their sanity.
Some people approach this with an all or nothing mindset. If you’re addicted, cold-turkey may or may not work. Sometimes gradual change works a lot better. With time, you develop good habits that eventually replace the bad ones. If you need help – that’s available, too. They have tech-free recovery centers for people addicted to the digital life (https://omegarecovery.org/technologyaddictiontreatment).
They say digital addictions are harder to treat than drug addictions. Symptoms of withdrawal might include agitation, depression, anger, and anxiety when the person is away from technology.
Centers like the one linked to above are becoming increasingly popular throughout the world.
Let me ask, do you worry about missing out on something when you’re not online or close to one of your devices? Does not being able to “check” whenever you want to bother you? Maybe it goes beyond logic and is more of a deep-rooted feeling? You feel like you’re missing out even though your mind is telling otherwise?
It’s hard to shake a feeling sometimes, isn’t it?
It’s almost embarrassing when you start thinking along those lines.
I’ve been there myself so I can relate. I’ve been in the middle of nowhere with zero reception to anything (cell towers, Internet, etc.). How did I feel? A little bit agitated. It was like running out of my favorite whatever and having to do without. I remember thinking, “This place must be run by a bunch of idiots.”
Long story short – I survived.
I don’t worry about missing out anymore. Catching up is easy enough to do.
It’s not like you need ultra-disciplined to retrain yourself unless you’re totally addicted. At the end of the day, you can take back control of your life whenever you’re ready to. If you need help, you need help.
It’s easy to put all the blame on social media (among other things), but it all comes back to how you use it. If it weren’t for social media, I probably wouldn’t have met Lori (my significant other) back in 2010. I wouldn’t have met a lot of great people from all over the world.
That said, if I spend too much time reading posts, it’s hard getting back into the “zone” where I do my best work. Or, any work at all. With all the talk and tech revolving around productivity, it doesn’t work for most people. Statistics show the exact opposite happening. Billions of dollars are being lost due to poor work-related productivity.
It’s happening across the board.
This brings us to the point that we’re at today in 2020. Masses are beginning to tune out in greater numbers with greater frequency. It’s important to recognize this if you’re a digital marketer of any kind so you don’t take it as a personal strike against yourself or your business. Again, attention has become a truly limited resource.
Taking Back Control of Your Time (And Life)
As a content creator and online marketer of 20-plus years, I’ve done my share of adding to the noise. Even “killer content” becomes noise when the people on the other end are tired, burned out, and desperately in need of recharging their batteries.
Over the years, multi-tasking has made it increasingly difficult to work at a deeper, focused level.
All of that can change, but the truth is, you have to want it to.
It’s like smoking or any other habit.
You have to be all-in and committed to breaking the habit. That’s how true, lasting success comes.
An increasing number of people are choosing against keeping up with the non-stop flow of information.
An increasing number of people are detaching from the news media’s messaging.
We’ve spent the first half of 2020 being bombarded by news, data, opinions, and more – around the clock.
Being shut in only intensified the effect.
Then, add riots and unrest to the mix.
What do we have?
We have billions of people no longer firing on all cylinders.
We have billions of tired, stress-out individuals – trying to act normal under extremely abnormal circumstances.
So again, if people aren’t responding to your business content (that includes articles, videos, podcasts, webinars, emails, group functions, and more) the way they have in the past, DON’T PANIC.
It’s a cycle that’ll probably grow over the summer months.
More and more people are detaching. They need a break. They need to reassess their lives in general.
Many of you are already seeing some drop-off in various ways, shapes, and forms.
I think we’re seeing the end result of the mental fatigue that’s been building in people for the better part of the year.
So, Will the Personal Brand Marketing Approach Still Work?
At the end of the day, will the personal brand strategy still work?
The personal brand approach to building any kind of business will always work. Nothing can replace the person-to-person, human being to human being connection. In the current climate, however, distractions are at an all-time high. And things like focus, enthusiasm, and personal energy are at record-breaking lows.
Understand how this dynamic works can give you a big advantage in your market.
Because your competitors are “feeling” and seeing the same things you are. They are most likely interpreting what’s happening, however, through a different lens or worldview. Most of them will conclude people have lost interest in their blogs, videos, etc. when they see the numbers drop.
They’ll be like the inexperienced investors who sell at a loss when they see the market plunge.
They’ll move on to other things. They’ll look for easier “wins.”
You must be different.
Think depth instead of width. Dig in with whatever type of content you produce. If you don’t produce any – start!
When the numbers start to trend upward again (and they will), you’ll have a body of work waiting for new people to find and older fans to rediscover. But, you really do have to keep on keeping on. Yes, you may feel powerless, but you’re really not. Let me conclude by saying, attitude is everything when it comes to the entrepreneurial journey.
If you’re feeling a little worn out and demoralized, take that as a sign. You need to allow yourself some time to mentally recuperate from the battles you’ve been fighting. The digital lifestyle, left unchecked, is going to claim a lot of casualties. It already has. You don’t have to be one of them.