Let’s be active writers rather than just passive consumers.

It’s time to take an active approach on how we distribute our attention, how we consume information and how we communicate ideas.

We are constantly overwhelmed with distractions.

It’s not the information economy, it’s the attention economy

Information is abundance, attention is scarce. As Michael H. Goldhaber suggested, the Internet enables anyone with the access to almost infinite sources of information. Hence, it is extremely misleading to simply consider the Internet business as the ‘information economy’, as information is not a scarce resource that requires allocation. Instead, the Internet space is where every content producers, from social media companies and news media to individuals, constantly try to seize the limited attention of the Internet users.

The forsaken attention and the passive state of information consumption

The foundation of mass media revolves around the idea of appealing to audience’s attention through contents that are either relevant or sensational. The same practice can be observed in many active publishing agents on social media such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. As a result, our social media is convoluted with a facade of contents that simply offer quick releases of dopamine. I, myself, as an active user of social media, have to admit that I have over-allocated my limited attentions on trivial materials. It is as though I have become accustomed to a passive state of consuming information that contributes little to no values to my life.

Personally, I felt like I’ve lost my ability to communicate genuinely because of my irresponsible use of social media. When I’m online, it’s ridiculously easy to take everything at face value and say things without much consideration. Social media enables us to communicate without fears and hesitance, but it has also made us forget about our accountability for the impact of our words. I constantly find myself in a confused state of being unable to honestly express my intentions, thoughts, and feelings.

Hence, this led me to ask 2 questions:

  1. How do I switch from a passive to an active state of consumption in order to obtain information that adds values and meaning to my life?
  2. How do I genuinely and responsibility communicate information online in order to entertain, to inform, to inspire and to express myself?

The Challenge

Here’s a social media worth using.

Here’s how I’ve decided to do it:

Unplug: For 1 week, I will draw a barrier between myself from social media. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat shall no longer receive the enormous amount of attention I give them every single day. Messaging apps such as Messenger and Whatsapp shall now be limited to emergencies or work-related matters.

Active consumption of information: I must be responsible for the information that I want to consume. This means that before I open any links, I must first decide if this information fits the research purpose that I planned. By doing so, I will have a tighter grasp on consuming information, rather than passively search for things to amuse me and consume my attention.

Write articles on Medium: With the input of information, there must be output as well. With the realization of my communication dysfunction, the best way to remedy would be through writing. I’ve come to understand that the act of writing articles empowers the writer to carefully consider the impact on the audience.

Therefore, when I write, I will follow this approach:

  1. I will first choose a topic that to an extent connects with my personal experience and emotion.
  2. I will then consider the target audience. The more niche the audience the better. Whether the audience is my family, my friend, my colleague, someone I’m genuinely interested in or myself, as long as I know these people personally, I would like to communicate with them.
  3. Before writing, I would consider the impact that I want to leave on the target audience. It’s going to simply be “What’s the message that I want the target audience to perceive?” and “What action do I hope to inspire in them?”
  4. Write something meaningful and genuine.
  5. Publish it. While this might seem contradictory to my early claims about the attention-seeking behaviour on social media, there are two reasons for this. First of all, I see the act of publication as an important milestone for any writer. It means that they are confident with what they have produced and are comfortable with receiving feedbacks, whether from the target audience or any well-informed readers. Secondly, I personally hope to see more meaningful content online, those that are created by authentic writers who hope to inform, to inspire, to ethically entertain or to express one’s self. It is my wish that there are more active participation in communities such as Medium, where everyone’s diverse opinions are delivered in a well-manner fashion with the intention that goes far beyond attention-grabbing.

You would be a great writer.

I designed this challenge for myself, but I would like you to do it too. While unplugging from social media, to my understanding, is not going to fare well for everyone. However, I think writing and publishing articles on Medium provides a foundation to understand one’s self and inspire others. I urge you to discover not only your writing capacity but about yourself and the way you think and feel. I believe that you would be a great writer.

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