The fight for attention

We all fight for attention, but rarely do we get any. Our innate desire to show people that we are of value reigns supreme, but, frankly speaking, we are all a bunch of attention-seekers.

The entire concept of social media is based on attention seeking. It’s mind boggling how instagram and facebook have changed the way we live. People are seen wearing certain garments, eating certain foods, listening to that trending music just to get some attention. But if everyone is seeking, then, who is giving? Who has the time to give attention to someone else?

From the evolutionary perspective, our tribal nature, meaning our innate sense to belong to a society and be treated as someone special might be the cause behind our excessive attention-seeking habits. If you are someone of value, then it’s a no brainer that you are asked for advice when a problem arises and given the respect you deserve. Women want to mate with you, and the probability of your survival increases. A pretty plausible reason to seek attention, eh?

However, our societies have evolved much more rapidly than our minds and bodies. Our instincts, such as fear that provided us with survival benefits, are more often than not the reason for our depression and anxiety. And the fact that we seek attention where we should not makes us highly self-conscious, which dampens our creativity.

Being self-conscious all the time makes us change the way we walk, the way we talk and the way we eat. This is not bad per se, but sometimes this works counter-intuitively. At times all of us have found ourselves panicking about how we look and how we are being perceived by other people. This excessive self-consciousness leads to a constant state of fear, and we cease to behave like ourselves, making us pretentious jerks.  These were pretty obvious reasons for relinquishing our attention-seeking habits. However, the fact that our attention is being gathered and sold by social media companies is outlandish and pushes us to add more sentences to our ‘reasons not to seek attention’ list.

Rather than seeking attention, we should pay attention. Being fully attentive to the task at hand is most probably everyone’s best bet at being happy. As Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi writes in his book “Flow: the psychology of optimal experience”, ‘we shape our life by deciding to pay attention to it. It is the direction of our attention and our intensity that determines what we accomplish and how well.’