Pedro Piñera

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The things that matter

25 September 2019

I just finished reading the book "Stand out of light" by James Williams. The book talks about the the race in which many companies are participating to capture our attention. It is thought provoking book, although hard to read in some parts where it gets a bit too deep and philosophical. I read the book because I've tried to quit social networks several times. It worked with Facebook and Instagram after several attempts, but I can't manage to quit Twitter, which I keep using actively daily. In this post I'd like to reflect on some book ideas that resonated with me.

The author affirms that we have gone from scarcity of information and plenty of attention, to a period where we have abundance of information and scarcity of attention. I can't agree more with the author here. Information floods our lives nowadays. We wake up, and the first thing that we do is picking up our phones to catch up with everything that has happened while we've been sleeping. While commuting, we consume every spare minute to listen to the latest podcast, or read blog posts that we stumbled on while checking social network. If we use Slack at work, it's easy to get overwhelmed by the amount of information that is shared, and whose relevance is hard to spot without a skimming through them.

Technologists shaped great stories that make us believe their products deserve our attention. It's inconceivable nowadays working out without a tracking device, reading a blog post without sharing it afterward, or travelling without checking-in the places we are visiting and posting photos. Technology went from being a mean to support us in the journey towards our goals to being the goals. They found our bugs and ways to exploit them. Our attention and time, precious assets, are in control of large corporations.

If I stop for a second, and wonder where I'm heading towards and what's in my life, I can't find an easy answer. My energy is scattered across many unless interactions with technology that keep me away from thinking on the important things. There's an invisible force that knows how to pulse the right keys in my brain.

The time I spend scrolling down through the Twitter timeline is unrecoverable. The likes that I'm hoping to receive, and for which I spent some of my time thinking what to share, will left my brain seeking of more dopamine intakes. All the time that I'm spending offering my attention to technology is time that I'm not spending smiling to people, having a nice time with friends, or enjoying a workout for the sake of feeling healthier or getting some fresh air.

I'm glad that I'm aware of this, because awareness is an important step to regain the attention that I was snatched out. The second step that I'm currently undertaking is understanding what my goals and values are in life. Once I have a better sense of those, I'll be able to align technology with them and let it support my life instead of control my attention.

I'll leave you, dear reader, with the same sentence that I was left with when I left the book and that planted a seed for thought in my brain: In order to do anything that matters, we must first be able to give attention to the things that matter.