Our interest as human beings is one thing that is limited in our lifetime. We can not add or subtract any extra attention that we already posses at any given time. How we decide to spend our time is up to us, and once spent, we can no longer retrieve it or press a rewind button where we can re-use our time. Every single task we do, requires some degree of attention. From massive tasks like doing an exam, or working on a project, to the small ones like tying our shoes, or going to the store. Companies and firms all over the world are aware of the confined attention that we have and are doing everything to make sure we spend our time on them.
Many of them have shifted their advertisements from billboards and magazines to the place where we all frequent the most; our mobile phones. From the moment we switch on our phones to the time we lay down to sleep, hundreds of advertisements have caught our attention, even though most of the times we might not notice them. They do everything in their power to maximize the amount of time we spend on their respective platforms and in doing so, they maximize on their profits. This is the race for human attention.
YouTube, for example, has come up with a feature where videos are on auto play. This means that various videos align themselves according to your initial search. This makes you as a user to watch three or more videos even if you wanted to view just one. Facebook has videos on auto play too, where they just start playing on your timeline without your consent. Snapchat has a feature where it stores your previous conversations with your friends. This has a psychological effect on someone; they will become attached to the stored memories which will in turn make them want to create more memories with the same person. This makes you spend even more time on the platform than you had initially planned, and you get to do this subconsciously without even noticing it.
We need to make radical changes so as to control this effect. First of all, we need to accept that we are human beings and are persuadable. Next, the companies need to install accountability systems where the people in their control rooms are accountable to what is being displayed on our timelines. We also need protection from what we do not want to see, and empowerment to live out the timelines that we do want in our feed (Harris).
The material was significant to me because initially I did not know what was happening on a subconscious level. What I thought was an innocent advancement in technology was all throughout a carefully thought out plan to win our attention. I have personally had uncountable instances where I go to YouTube to watch a song video, just to see others that were not in my head but I had planned on seeing in a previous date. What happens is that these videos play themselves out and I am caught in some type of trance where every video reminded me of previous experiences from the past. In short, I basically end up spending almost 20-30 more minutes on the platform than I had originally planned.
In short, companies need to regulate the amount of psychological advertising that they expose to us. We usually fall into their traps because most of us are not really aware of what is happening on a deeper level. We need to be have a say on what is to be exposed to us in the future, at least then we will not have to worry about our attention being sucked by insignificant things.
Harris, Tristan. “How a Handful of Tech Companies Control Billions of Minds Every Day.” TED: Ideas Worth Spreading, 28 July 2017, www.ted.com/talks/tristan_harris_the_manipulative_tricks_tech_companies_use_to_capture_your_attention#t-41426. Accessed 10 Dec. 2017.