Attention is a commodity, and it’s up for sale. As I sit to write this piece, I am listening to a podcast, scrolling through LinkedIn, and eyeing Twitter trends, but I only got started. The creator economy — also notoriously regarded as the attention economy may be the culprit. But with 5.3B active users on the internet, there’s an information overload. We’re hit with content from every possible side; how can anything hold our attention even for a minute? Well, that’s a question looming large over everyone’s head.

A study by Dentsu states that only one-third of advertisements get the audience’s full attention. The study says most people skip ads and often look away when they don't. Attention isn’t just a commodity, it’s also currency. And users aren’t merely getting addicted to content like it’s junk food — instead of consuming it, we’re all jumping from one dish to another. It’s a recipe for disaster.

Defining Attention Economy

I’d define it as a state where creators and brands are vying for a user’s attention while measuring the conversion of that attention. Is that attention amounting to purchase or engagement? — that’s what matters. The term ‘Attention Economy’ is coined by Herbert Simon, a Noble Prize-winning economist, who defines it as “What information consumes is the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.”

Kate Lindsay and Nick Catucci — the writers behind Embedded, a newsletter that writes about the internet culture, trends, and behaviour, have recently published an article: The Chronically Online Epidemic. Embedded describes our online behaviour and how we’re always online: "As social media platforms collapse into one another and become overpopulated, users have to go to greater lengths to get noticed. As long as algorithms and engagement incentivise this behavior, it’s not going to stop.”

Read the full article here.

The Flip Side for Creators

It’s no cakewalk to constantly churn out content, especially content that has to grab eyeballs. The internet has the memory power of a goldfish, so this strong urge to create content where users decide the content can keep them hooked in the first ten seconds is brutal. That explains why medical professionals, lawyers, and financial advisors are breaking into a dance on the internet.

But in the attention economy, it’s about the survival of the fittest. The only creators winning are those who live on the edge. Well, almost — minus the risks.

Read: The Rise in Medical Professionals Creating Content

Do Creator Economy and Attention Economy Go Together?

According to SignalFire, there are about 50M creators globally, and a report by Statista says that in 2021, globally, users spent 550 billion hours on mobile live-streaming apps. Staying on top of the algorithm or creating viral content has become crucial. No wonder courses like ‘How to Create Viral Content’ or ‘How to Quickly Get Famous on TikTok’ are mushrooming across the internet. You want every piece of content to be a banger; that’s the only survival game plan.

But If You are a User..

…you’ll end up with a social media and mental burnout. 😩

What’s worse? The attention economy doesn’t allow you to connect deeply with anything around you. Think you could watch a 20-minute video without interruption? Lofty dreams! You thought you could give your passion undivided attention? You can try, but it will be a task.

That’s when NOMO (Necessity of Missing Out) comes in. This is best described in Jenny Odell’s How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy — a book which tackles that and paying attention to the world around us.

The author Jenny urges the reader to channel their FOMO into NOMO, which means withdraw — it’s okay to slow down and not engage with everything you see on the internet. “I will participate as I wish,” are the exact words Jenny uses. I know, it doesn’t sound like something you quickly learn but takes time to master.

Read this for more.

But in the attention economy, whether you’re a creator or not, taking control back is what matters. If attention is genuinely the currency, we ought to be careful about our spending habits, shouldn’t we?

What do you think?

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