Diluting Attention Span, Influencer Marketing & Why I Left Instagram Forever

 I started taking courses for MSCS at Stanford. One of the recent courses required reading advanced sections of the Compiler Dragon book. I didn't find the reading part to be too difficult. But when I began solving the problems, I noticed that I was getting stuck even on the basic problems. I went back to the book to read the algorithms again. But it didn't work. After a few hours of fighting, I realized that I was reading the wrong algorithm. The algorithm was not supposed to work on certain cases which were clearly mentioned. I skipped those parts because I was skimming through the text instead of carefully reading it. This was a wake-up call. I was not so in my college. I used to be a thorough reader. I used to read between the lines. But now I don't have the patience to read anymore. Reading a book seems a big challenge. Reading a news article, watching a full documentary, watching a movie, listening to a progressive rock record - all seem challenging nowadays. I cannot sit through a movie without checking Instagram. My attention span has diluted badly.

I know this would be the story of many people. It seems like a compulsion to watch some videos on YouTube while I am having my breakfast/lunch/dinner. In my office, some of my colleagues often watch TV series simultaneously while coding. Their efficiency seems low. Most people can no longer stand long meetings and design review sessions. They often zone out even when they are attending the meeting in person. Most people procrastinate. They are unable to challenge themselves to achieve more. All of this has mostly been brought out by the very idea of short videos.

We all know how terrible the idea of a short video is. TikTok started the trend and the world followed. Once you open TikTok, you can spend hours without realizing how much time you have wasted. The short videos show the highs of life, overnight success stories, coming-of-age tourist destinations, new trends, new fashion, etc - all of which are either highly exaggerated or completely fake. There are videos, then there are reactions to those videos and then there are reactions to the reactions. Influencers keep promoting brands that they would never use themselves. Money keeps pouring into their accounts and that is all they seek.

Most of the content is fake. I can vouch for their fakeness because I have seen people enacting a script while a short video is being filmed. There are several companies sponsoring their production now. It is a source of livelihood for the youngsters of America - most of whom are unaware of the effect that they are creating on society today. They sell money. They sell fame. They sell success without any effort. However fake they may be, they are successful in releasing high dopamine in our brains. Once you have fed your brain with a dose of dopamine, the brain would always seek more. It is a drug after all. 

We can no longer focus our attention on things that we want to do. Everyone wants to seek answers to everything. College students cannot take the effort to read books, research papers, or attend lectures. They want to watch some sketchy videos that can help them pass their exam or finish their assignment. There is a massive amount of incorrect information all over the Internet. The short videos should account for 70% of them.

One of the most terrible outcomes of the short video culture has to be the infamous influencer marketing. The primary job of an influencer is simple - create a FOMO in the minds of their viewers. We begin to feel that we are missing out. Personally, I never felt that I would ever have a FOMO of anything. But I did; I just realized it very late. I watched several Instagram reels on investment advisory. Every now and then, Wall Street invented a new instrument that people could buy and lose their money on. First came the stocks, then came the cryptos then came the bonds then came REITs, and I believe Wall Street would continue inventing new ways of fooling the taxpayers. They try every way to promote their instruments. Everyone knows how much hell of a scammers the hedge fund folks are. They have the money to buy every rating agency, fed official, trading application, news channel, and investment bank. They run propaganda throughout the Internet, several magnitudes larger than what you can imagine. They feed the FOMO in the brain of the individuals. And I was trapped in their web.

If everyone can multiply their money, would we no longer need to harvest our crops? 

It's sad to see the use of the Internet for spreading such propaganda. Indeed, everything is propaganda. The more people see them, the more they start believing in them. It's sad to see the world being converted from a productive, innovative market to a speculative, financially engineered market meant to feed the profits of a few rich individuals.

I am working in the advertising industry and I know the age groups that are targeted by various products. Financial products like Robinhood, YieldStreet, and WeBull target the age group of 18-25. It is they who have just started their careers and the marketing team knows that they would do anything to earn easy money without realizing the scam that they are entering into. Similarly, most dating and matrimonial sites target the 26-30 age group. Most baby care products target the 31-35 age group. Looking at the targeting, I can predict what is coming up in my life.

All these really remind me of three of my favorite films - The Truman Show (1998), The Matrix (1999), and Fight Club (1999). The world is a simulation and we have merely become puppets in the hands of a few rich individuals. In order to save whatever hard-earned money I am left with, gain back my attention span, do some real adventures, meet real people, have realistic expectations, be productive, and create some real impact on the world is why I left Instagram forever. I hope this motivates you to do so as well. Better late than never. 

The best investment that we can make today is our knowledge. There is no limit on the return rate. There are no ordinary income or capital gain taxes on them. Consider 2 scenarios, one in which your financial investment grows by 15% every year and another in which your salary (and hence your worth) grows by 30% every year. The latter would outperform every financial investment that you ever made. The worth of your skill will be so high that you won't even care for the penny-sized investments that you made in the past. People will start pouring money to buy a fraction of your time. The only catch with the latter is, it requires real hard work instead of constant procrastination. You need to chew the glass in order to spit fire. It requires several years of effort. Not any effort, but, an effort combined with sheer belief and faith in yourself. The results might not be visible for more than a decade. But if there is honesty in your work and kindness in your attitude, the fruits will be far beyond your imagination.

PS: Every influencer be like - 

They should teach money in school instead of history and science. 

Honestly, money gets its value from the productive work that scientists, engineers, doctors, and lawyers do. If they start teaching money, everyone would be a speculator, and money itself would lose its value.


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