While I was retouching photos from this amazing birthday party, I was listening to a podcast by genius Sam Harris. Harris was interviewing one of the Silicon Valley tech wizards about the manipulative techniques deployed by Facebook, YouTube, Snapchat, and others. These companies expertly use deep understanding of human psychology, as well as increasingly brilliant artificial intelligence, to make sure that we all spend as much of our attention and time engaged with our devices as possible, because the more time you spend wandering their platforms, the more advertising dollars they get, or subscriptions. This is way more sophisticated than click-bait and just about everyone assumes they’re immune to the manipulation.
And yet, just about everyone will admit they spend too much time scrolling Instagram or Twitter, or binge watching Netflix, or all of the above.
In my opinion, it seems reasonable to assume that these digital beasts, the Reddits and WhatsApps, are playing me sometimes at least, and probably way more often than I care to imagine. They’ve figured out how to make my mind crave contact with them. (In my imagination I had a vision of Facebook suckling humanity with digital milk, and maybe it’s time to wean ourselves… or be forever infants…).
Any way, the podcast was fascinating, and it got me thinking about how people could spend their time and attention the best (if we could get our shit together and do what’s best, rather than what’s convenient or that would satisfy an impulse to distract ourselves in theTrumposphere). In other words, if we can agree that the Kardashians, cat videos, political insanity and endless advertising isn’t worthy of our time, what is time spent wisely? What would that even look like?
It would obviously look different for different people. Elon Musk is busy inventing the future, but most of us aren’t Elon. Wouldn’t a good use of time look something like this birthday party? When we think of time ‘well spent though’, we’re often think of ‘time being productive’. Working a job, folding the clothes, or whatever chore is next. When we think of celebrating a birthday, or even just meeting friends, we can see it as frivolous. Which…is tragic in a way.
Of all the countless days of my own childhood that I have forgotten, I remember (most) of my birthday parties. Of course, I understand that some families can’t afford an extravagant party or even next month’s phone bill, and that’s a sad circumstance, but it’s not my point. The circus theme (the bouncy castle, the games) is gravy; the meat and potatoes of this event is the time and attention given to kids and each other—the same time and attention that our iPhones eat every day. It’s a precious resource, and we should be careful with it. None of us are trillionaires when it comes to our time and attention.
So, if you’ve made it this far into my rant, check out these joyous photos and then step away from the screen and give your time and attention to something worthy of you.