July 1, 2021 | Be sure to check out our Fall Programs!
“Attention is a limited resource, so pay attention to where you pay attention.” I adopted this maxim from the writer Howard Rheingold in January. It’s why I said “yes” to Michele’s request to serve as President. As I have personally committed to direct my time to the people, ideas, and causes that are worthy of this precious resource, the AAUW’s mission, its vision, its values, and its focus certainly ticked all the boxes. Why should you care? Read on … (Yes, I am trying to keep your attention!)
A New York Times opinion piece by writer Charlie Warzel, (“I talked to the Cassandra of the Internet Age: The internet rewired our brains. He predicted it would,” Feb. 4, 2021), brought this point home to me. Mr. Warzel interviewed Michael Goldhaber, a 78-year-old former theoretical physicist, who, as early as the mid-1980’s, made the following predictions:
- The complete dominance of the internet;
- Increased shamelessness in politics;
- Terrorists co-opting social media;
- The rise of reality TV, personal websites, oversharing, and online influencer culture;
- The near destruction of our ability to focus.
Mr. Goldhaber’s epiphany was this: One of the most finite resources in the world is human attention. This fact changed the way he saw the world, and it troubled him deeply. He said he couldn’t shake the idea that this “attention economy” would lead to deepening inequality. He said, “I kept thinking that human attention is highly desirable and that those who want it tend to want as much as they can possibly get. When you have attention, you have power, and some people will try and succeed in getting huge amounts of attention, and they would not use it in equal or positive ways.” The universal truth about the attention economy is that those who can collectively commandeer enough attention can accumulate a staggering amount of power or influence very quickly, and it’s never been easier to do so. The question is whether an attention economy and a healthy democracy can coexist.
When asked about this, Mr. Goldhaber wanted to remain hopeful but said nuanced policy discussions almost certainly will get simplified into meaningless slogans to travel farther along on-line platforms and that any rational discussion of who stands to benefit or lose from policies will get drowned out by the loudest and most ridiculous voices. He pointed out that many of the polarizing factors in the country are, in essence, attentional. If you live in a rural area, then you may feel alienated because cities draw a lot more media and pop culture attention. If you don’t have a college degree, then you don’t get the attention from corporations or the economy at large like somebody who does. It’s frustrating when you feel like you deserve attention, too, but it’s all going to somebody else. As Mr. Warzel states in his article, “Any discussion of power is now, ultimately, a conversation about attention and how we extract it, wield it, waste it, abuse it, sell it, lose it and profit from it.”
Where we choose to focus our attention and our resources of time and money demonstrates what we value. I appreciate the opportunity this organization provides me to allocate the attention and resources I have in more focused, intentional ways. It is a privilege to serve, and I’m confident Michele and the board won’t let me screw things up too much! Join me in “paying attention to where you pay attention” by staying focused on what we AAUW members support.
“We are a group of women and men who
- advocate for equality, individual rights, and social justice for a diverse society;
- support a strong system of public education that promotes gender fairness, equity, and diversity;
- advocate for all women to achieve economic self-sufficiency;
- support vigorous enforcement of Title IX and all other civil rights laws pertaining to education.
About AAUW of North Carolina
“Our mission is to advance gender equity for women and girls through research, education, and advocacy. The strategic goal is to develop program planning, communication, and advocacy to advance the climate for women’s equity in North Carolina.” Together with 18 branches and in communities across the state, we
- Collaborate with other NC women’s organizations;
- Promote salary negotiation workshops for women;
- Advocate issues that affect women and families;
- Promote STEM activities for girls;
- Connect branch members through annual conferences, regional meetings, newsletters, and social media;
- Promote the mission and policies of AAUW;
- Support branch activities and projects.
“The American Association of University Women (AAUW) is the nation’s leading voice promoting equity and education for women and girls. Since our founding in 1881, AAUW members have examined and taken positions on the fundamental issues of the day — educational, social, economic, and political.”
- Mission: To advance gender equity for women and girls through research, education, and advocacy.
- Vision: Equity for all.
- Values: Nonpartisan, Fact-based, Integrity, Inclusion, and Intersectionality.
- Focus: Education & Training, Economic Security, and Leadership
- Results: $3.9 million awarded annually in fellowships and grants to support 250 women and nonprofit organizations.
- National Network: 170,000 members and supporters, 1,000 local branches, and 800 college and university members.