Why the Best Creators Value An Audience’s Attention

I had a conversation with a colleague recently, and after a thoughtful and professional discussion about marketing, we agreed that we were both hypocrites.

We both work on social media for our employer, sharing ideas about Instagram, improving visibility, and growing the audience for the business. We talked about how we could get more attention for a new location that opened and stand out in a competitive market.

At the same time we were working on that, we also personally limited our own screen time. We both agreed that it was a distraction and robbed focus and energy from things where our time is better spent.

So, yeah, hypocrites.

It’s just plain marketing, of course. You can’t run a business of any kind without having an online presence. No matter who your audience is, what their age range or interests, they spend a lot of time online. That’s how your customers find you.

In my work, I’m constantly asking myself, “How can I get this content to the audience that needs to see it? How can I get my customers’ attention?” I’m always building my skills and getting better at what I do. And I approach every piece of content with the intention of creating valuable and high-quality work.

In my personal life it’s a different story. I give as little attention to screen time as I possibly can. I consider ways I can spend less time on my phone. And I spend so much time on a computer all day that my hour of no screen time before bed is pure bliss.

I’m not a saint, by any means. I have the same bad habits as anyone else. But I also know that I never felt like I use my screen time for anything valuable, unless I’m working.

I never step away from it and think, “Well, that sure was worth the 20 minutes. I sure do feel like a better human being!” It’s like ice cream, booze, and Netflix. It’s a pleasant distraction in small doses, but too much of it and I’m filled with regret.

Screen time isn’t all bad. Because of Facebook, I found an incredible interview with Roald Dahl, fantastic essays about being a writer, and the 10 Minute Novelist community.

I have found work that allows me to use my English degree in ways I couldn’t have imagined when I graduated from college in 2006.

Plus, online platforms make it easier for writers to connect with their audience and to self-publish, something that utterly upended the publishing industry.

But if you ever wonder where your time went, then it probably went into that little device that you carry around with you.

The life you want to create does not happen on that thing. It facilitates it, and it can be a useful tool, but it will not fulfill you.

Art, relationships, the hustle, losing weight, getting stronger, creating a new product, and building confidence does not happen online.

It happens in the little windows of time you snatch in your day. It happens during those moments when you say, “I have 15 minutes to myself. I’m going to use it to make something and do something.”

Not every piece of content has to be Man’s Search for Meaning. But if you have the opportunity to create, then it shouldn’t be wasted on clickbait. If you’re going to stop scrolling, then it should be for something that offers more value than a split second scan before you move on to the next thing.

Attention is a valuable resource. It is not something to take for granted. It gives people the power to learn, create, connect, ask questions, spark debates, take action, grow, and evolve. What are you going to do with it?

Photo Credit: from Unsplash, by Ricardo Gomez Angel

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