The attention economy

Jia Tolentino in the New Yorker:

Social-media companies monetize everyday selfhood: our preferences and personal data are tracked and sold to advertisers; our relationships are framed as potentially profitable conduits; we continually capture one another’s lucrative attention by performing some version of who we think we are. Over time, we have absorbed these terms and conditions: we might retain very little of the value we create, but we have allowed social media to make us feel valuable. These platforms encourage compulsive use by offering forms of social approval—likes on Facebook and Instagram, retweets on Twitter—that are intermittent and unpredictable, as though you’re playing a slot machine that tells you whether or not people love you. Dependency, eventually, assumes its own logic. Recently, vague reports circulated that Twitter was considering getting rid of likes. Users protested. If I could flip a switch that would allow me to get book recommendations from Twitter and puppy photos from Instagram without seeing how many followers I was acquiring or how many people had liked my posts, I would. It would help me waste less time on the Internet, and feel less invested in it. Of course, this would not provide me with as many regular infusions of useless dopamine, or make Twitter or Instagram—or the companies that advertise on them—very much money.

The attention economy