Paying in Attention

The Real Internet Currency

We give and receive attention today in ways that we couldn’t a few decades ago. We post blogs, pictures & videos of ourselves, our ideas, products, and creations for others to see. We tune into our social media timelines daily, interpreting and adding to the global social conscious on a minute by minute basis.


With the rise of social media and instant interaction, attention has become a currency. Likes & followers give business and regular everyday people clout and credibility. We also benefit from social media reactions personally. According to a study by San Francisco-based media-buying firm RadiumOne, “Every time we post, share, ‘like,’ comment or send an invitation online, we are creating an expectation,” & “We feel a sense of belonging and advance our concept of self through sharing.”


Now, we all have seen many people shoot to stardom from going viral on YouTube or Vine. We have gotten to the point where gaining attention is no longer just what you need to promote your talent, but what people are actually famous for. The power of attention whether giving or receiving is unmatched today. This makes collective ideas or thoughts more powerful than ever. An example of this has been “Black Twitter” which has brought awareness to many issues like Ferguson and the Flint water crisis.


The issue with attention being so valuable and sought after is that just like money people will do anything to get it. If you tune in to your TL daily like I do I’m sure you see reckless, inappropriate, sometimes straight up disgusting posts from individuals seeking attention. An example of one of the more disturbing people I have come across on social media has been a young black man named “Boonk”. He has gotten famous and rich from going around stealing from people, and destroying things while yelling “Boonk gang” and posting the videos online. He has received a lot of negative feedback, but what people don’t understand is that in today’s world negative attention is more valuable than positive attention.


People love controversy and negative drama. This isn’t a new concept. In psychology this is called “The negativity bias”. It is the notion that, even when of equal intensity, things of a more negative nature (e.g. unpleasant thoughts, emotions, or social interactions; harmful/traumatic events) have a greater effect on one’s psychological state and processes than do neutral or positive things. Humans today spend massive amounts of time on hate or dislike. It has been tried tested and proven that the quickest way to gain attention on social media is to piss people off. There are certain topics that will trigger different groups of people like clockwork and people do this daily. We call it trolling. People have literally made a living off of trolling. Being able to provoke a big reaction whether positive or negative is still attention and they’re corporations, businesses, media outlets etc. willing to pay for it.


What we need to understand is that our individual energy and attention is valuable. We need to stop being so willing to throw it away frivolously or give it up to what we hate. The biggest thing we need to understand is that if attention is valuable and can be used to power things and people then where we direct it is of the utmost importance and the lack of attention is sometimes just as powerful.


Yes, I understand that some things just can’t be ignored, but sometimes it is the best course of action. We are in the age of bringing awareness and it’s dope, but there are downsides. People are constantly triggered and put in destructive mind states from simply scrolling their timeline. Some of us try to share personal issues and situations with social media forgetting that the TL doesn’t love us. People have become desensitized to the terrible things going on in the world, causing a loss of empathy and concern, because we are constantly exposed to them.


In 2014, 298 people were polled by Salford Business School at the University of Salford, for the charity Anxiety UK. The results of the poll found that more than half of those surveyed said that social sites had changed their behavior – and half of those said their lives had been altered for the worse.


But we can control how we allow social media to affect us. Below are four simple actionable suggestions that you can do today!


  1. Unplugging – Take time off from social media to clear your mind and refocus. Make it a daily habit.
  2. Only follow people who you enjoy interacting with and being exposed to – You don’t have to follow all like-minded people. But respectful people who don’t trigger you or others. Put that unfollow button to use today!
  3. Go outside and enjoy the real world! I know this sounds like a given but a lot of us forget to look up and take in experiences. Make this a daily habit as well.
  4. “Tweet people the way you want to be tweeted” – We need to be mindful of what we say and how we impact others. You can’t expect good reactions and interactions when you aren’t giving them.


The internet, social media, smart phones and tablets are now a part of everyday life. There is no more “It’s just [insert social media site here]”. Real life is impacted by online life and vice versa. The same way you would be cautious of dangerous people or situations in the real world is the same way you should be about protecting your mind online. What we pay attention to, just like what we spend money on, is a choice. Would you spend money on things you hate? Would you give money to receive bad experiences? No? Then why pay in attention?


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