What is the price of your attention? Life Hacks by Charles Assisi

The average price of a person’s attention is 430 per hour. I like to call this the cost of distraction.

How did I arrive at 430? Data gleaned from job listing websites such as Glassdoor, Naukri and Payscale have it that Indians with a little over ten years of experience can expect to get paid 75,000 per month. Assuming eight-hour days and five-day work weeks, that’s what the compensation amounts to per working hour.

Now, millions of those scrolling endlessly for hours each day have a lot more than 10 years of experience in their fields and / or monetise their time for a lot more than 75,000 a month. Might I then urge you to do the math in your context and compute the value of your attention?

Why does this number matter? Because attention is a finite resource that cannot be stored for use later. While people do admittedly work longer and harder in the post-Covid world, there is always going to be a point at which fatigue creeps in. There are limits to how much creative and original work can be packed into any day.

This is part of what makes attention precious and worth battling over. And yet most people give away hours of it for free; often, worse than free, they give it away to mega corporations that earn billions from it and offer next to nothing in return.

To place that in context, after calculating the price of my attention, I conducted a thought experiment: If Twitter insisted that I pay an hourly fee to access its feed, would I? The answer came instantly: No.

If the content is not something that I would exchange for money, why then am I paying so much for it in time?

Aside from the problem of clutter — there is just too much information coming the individual’s way every day — this is a good reason to switch to an approach of consuming information mindfully and deliberately.

While there are many interesting voices and people on Twitter, for example, the fact is that the voices of the insane outnumber the voices of the sane. Social media platforms as a rule have become spaces where amplification bears no relation to value. When the UK-based Centre for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) studied disinformation campaigns in July, for instance, it discovered that just 12 online personalities were responsible for spreading false information about vaccines to a combined following of 59 million people worldwide.

Social media is now a parallel reality in which influencers spend a lot more time and attention ensuring that their presence is felt, than they do on ensuring that what they put out has value. And because most individuals do not see their attention as a precious resource, the influencer model works; millions are hooked across platforms, even though most conversations are a meaningless mess of memes, personal bytes of no consequence, and conspiracy theories.

After conducting this thought experiment, I have decided to revise my formula for the value of my attention as well. Because it is not just about one’s revenues or even about one’s self-enrichment. Attention as wealth has value far beyond such considerations. After all, how does one assign a value to the time spent with a partner, a parent or a child, talking, bonding and reconnecting? What premium does one place on the long-term effects of this on one’s loved ones, one’s relationships and oneself?

In a world so cacophonous, I have decided to more deliberately choose the people I pay attention to. Pick people whose presence and whose voices are as precious as the time and attention for which they are being exchanged.

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