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How to manipulate attention

This Toronto Life article about a 32-year-old who has managed to buy 10 homes in the city is very Toronto Life. At a time where many young people are struggling to afford housing, here is a millennial who has bought 10 of them (albeit with some partners). The underlying message: You’re not working hard enough.

I am fairly certain Toronto Life writes these sorts of articles because they know they’ll enrage people. As Facebook has taught us over the last few years, getting people pissed off is good for engagement. And engagement is what drives advertising-based businesses.

Here is an excerpt from a recent Time article by Roger McNamee (a former Facebook advisor):

One of the best ways to manipulate attention is to appeal to outrage and fear, emotions that increase engagement. Facebook’s algorithms give users what they want, so each person’s News Feed becomes a unique reality, a filter bubble that creates the illusion that most people the user knows believe the same things. Showing users only posts they agree with was good for Facebook’s bottom line, but some research showed it also increased polarization and, as we learned, harmed democracy.

If you take a look at the Twitter conversations surrounding the above Toronto Life article, you’ll see the reactions you would expect: Troll article. Yeah, but how much debt has he taken on? He had help from wealthy friends. Here’s how a 32-year-old is eroding housing affordability in Toronto.

I appreciate all of this, but I will never understand the need to shit on other people because of their successes, regardless of whether they are self-made or were born with a competitive advantage. Billionaire isn’t a bad word in my books. I am a first generation real estate developer, but I wouldn’t be at all upset if my great-grandparents had decided that buying land in Toronto was a good idea.

Here is a guy that moved to Canada for University. Lived in a basement with cockroaches after leaving his first job after school. Took some risks. And saved his money instead of doing bottle service at the club on the weekends. I can respect that.

But again, these sorts of articles are bound to make a lot of people cranky. And Toronto Life knows that.

Photo by Tiago Rodrigues on Unsplash


  1. This is a great story – good for him! We need more young entrepreneurs willing to put everything on the line in the pursuit of success. Yet as Canadians, we prefer to be jealous and petty.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Scott Baker

    The argument against this kind of wealth, when properly understood, is really an argument against unearned income, or rent-seeking, as economists term it. In Real Estate, this means getting an income from location, not from the buildings or improvements themselves. Georgists – like me – or many other economists from Michael Hudson to Joseph Stiglitz, or, in classical economics even from Karl Marx to Adam Smith – yes,even Marx and Smith agreed on this point – understand that wealth accumulated from the input of others and simple population growth, is really due back to the community that created it. It took Henry George to most clearly articulate this and also to show most clearly that wealth from improvements is due back to the Capitalist making the improvements.
    This simple change in taxation – really, just collecting the rent on the Land, including location – would eliminate the need to tax anything else, end the boom and bust cycle due to land speculation, and lead to a more just and fair society.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. 400wellingtonguy

    I know in King West condo market between 2002- 2012 there were a bunch of young guys buying up condos in preconstruction at VIP pricing one at a time. Just like this guy, they took on considerable risk and they got icing on the cake with the crazy $/psf increases in both the rental and capital appreciation. Hats off to them.


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