If you’ve read my last blog post, you’ll know that social media platforms and casinos have similar strategies to hook you. The goal is to give you quick dopamine. You know the hormone that makes you feel happy and satisfied? Let’s call it your ego food. Which in moderation is good for you, but when having too much of it causes anxiety and not happiness. I’m sure this isn’t anything new to you, but do you know how these attention engineers work to fuel your addiction? In this post, I’ll explain what you need to know about the attention engineers that work for both Metaverse and the casinos, the effects of excessive dopamine, and how to re-wire your brain against engineering immunity.

What is an Attention Engineer?

Before you understand how to create your personal anti-attention-engineered plan, you should know what the job entails. Basically, attention engineers develop strategies to manipulate the object: you. They go about that by researching your social media activity and your online presence to see a pattern. Then, with psychological techniques targeting your most primal emotions (such as happiness and excitement), they create a strategy personalized to your pattern. If you think this is a new phenomenon and that they’re not senior experts, think again, they’ve been around for at least 10 years. They know what they’re doing, and considering the average millennial spends almost half their workday on social media, it’s obviously working. According to Ypulse, most are not interested in cutting back. You know what they say about addiction, right? The first step is admitting you have a problem, something most are reluctant to do.

The strategy they create based on your behavioral pattern means showing content you’re most likely to engage with at your most active hours. To put it in a real-life context: if you’re always active on Instagram on your way home, from 16.00 to 17.00, and look at travel-related content to help you daydream your way to Fiji, Instagram will suggest an amazing drone video of people on a beach in Tahiti at 16.20. You’ll watch it because that’s what you want at that time, right? The first video will give you positive feelings, maybe motivational. But then a second pop up, and… well, you already started watching it, so you might as well finish. And that’s the loop. The more you watch, the more “positive” feelings you get. But too much of any good is bad, and dopamine is no different.

Too much dopamine caused by artificial factors creates anxiety – not happiness.

Even though we get a lot of positive feelings through social media, it doesn’t positively impact our life if there’s too much of it. See, there’s a catch: a healthy level of dopamine makes us productive, creative, organized, efficient, and happy. But too much creates an effect similar to dopamine deficiency, manifesting as anxiety, stress, and sometimes even depression. Much like gambling, playing video games, or drinking, too much dopamine caused by social media puts us in an over-excitement mode, motivating us to continue the activity and increasing the risks of creating an addiction. As with any addiction, we don’t recognize the source of the addiction as being the cause of our negative feelings. Instead, our brain assumes the activity is a reward and fails to see the connection between the cause (social media) and the result (anxiety and inability to log off).

If social media drives dopamine, and dopamine drives our behavior. Does social media affect your decisions?

Well, yes. Social media can make you feel validated, seen, appreciated, connected. It’s a great source to learn, connect with others, and motivate yourself. But, as attention engineers track your behavior, they also track what things you’re interested in. Chances are that you keep seeing many of the same things, which affects your subconsciousness. If you’ve ever seen Will Smith’s movie “Focus” you’ll know how this works.

Priming is when a person is subject to repeatedly seeing the same number, word, action, or similar, influencing the decisions that person will make. In Will Smith’s movie, they wanted their victim to choose the number 55 in the bet. As this was a crucial part of their plan, it was vital he chose that number. They planted the number 55 in all places he went to or passed by to ensure he did. And guess what number he ended up picking?

Attention Engineers do the same thing. They see where you go in the digital world, know what you like, and know what they want you to do. And much like Will Smith in that movie, they plant things to affect your subconsciousness.

Imagine this: you’re googling “summer travel” repeatedly, and on your daily route home, you watch travel-related content, often looking for videos of Fiji. Then there are several companies paying hefty prices for online advertising. They want you to book their trip to Mauritius. So, the attention engineers study your pattern, learn your behavior, and notice that you like videos of Fiji. On your way home, when you’re usually on Instagram, a suggested video of Fiji will pop up, followed by a video of Mauritius and another Mauritius video. This will continue for a few months, and suddenly, you’re ready to book your summer vacation, what do you think you’ll choose: Fiji or Mauritius?

How do you stay immune to their plan?

Honestly, it’s pretty simple, but it might also require some work. Unfortunately, it all comes down to you deciding whether you want this loop to end. See, attention engineers can’t work their manipulative magic on you if they don’t have a pattern to build from. This pattern is created by repeated behavior, also known as a routine. So, instead of opening Instagram on your way home from work, listen to a podcast. Instead of opening Facebook every morning, read an article. Instead of venting on Twitter during your lunch break, read a book or write to your friends and family. Might I suggest something even crazier? Instead of connecting to anything, just be. Give yourself some time, every day, to just be: observe, and listen. Sometimes, the way to really know what we want is by shutting all the noise out. Being present online is the opposite; professional attention engineers ensure it.

Avatar photo

As a writer and marketing strategist, I'm very much involved in the social media landscape, firmly believing that today's conversations create tomorrow's reality. Writing is my way of starting the conversation on all things social media trying to change the digital landscape, maybe it could be purposeful we all feel proud of. I'll put pen to paper and try to show why a healthier approach to the digital world is needed, and how to achieve it.