The Battle For Focus: How Corporations Hack Your Brain and What You Can Do About It

Bobby Robin
4 min readMar 7, 2023

Evil Corp. Headquarters

Sir, we’re losing him”, she said, beads of perspiration forming on her forehead. Everyone in the room was intently watching the visuals on the massive plasma screen positioned at the far end, waiting nervously.

The screen showed an image of me lying on the couch, snacking on a bag of potato chips, mindlessly scrolling through my phone. Overlayed on the screen to the side were my stats — my energy levels, breathing rate, and attention span. The thoughts in my head were automatically detected, converted into audio signals and blared through the speakers in the room. On the screen, the image of me eyed a huge pile of dirty underwear on a chair. I let out a long unenthusiastic sigh, closed the app and thought, “Alright, let’s get you washed”.

He’s gone, sir”, she said.

No, he’s not.”, he replied with an unnerving calm to his voice, “Send him ‘The Video’”.

But sir, it’s not going to work…

Just do it!”, he retorted, somewhat annoyed.

She typed frantically on her keyboard and a flurry of activity appeared on her computer screen.

With a curt nod, she said, “It’s done”.

Girl staring intently at a computer (image generated on Midjourney)

A notification appeared concurrently on my phone with a pop sound, and without any conscious thought, I reached for it.

Watch cute kitten cuddling a snowman”, read the notification. I looked at the dirty clothes again.

Ehh, laundry can wait”, I thought. I threw myself back on the couch, eyes glued to my phone, watching a video of a cat playing in the snow.

Celebratory cheers erupted through Evil Corp. headquarters.

That was a close one sir”, she said, breathing a sigh of relief.

Never underestimate his stupidness”, he replied.

I really do hope this is not what goes on behind the scenes, but in today’s digital world focus is currency. With advertisements, social media, games and whatnot vying for your attention, focus is in short supply. Multinational corporations with almost unlimited resources have designed systems to hack your limbic system to give you a shot of dopamine every time you use their application, keeping you coming back for more. Dopamine- the happy hormone is your body’s natural reward system. Every time your phone pings with a new notification alerting you someone liked your photo, there is the neurotransmitter working its magic, creating an unexplainable craving for instant gratification. With the Metaverse looming in the distance, this would only get worse in the future.

Most people never achieve their dreams, or live the life they want to live, not because of the lack of skillsets or opportunities, but because their attention is deftly guided by companies into using their products and/or services leaving you deprived of a clear focus on your goal. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings admitted that his company aimed to keep us watching shows and movies at night. He said, “We compete with sleep, and we’re winning.”

Someone point a remote controller at a TV
Photo by David Balev on Unsplash

Reflecting on my own life I realised I was hopping from device to device, watching the latest series to playing games to watching dumb videos on Instagram, never truly being alone with my thoughts. Determined not to let Zuck win this round, I decided to do a dopamine detox, where I’m only allowed to read books and write content throughout the entire day.

Cake”, I thought smugly. Except it wasn’t.

I had severe side effects ranging from twitching and daydreaming to “five minutes of Youtube can’t hurt”. Mustering my superhuman willpower I survived everything the internet could throw at me (including cat video compilations) and without the constant barrage of information, I finally had clarity for my thoughts. I realised where I am, where I want to go, and what I need to do to get there.

Photo by Ian Stauffer on Unsplash

What you focus on, you give power to. So stop focusing on things that are not important and start empowering your dreams.

“Amidst the deafening chaos of the virtual world listen for the soft whisper of your future self guiding you to the pinnacle of your success”