Here is the attention game in a nutshell:

  1. Identify the zeitgeist around certain issues. Preferably related to sex, money and power.
  2. Choose a side (there are always sides to choose).
  3. Identify your side’s talking points and the opposition’s talking points.
  4. Hammer them. Relentlessly. Toss digital Molotov cocktails at accounts with large, bellicose followings. For best results, use memes.

On Twitter, the platform I know best, the game is about attracting RTs and quote RTs from large accounts. It doesn’t matter whether they’re positive or negative. If anything, you’re better off attracting hate readers. Hate readers will do wonders for your metrics. Hate readers are highly engaged.

This strategy is powerful in terms of generating attention and reach. It’s a series of what my friends at Epsilon Theory call mirror and rage engagements. Your team stans you because you’re just like them. The other team trolls you because you’re just like the enemy. Clix for days.

A wise man once said: now you’ve got yourself a stew.

A weakness of this strategy is it’s unlikely to surface information. In the formal sense, we can define information as a signal that changes our mind. The attention and reach maximizing strategy is indifferent to the information content of the responses it generates. It’s about generating large volumes of mirror and rage engagements. It’s culture war arms dealing.

Even if there IS information content in some of the engagement this strategy generates, you’re probably going to ignore it. You’re not looking for information. You’re not open to it.

The cost of an open mind is reduced attention and reach. Nuance, circumspection and introspection do not generate intense mirror and rage engagements. They will, however, surface information. And when they do, you’ll be in the right frame of mind to receive it.

We could launch into a whole elaborate discussion of mental complexity with a summary of Kegan’s five stages of mental complexity here.

But let’s just call this karma.