As Mark Weiser wrote in 1993, “A good tool is an invisible tool… you focus on the task, not the tool.” Instead of “Oh, a new Instagram notification,” the calm technology version would allow you to think, “I want to check in with my friends.”
“It’s this third person that’s not existed to any other generation,” she goes on. “Like, that”—she points at the camera, laughing. “It’s in your head all the time.” Lil Huddy agrees: “A lot of it comes from posting on social media. People let us know how dumb we look. . . . Their judgment gives us our own third-person judgment.”
Authenticity has been weaponized. It’s a term that’s really been abused. You can almost say today’s society is characterized by an authenticity-industrial complex. We’re more concerned with appearing real than being real.
I think that’s a phenomenon that has led to attention fragmentation, because to have a train of thought, it has to be continuous and relatively uninterrupted. But it’s constantly being interrupted by this idea that there might be something new you need to know.
But I think a broader definition of the attention economy is kind of like — as I personally experience it — I exist in space with a heightened anxiety and sensitivity all the time, even when I’m not literally engaging with any of these apps. And that then contributes to the way I am using them and how often I’m using them.
But as those cultural products move across the internet, they get farther and farther away from their original context and meaning and often become collapsed under the simplistic label of "youth culture." This isn't as democratizing as it seems. Apps like TikTok and its spiritual predecessor Vine not only encourage the performance of Black culture by non-Black teens, but incentivize it with real money to be made. It used to just be financially viable for pop stars to perform Blackness. Now, it presents an opportunity to non-Black teens everywhere.