How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy

Jenny Odell 2019
Read: 2020

I can’t remember how I came across this book, but I’m glad I did. This is a very intellectual book that combines economics with art, literature, poetry and more. I think I understood the majority of it, but it will take a second read for me to get it all. The author’s main point is that our economy survives by large companies gaining our attention through clicks on social media through alerts we see while scanning the internet. These companies know our preferences and push us to make purchasing, lifestyle, or other time-sucking decisions based on their efforts to gain our attention, making money on our purchasing decisions, or just on what we click. There are so many ideas in this book. First and foremost, she pushes us to just pay attention to reality around us. Pay attention to nature. To plants. To the animals and the people that are around us. She uses Thoreau and Epicurus to talk about the importance of rebelling when necessary and having enough control to limit our desires. She urges to have push for simplicity and more control in our lives to combat the omnipresent desire for our attention. It was a very thought-provoking book, and as someone who does not post on social media but gets my news from various feeds, it gives me pause as well. Like I said, I’ll be reading this one again.

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