In many parts of the United States, there are people who are addicted to drugs.
We could talk all day about the mechanics of addiction, but there is something that is almost never focused on in any discussion of addiction. We talk about the socioeconomic conditions, familial conditions, societal conditions that lead individuals to pursue the short-term rush of pleasure that come from addiction, rather than seeking the long-term work that comes with addressing any area of our lives.
Compulsion, bad habits, obsessions, addictions; we can all agree that moderation in the material world is best in all things, but when moderation—through individual decision making—begins to warp and change patterns of behaviors in the community of people around addicts, then we all begin to agree that there is a problem.
In the digital space—as in our real lives—brands and individuals are addicted to the short-term impact of paying for attention because of its seemingly immediate results. But once you pay digitally, just as in any addiction off-line, you’ll pay again, and again.
Thus FB can sell ads.
Thus Google and Twitter will have you pay-per-click or per Tweet.
The thing is though, in the digital world, the equity of attention is really expensive in the long-term while seeming deceptively cheap in the short-run, so brands are more than willing to pay, particularly when the cost comes down to a rounding error on their marketing balance sheets. While in the long-term, individuals become impatient, leaping from platform to platform hoping to be done, consistently peripatetic, never really satisfied, and finally abandoning the whole thing in frustration.
But the outcomes for both brands and individuals in the digital space is the same as in the real world. And as the outcomes of this digital addiction become more manifest, the social media commons are wrecked and destroyed (through cynicism over loss of privacy and data selling), messages become drowned out in the cacophony of noise (150 million channels on the Internet and rising), and the audience (always fickle) shifts its focus faster than a goldfish.
I’m not complaining though.
Putting in the work on the long game is the only way to outlast, outplay, and out endure the short-term addicts with deep pockets and little self-awareness. There are three things the smaller people (like myself and other corporate trainers) can do to ensure our survival and longevity (rather than giving up and going home) in this digital foaming red sea:
Share, share, share—someone told me the other day that the reason her company doesn’t do more work in the online space is because she’s worried that she won’t get paid for her content and that she won’t get proper attribution, credit, referrals and revenues. This is backward, Industrial Revolution based thinking where scarcity still ruled in information. I can’t believe I have to point this out, but after 25 years of Google and almost 40 years of the Internet, scarcity rules in attention. So share freely, because if you don’t your competitors will.
Carve, carve, carve—finding a niche is huge in the digital landscape and then mining that niche in the way that it wants to be mined not the way that you think it should be mined, is the path toward long-term longevity. Carving a niche where you own the attention of a few thousand people is the most valuable, long-term form of scaling there is.
Unite, unite, unite—joining with others is the only way forward, whether you’re a digital publisher, or a corporate trainer, or a product person. The big brands in all spaces and niches have seemingly deep pockets. But there is so much white space in collaboration, connection, and growing your network to increase your net worth, that it’s amazing to me how great the level of contraction is that’s currently happening as fear of loss rules rather than anticipation of gain. Uniting together—and keeping that unity through using open source software and collaborative in-person methods—is the only way to combat the fear of loss.
The drug of “I can go it alone.” The drug of “I don’t need to share.” The drug of “I am for everybody.” These gateway drugs lead to other addictions (like gaming short-term attention through paying for it) that then lead to emotional exhaustion, disengagement, and cynicism.
The question you have to ask yourself—and that I’ve already clearly answered—is: How committed are you to the long-game?
-Peace Be With You All-
Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT: firstname.lastname@example.org