One of the most influential books that I’ve read in 2021 was How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy by Jenny Odell. Big companies spend a lot of money to gain our attention. Before the digital age, companies were focused on capturing our hard-earned dollars through consumption of their products. Today, companies seek to capture our attention by consuming their advertisements. Our attention, rather than our money, has become the commodity that big companies compete for. Looking at it from this perspective, our attention is what we must protect. Our attention is the resource that companies seek. Our attention is what we run out of all the time, because sneakily, companies are trying to buy them from us.
The attention economy is what drives us to social media. It’s what makes us pick up our phone and unknowingly click on Instagram. Addictive apps are creating social behaviors that keep us coming back to these companies. The companies that have the ability to bring your attention back to them has the most influence, and influence is power. If they can make the behavior a habit, any future influence they want to have on you in the future will become easier. They can essentially make you do whatever they want you to do, without you ever being aware of it. Because of this, we must resist, to the best of our ability, the attention economy.
In the book How to Do Nothing, Jenny Odell articulates how doing ‘nothing’ (according to our society’s definition of what gives life purpose and meaning) is actually a way for us to ‘fight’ these companies from taking control – which really means that by doing ‘nothing’, we are doing something about the way in which large companies are subverting the general public. That really struck home, as I prefer to see my choices in life as its own form of silent rebellion against the current institutions that I don’t agree with.
Plus, as a frugal-wanna-be who has spent the last five years resisting consumerism as best I can, I have gained plenty of experience in finding analog activities that do not succumb to companies vying for my attention. In general, just being out there doing things for others around you and for yourself is the best way to resist the attention economy. But in case you need a few ideas on how to separate yourself from those Instagram advertisements, here are a few of our favorite activities to engage in.
Our Top 50 Analog Activities
- Play vinyl records.
- Go bird-watching at an estuary.
- Skim stones on a glass lake.
- Learn how to walk a tight-rope.
- Cook meals together.
- Read books by candlelight, or aloud.
- Wash the car.
- Go on a hike.
- Have a social interaction without social media.
- Plant a tree or garden.
- Visit a farm.
- Bake something challenging (like a croquembouche).
- Make a sandcastle at the beach.
- Go for a bike ride.
- Organize the home.
- Walk other people’s dogs.
- Do a puzzle.
- Go stargazing.
- Visit a museum.
- Play board games.
- Enjoy a picnic, even if it’s on your balcony.
- Play a sport outdoors. Think tennis, or kick a soccer ball around.
- Visit friends or family.
- Have a bonfire at the beach.
- Take afternoon naps.
- Pick up an instrument and practice, practice, practice.
- Take a long, hot bath.
- Finish a home improvement project.
- People watch on a park bench.
- Give your pet all the cuddles they deserve.
- Do a nature walk and photograph all the different plants and animals you encounter.
- Make lists of the things you want to do.
- Draw, paint, or do some sort of art project.
- Try your best to master chess.
- Perfect magic tricks.
- Go camping.
- Pick up pottery.
- Learn how to make sourdough bread.
- Do your own car maintenance.
- Try to become a mixologist.
- Pull out those rollerskates.
- Complete an adult coloring book.
- Practice flower arrangements.
- Make plans for the future.
- Go swimming at the community pool.
- Declutter your things.
- Start a journal and process all the feels and thoughts.
- Do a workout routine.
- Stare into space and let your mind wander.
These are a collection of our personal favorites and we pull from this list quite regularly. Of course, you’ll want to find activities that align with your own personal hobbies! It seems the younger generation will have a tougher time finding things that they can relate to but as the adults, we need to show them how to slow down enough to disengage from the RA-RA-RA, GO-GO-GO mentality, lest they develop a strong sense of FOMO in their early youth that will make resisting the attention economy quite difficult for them in the future. Enjoy your silent rebellion.