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Attention Resistance: The why and how

The idea of the Attention Resistance as a way of thinking is only just developing. But even if the concept seems new, the idea is old: only you can decide who or what is worthy of your attention.

Nowadays our attention is required nonstop - from apps, social media, e-mails, news tickers in addition to "classic" demands from family, friends and other people.

Since there is only so much of it - we have to find a way to avoid the overwhelm and stop wasting our attention.

I first read about "Attention Resistance" in Cal Newport's book Digital Minimalism. What a great idea! The moment I got hooked on it, I found tons of other books talking about the attention economy and the need to change the way we deal with it. But the impression that more and more people feel trapped in ever-growing demands on their attention wasn't consistent with the amount of information I found to solve the problem. Of course, there is no widespread movement to promote attention resistance. Due to the nature of attention scarcity, we don't have the time and the focus for another attention sucker. And with the current mindfulness-hype, we feel responsible to solve it on our own.

But we shouldn't cope on our own - we are all in this and attention scarcity is not only our individual perception

Like with other challenges of our time (stress, burn-out, ...) there is a strong tendency to individualize the problem. We should stop using our cellphone all the time, we shouldn't be available for work during the evening, we shouldn't give Facebook such a huge amount of attention. But we are not alone with this and it's not (entirely) our fault that we get hooked on social media and constant input from the outside. As James Williams describes it in his fantastic book Stand out of our light, social media companies and other (mostly digital) influences manipulate our attention and ultimately threaten our "inward domain of consciousness".

“The liberation of human attention may be the defining moral and political struggle of our time,” James Williams, Stand out of our light

So attention resistance is more a state of mind than a movement. The control of our attention is first and foremost an individual decision. A network of people - via social media or via this blog - is not the most pressing issue here. But it is still important to see it as a systemic problem and not a problem we are to blame on an individual level.

How should we get going? This blog will try to help you with the how: How to stay focused, how to liberate your attention, how to deal with ever-growing demands on your attention. I will collect all content about attention resistance, develop and try strategies to live attention resistance and share everything here.

See you soon!

This Post was originally published May 14, 2019

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