If you’ve ever been to a therapist’s office, you’ve probably had a similar experience. You sit on the comfortable chair or couch, and tell the therapist that you have a problem.
“What is the problem?” the therapist asks.
“My problem is THIS,” you answer.
The therapist writes something in his notebook. Since you have openly and eagerly said that your problem is THIS, he knows that there is a 99% chance that your real problem is not THIS, but THAT, and his job is to help you see THAT.
Paul O’Flaherty writes a sarcastic blog about the internet. He recently wrote a post titled “You’re An Attention Whore and You Know It.”
His basic thesis is this:
“The real reason we blog, twitter, podcast and vidcast is because we are all narcissistic egomaniacs / attention whores / desperately seeking recognition.”
OK, fair enough. But I disagreed with his thesis, and he challenged me to write a response.
At first glance, his thesis makes sense, especially after last week’s dramas. First, in the “real” world, there was that ridiculous, overblown balloon boy scam, a desperate attempt at attention. Closer to home, there was a blogger friend who apparently made up a controversial story to “get attention” from the competitive mommyblogging community, angering many others. Clearly, we are all attention whores, right?
I was close to agreeing with Paul, when I read the comments on his “Attention Whore” post.
“Guilty as charged. I just want the fifteen minutes that Andy Warhol promised me. No more, no less. OK, I might want more,” wrote the first commenter.
“Hey, I like attention as much as the next girl and I flat out admit that. And if somewhere along the line someone wants to give me some decent free crap, you can bet I’m grabbing that up too. Attention and free crap rocks my world,” said another.
Even Paul himself jumped in.
“No irony – I’m as big an attention whore as the next blogger LOL,” he said.
That’s when the red flag went up. Why is everyone so freely saying that they are an attention whore? Isn’t anyone ashamed of saying so? That’s when it became clear to me, that in our current day, attention whoring is not so bad. We see it as a positive trait, until someone gets caught lying, and then we all jump on them for ruining the party. We live in a society where loud voices and controversy sells. Most of our leaders are attention whores. Successful bloggers are attention whores, and end up at conferences teaching others how to be effective attention whores. Attention whoring is a skill set that most of us would be proud to put on our resume, under “Knowing Photoshop.” We are proud of saying we are attention whores.
Remember the therapist’s office? Imagine I am the Therapist of the Blogosphere. You have just walked into my office.
“What is the problem?” I ask.
“I am an attention whore,” you answer, feeling confident that you know yourself well, and will only need a few sessions to clear up any of your issues.”
That is the moment when I start writing in my notebook.
“The issue is NOT attention-whoring.”
As a trained blog therapist, I have an acute sensibility to others. When I read through my daily blogs, tweets, and Facebook updates, I do not feel attention-whoring jumping out at me from the other side of the screen. That is a word without any emotional content. I sense loneliness, fear, uncertainty, anxiety, the need for comfort and hope, and the yearning for love. I see this deeply-felt energy of loss and wanting everywhere I go, on every blog, in V-grrrl, Dooce, Perez Hilton, and Guy Kawasaki. No one will admit this because these are not traits we want to put on our resumes, or write on a blog comments. We are ashamed of our weaknesses. We are afraid of being taken advantage of by others.
But these are the key components of blogging.
When anyone comes into my blogger’s therapy office and says that they are an “attention whore,” I immediately open my notebook and write “fearful.”