Sometimes when I’m writing, I ask myself, am I only doing this for attention? It’s a scary thought. I want to entertain and inform, but maybe I’m just trying to fill some unmet emotional need. Writing does make me feel like I’m being listened to, but then why do I have to go post it all over the internet like I’m somebody special? Why do I have this wish that it reaches more people, that it turns into some kind of multi-million dollar book deal with a fully catered speaking circuit? That’s because the answer is, yes, I am this for attention. We are all doing this for attention!
I live in a community full of wonderful, creative people. Artists, musicians, photographers, costume designers, models, actors, film directors, interior decorators, I can count the whole gamut among my friends. I think it’s great to see their work posted online, but I feel like our bespoke media landscape could be more crowded. I think this is because a lot of us are afraid of being branded as attention-seekers.
As a rule, people don’t like attention-seekers. That’s because to seek attention is to seek power, and to seek power is to seek domination, and people, if they can help it, don’t like to be dominated.
However, there is a problem with this rule. Attention is a human need. If we don’t get attention, we die, full stop. Businesses without attention cease to be businesses. Without attention, we can’t get food, shelter, or other necessities. We go crazy from the loneliness. This is why some societies use shunning as a form of punishment. It’s unpleasant and possibly deadly.
Attention is a human need, but if we try to go out and get it, we run the risk of being rejected. So what’s the solution here?
I agree there’s no easy answer to this. We have to constantly modulate how we are getting the attention, who we are getting the attention from, and what kind of attention we are getting. But the one thing we need to stop doing is arguing with our need for attention. We all need attention to live and to fulfill our dreams, so we all need to figure out how to get it.
If we are all trying to reach our goals without attracting too much attention, we set ourselves up for failure. We keep secrets, we get distracted and we pass up opportunities. We stop interacting authentically with ourselves and our community.
The impulse to humility is a coping strategy we usually pick up as children. It doesn’t have anything to do with the here and now. It’s a hard lesson to unlearn, but it’s worth overcoming.
Worst of all, if we decide attention-seeking is for other people, we let people who are narcissists, who are unscrupulous, who would dominate other people, compete for headspace in our community unchallenged. You may think that silence is golden, but in the wrong circumstances it can also be violence.
So I implore my creative people, let the world know what you do. Post your art, your writing, your costumes, your music. It doesn’t have to be new, it just has to prove you exist. We are all trying to survive in a harsh new world, so let’s declare a moratorium on denouncing attention seekers. Instead, let’s seek some attention of our own.