The Currency of Attention: Social Media, Big Tech and ADHD

The Currency of Attention: Social Media, Big Tech and ADHD

The Currency of Attention: Social Media, Big Tech and ADHD 1200 1200 Neuralia TMS

I. Introduction

  • A. Over the past 10 years, the most successful new businesses have been those that trade in attention. Research has shown that platforms like TikTok, which have been improved over years, not only keep our attention but also change the way our brains work. Concerns have also been raised about the Chinese Communist Party having access to data. As a psychiatrist who also has training in addiction, I have seen a rise in the number of people who want help for addictions to things like social media, and gaming that are linked to the internet. Even though these things are fine in moderate amounts, doing too much of anything causes issues. This is particularly the case when we are talking about apps designed to cause a dopamine rush. 

II. The Big 3 and the Attention Economy

  • A. Big companies like Facebook, Google, and ByteDance (TikTok) know how valuable attention is and have built their businesses around getting it and making money from it. These companies have turned attention into a valuable currency that makes them money
  • B. Such technology corporations depend on advertising revenue to make money from people’s attention. The old adage comes to mind “if the product you are using is free, you are the product. In this case, your attention is the product these tech companies care about. They can show more ads and make more money if people spend more time on their sites. This gives tech companies a strong reason to come up with ways to keep users interested and constantly consuming material.
  • C. Technology companies use personalised content feeds, push messages, and algorithms that give priority to content that is likely to get people to interact with it to get and keep users’ attention. Such strategies aims to push forwards those on the edge of the debate. This is how people like Alex Jones was able to create his empire (before losing it). Other have argued the social media algorithm has the ability to sway elections. These strategies get people to spend more time on their sites, capturing their attention and turning it into money.  
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III. Instant satisfaction in the age of social media and its effects

  • A. Social media platforms like TikTok are made for quick involvement, giving users an endless stream of content that can be watched in seconds. This results in the infinite scroll, where you can never reach the end of the page (also known as doom scrolling). This design makes it easy for users to keep scrolling through their feeds, looking for the next piece of content that will meet their need for instant gratification.
  • B. Things like shares, comments and likes have a signficant on how much attention someone pays to something. Users can get instant feedback and validation from these tools, which can be addicting. People are more likely to interact with content that has already gotten a lot of likes or shares. This makes quick gratification even more important.
  • C. As a psychiatrist specialising in addiction, I’ve seen more and more people struggling with addictions linked to the internet, like social media and gaming. Normal amounts of these activities are usually safe, but too much of them can lead to addiction, anxiety, sadness, low self-esteem, and trouble focusing. It’s important to be aware of the risks of using the internet too much and to find a good mix between online and offline activities.

III. Research showing how people’s attention changes as they use social media – Even though there isn’t a single study that shows apps like TikTok are the only cause of shorter attention spans, more and more studies are looking at how social media and technology use affects attention spans and cognitive function. Neurological imaging methods, such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and electroencephalography (EEG), have been used to study brain activity in people who use social media and digital devices.

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  • A. Several studies have found that heavy use of social media and technology is linked to changes in the structure and function of the brain, especially in areas related to attention, memory, and control of impulses. For example, experts have found that too much time on the internet can lead to a decrease in the amount of grey matter in certain parts of the brain. This is linked to problems with thinking and paying attention.
  • B. Also, being constantly exposed to fast-changing stimuli on apps like TikTok may make people’s attention spans shorter. By showing users a constant stream of short videos, these apps may train the brain to expect and want fast content delivery, which could make it harder to focus on jobs that need sustained attention.
  • C. It’s important to remember that the link between using social media and having a short attention span is complicated, and more study is needed to fully understand the effects. In the meantime, it’s important to be aware of how we use social media and try to find a good mix between online and offline activities.

Neuralia TMS are the Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) specialists in Perth, WA. TMS is non-invasive treatment for depression and several other conditions.

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