The most valuable resource in the Universe

What’s the first thing that comes to your mind? Money? Fame? Health? Probably not food, shelter, security. What we crave and constantly looking for is what we believe is valuable.

Abraham Harold Maslow was an American psychologist who was best known for creating Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, a theory of psychological health predicated on fulfilling innate human needs in priority, culminating in self-actualization.

The highest need as proposed by Maslow is self-actualization. “What a man can be, he must be.” This quotation forms the basis of the perceived need for self-actualization. This level of need refers to the realization of one’s full potential. Maslow describes this as the desire to accomplish everything that one can, to become the most that one can be. Individuals perceive or focus on this need very specifically.

I believe he is right. At least he was, up to a point. Because he died in 1970, he wasn’t around when the internet expanded and most of the people started spending many hours online, every day. How’s this important? Because the universal access to other people’s lives via social media, constantly seeing their feed, photos, events, videos have slowly spawned a new major need – the need for attention.

Before the era of the internet and social media, there were very few resources to see what other people are doing on a daily basis, what is their behaviour, their achievements, their social, family and romantic life. The only mediums we had were newspapers, magazines, radio and tv. But most of the content was curated and selected and we could mostly see into the lives of celebrities.

Now we can see into the lives of Billions of people. Yes, a lot of the content is now self-curated and self-censored. Many photos are photoshopped, many people only share the good part of their life. Nevertheless, the amount of information and content we have access to is huge. Now we are creating a benchmark and we compare ourselves to it.

Before this era, the need for attention for the majority of people was focused on a small circle of family, friends, neighbours and peers. Now, the stakes are so much higher. We’re competing for attention in a crowded space with billions of other people. We have thousands of immediate connections, some even tens, hundreds of thousands.

The demand and pressure for attention are so high that some people behave like children, doing crazy stuff just to be noticed, to be liked, praised, get comments. A dangerous side-effect of this frenzy is that we can easily misdirect our attention from the people in our lives who really need it and deserve it – children, life partners, parents, sisters and brothers, close friends.

The thing is, the internet and social media will still be here in 10, 20 or 50 years. But if you don’t post anything starting from today, nobody will really care. Nobody will mourn or really crave your feed. On the other hand, some of the people who are important in your life will not be here. Parents will die, children will leave home, sisters and brothers will have their own family.

Who really needs your attention? Call, go visit, do facetime, have lunch, go to the movies, play, tell and show you love them. Time is limited for all of us. Focused attention is the most valuable resource in the Universe.

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