Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Liberal Studies


Wayne Koestenbaum

Subject Categories

Other English Language and Literature | Other Film and Media Studies | Philosophy of Language


Poetry, Social Media, Language, Attention, Technology


Technology, social media, and its affiliated distractions are now an ever-present part of our daily lives. Attention is a commodity, one which tech companies value because it delivers them bigger and bigger profits. Their products are intentionally designed to be additive, to demand more and more of our time and attention throughout our day. However, attention is not simply a commodity, but the way in which we connect with the external world and attend to our everyday experience. The world that we create in the mind is the world that ends up forming the reality of our everyday lives. Complex language is the tool that enables us to engage in the abstract, high-order thinking that directs our attention, to conceive of the passage of time, and therefore construct a narrative out of our lives and a cohesive understanding of our own identities. The cultivation of our attention, then, is not an arbitrary task, but the focused work of the mind, one that requires a good deal of effort. When we cede control of our attention to these distractions, we allow these companies greater and greater control over our very minds and selves. The boundaries that determined our social behavior were once physical, but electronic communication has largely erased these boundaries, creating a new type of social life, in which one must perform for a variety of different audiences at all times. This new type of social life has created a flat kind of identity, in which people engage in a type of online performance, but do little to cultivate authentic relationships or a strong, cohesive identity independent of others’ perception of them online.