Every day, billion-dollar companies conspire against us. They use every possible tool at their disposal, hiring behavioral psychologists, and recruiting freaking scientists to capture the world’s most precious resource.
No, not money. Our time and attention!
You probably don’t even realize it, but we are being played at this very moment.
From Buzzfeed articles BEGGING us to click on them (“You won’t believe #5!”), to that tiny hit of dopamine we get with every new text alert, Facebook message, or email. And this has an impact on us – not just as we get distracted from our task at hand, but long-term we compulsively seek out this “hit” more and more often.
In fact, I just checked my phone as I was writing this introduction because a text came in.
I feel like I’m trapped in a real-life version of The Matrix. This nerd classic explores a world in which the entire human race is hooked up to a virtual reality system designed to keep us blissfully ignorant and complacent, so we can be used as batteries for the machines. In short: we built machines to make our lives easier, and they ended up owning us.
In non-nerd terms, we’re hooked on digital “junk food:” Empty calories that we consume, making us temporarily happy but ultimately unfulfilled: soda, chips, candy. Because these things have minimal nutritional value, we eat them to feel satisfied in that moment (RIGHT NOW THIS MAKES ME HAPPY!), and then feel empty after and need to eat more.
Me, you, and everyone else — we are all addicted to hits of dopamine, checking our notifications, browser tabs, and phones which keep ourselves artificially busy. The system has grown to enslave us, exploiting our nature for their gain.
But like Neo, it’s the society that we’ve inherited, and it’s up to us to take back our free time and attention. Speaking of which, I’m currently resisting the urge to check the likes my most recent post on Facebook got. Ugh.