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Resisting the Attention Economy using Core Values

Updated: Apr 14, 2023

Traditionally, core values and trust came from family, church, friendships and the local community. The modern “Silicon Valley” workspace continues to grow into a religious culture. While employers could not match salaries with inflation and housing costs on the rise, many took up different resources as incentives such as free coffee, gyms, free childcare and even bars and continued this method as a human resource during growth. This WeWork co-working space culture took off and eventually became a default - especially for employees working in the digital industry such as software. Rather than cubicles dominating the office space, open concept rooms with 24/7 collaboration and entertainment during the 9-5 workday became the norm. Employees stayed later, remained caffeinated without enough sleep and gave more - advancing corporate missions. The workplace became a family unit. However, with much disappointment for many, a career cannot provide the same core values a family or community can provide. "Psychologists use the term “enmeshment” to describe a situation where the boundaries between people become blurred, and individual identities lose importance. Enmeshment prevents the development of a stable, independent sense of self.” This workplace culture, seen often in technology and multimedia, leaves many discontent, frequently changing jobs, all while searching for community which both provide a living wage, benefits, and an ethical agenda which aligned with their own.

The mind and soul are begging for attention. John Wesley recommended those who are in physically damaging work to find a more suitable, healthy position. Americans are looking for meaning outside of family and religion, while becoming more burdened by the productivity demanded by careers and social currency that force multitasking. Before even the smart phone took off, Tim Kreider of the New York Times describes the current ethos as “An endless hamster wheel of survival” making “busyness” unpopular and lacking virtue while new generations have “never known capitalism as a functional economic system”.

Employee productivity demands much but the brain is not designed to multitask. In reality, the brain functions as a switcher going from one idea to another, never on the same task at once - no matter how hard we try. The more the mind switches, the more energy it takes leaving the mind and soul depleted. Our brains are designed to focus on one thing at a time. Some brains have been trained or naturally switch from one focus to another very quickly but cannot actively engage in two things at once. At human’s most productive state, we are focused on one task every 45 minutes. In order for work to not only be productive but the best, focus on one item at a time for as long as possible is priority. The apostle Paul himself pleads to minimize our time doing normals tasks saying, “I do want to point out, friends, that time is of the essence. There is no time to waste, so don’t complicate your lives unnecessarily. Keep it simple—in marriage, grief, joy, whatever. Even in ordinary things—your daily routines of shopping, and so on. Deal as sparingly as possible with the things the world thrusts on you. This world as you see it is on its way out.”

It is important for media communicators and Christians engaging with media to understand the benefits of narrowing our focus and resisting the attention economy without abandoning media altogether. Within 1970-2010, many Christians left mainstream media to pursue careers to support the televangelist boom joining the mission of preachers such as Pat Robinson, Jim and Tammy Bakker, James Dobson, and Billy Graham. As a result, a lack of moral compass in mainstream media created a saturation of disturbing content, pornography and promotion of illegal behavior. The boom was quite effective on the generation with alcoholism and drug use. This disturbing period suggests Christian’s influence in media is both valid and necessary for the common good.

For someone who’s career was in media, Presbyterian minister, Fred Rogers hated the television of his time and did not identify as a media performer. He found it absurd with mindless, purposeless entertainment. However, he found that using television programming was the most affective approach to reaching children in need of guidance. Mr. Rogers embraced media to access the vulnerable targeting those who needed to hear affirming words and encouragement such as “I like you just the way you are.” translating scriptural morals and Christ-likeness onto the screen without a rueligious context. His delivery was so successful, he often off-screen could not reach point a to point b in public without being stalled by a crowd approaching him with delight as if they knew him personally. In order to arrive at destinations on time, he often asked for VIP treatment while traveling. Mr. Rogers enacted the fruits of his spirit within his delivery. These fruits are nine, mainstream, non-religious terms to describe the product of Christ-like character. John Wesley explains these fruits as “Being filled with faith and with the holy Ghost, they possess in their hearts, and show forth in their lives, in the whole course of their words and actions, the genuine fruits of the Spirit of God.” Making them nine focused priorities for a life filled with purpose and value.

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Paul Stackhouse
Paul Stackhouse
Apr 13, 2023

Wasn't Fred Rogers Presbyterian?

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