Where Has Time Gone: Reclaiming Our Attention and Time Amidst Media Bombardment

Image: Linh Tran (2020)

Have you ever felt your time slipping away at the end of the day? Or that you are losing grasp of valuable moments in life in exchange for ‘socialising’ on virtual platforms?

Having suffered from this digital-centric lifestyle, we often reminisce about a life without social media and desire the feeling of being present. We also want a change in lifestyle that does not forgo the benefits of digital technologies.

Cal Newport, a computer scientist at Georgetown University, offers a refreshing approach to escaping this cyclic digital consumption by becoming more conscious in technological usage: Digital Minimalism. By adopting the philosophy practiced by digital minimalists, we can positively integrate technology into our life and retain our autonomy.

It is undeniable that our time and attention is being rapidly extracted and commodified by digital conglomerates. We are all frequent customers of these companies’ products; thus, our growing dependence on technology is making us susceptible to its exploitation of our usage and consciousness.

Yet, we are voluntarily spending a sixth of our day solely seeking connections and entertainment on the Internet, accepting the numbing of our senses in return.

Overconsumption of digital media is an alarming and critical issue: users can get infatuated with the infinite façade of glamour on the Internet through their recurring eagerness to stay updated.

This is because the media industry is built on psychology, in which human behaviour’s are studied and manipulated to maximise the efficiency of technology’s design and functions. Seemingly, media platforms are constructed to lure us into interacting with their features as we pay them with our attention.

More significantly, our habitual use of social media, and digital technology in general, is rooted in the illusion of interaction manifested by social platforms. As social media is framed to be the enabler of convenient communication, we are encouraged to establish and maintain a social presence on the digital realm. The interactions which we are developing, however, do not nourish our relationships as strongly as the wealth of digital conglomerates.

Instead, while scrolling through status’ and images displaying utopian lifestyles, we are offered with a form of escapism appealing to our imaginary dreams. The monotonous practice of scrolling, liking and commenting perpetuates our ‘social presence’, making us dependent upon digital platform.