Your attention is the most valuable commodity you own. Are you happy with how you’re spending it?
Facebook and Instagram used to be very good at capturing my attention, often for multiple hours per day. I’m not saying I got zero benefit from them, but on balance I think they were doing me more harm than good. So I quit them.
I now think Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are harming society as a whole more than they’re helping us. I used to be a huge fan of big tech companies and shared their utopian vision of the future. Now, after witnessing scandal after scandal, I eye them with deep scepticism and caution.
Our species doesn’t have sufficient wisdom to properly manage our use of the technological marvels that we’ve been developing at breakneck pace in recent decades.
I think it’s important to admit the truth to ourselves, even when it feels uncomfortable. Putting my ego to one side, here’s one of those uncomfortable truths I’ve realised about myself recently: there’s definitely scope for me to improve how I spend my attention.
Just like social media, I don’t think videogames aren’t inherently bad. But when I use them to distract myself from arguably more important things, perhaps I haven’t quite got the balance right.
Being rich, having expensive possessions, achieving a certain level of success in a career… I don’t think these things are particularly important. I’m not a material person. I don’t care much for social status.
Here’s what I feel is actually important: how I spend my time and attention in the small, day-to-day happenings of life… Listening carefully and attentively to my wife; Grooming, training and caring for my dogs; Reading books, learning and growing.
If we don’t take charge of how we spend our attention, someone will come along and steal it from us. Social media, trashy TV, sensationalist newspapers – they’re all masters of hijacking human psychology and emotions… for their own profit.
What matters most to you in your life? Are you dedicating sufficient time and attention to those things? In what ways are you wasting your time and attention more than you’d ideally like?
I love videogames, I really do. They bring a lot of pleasure and enjoyment to my life. They even help me deal with depression when it hits hard. But I have to be careful that I don’t retreat into videogames too much.
As Jordan Peterson would say, I have to remind myself to do what’s meaningful, not just what’s expedient (or fun).
Engaging with reality, admitting difficult truths to ourselves, and doing the right thing – these things rarely feel comfortable. But it’s important that we do them anyway.