The attention seeker’s dilemma

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This is why you get attention when you don’t seek attention 

It’s funny when one is actively seeking attention but isn’t getting any while the silent non-seeker gets a lot of it.

Attention seeking is usually about explicitly showcasing some observable trait or behaviour (Duh, right?!). The thing you want attention for maybe very subtle as well but you may want it amplified in someone’s eyes. But that is just one side of attention seeking. The other side is your audience. An underlying process is a need for approval and recognition from your audience.

This isn’t as intuitive as showcasing your traits (this is an evolutionary advantage of showing dominance or ability to go up the food chain or become a pack’s leader or to get the most fertile mate). 
Man generally wants more attention than he/she is willing to give! Why? Because it is economical to do 1 thing and get a 100 responses than to give 100 different responses to unique individuals to attract them. 

Ultimately, each attention seeking episode involves 2 parties: The seeker and the giver.

The end result remains the same: whether you give attention or seek it, the pair of a seeker and giver is necessary. So its easy to be a seeker hoping that others give because then you have to only do a single attention seeking activity. The more people you show this activity to, the more chances are of you getting an ‘attention giver’.

If you have to give attention, giving it to just 1 person may not be enough because other attention givers will be your competitors. So you give attention to many others. Thus increasing the chances of your match with an ‘attention seeker’. Doesn’t this show that its easier to seek attention than to give attention to a crowd? It is! Seeking is way easier than giving. There are purpose driven exceptions such as cheering during a live game, the purpose is to focus on the players.

Attention is given to things which appeal or things which are out of the ordinary. So let us say that you are seeking more attention than the others around you. Perhaps the thing you are doing is not appealing enough or not so out of the ordinary. Perhaps it’s repelling because your attention seeking activity isn’t worth it and you are overselling yourself. Thus, giving the impression of being less worthy than you claim for attention.

If you do not seek too much attention, you are basically less attention seeking than the others around you. Thus, making you an ‘out of the ordinary’ case. This would have its benefit in society as you are now a rare kind. Now, you will be perceived as more attractive and thus people will attend to you. 

I am assuming that ignoring or attention giving is not simply because of what others are doing. The whole ‘mob mentality’ works in weird ways. Some may choose to counter it to grab attention and some may choose to follow the herd. In both cases, they become ‘seekers’ as being in a crowd magnifies your actions by sheer number of people doing the same thing and being a rebel (latter condition) makes you a rare/’out of the ordinary’ person. 


It may be the very act of seeking attention that works against you because of:


1. the act itself is repelling or less preferred 

E.g., you are in a class raising your hand in the middle of a lecture and shouting ‘sir’ a dozen times and speaking without permission. No one will like it, especially the lecturer.

2. the background attention seekers and givers 

E.g., you are sitting silently when the whole class is raising their hands, you are now the target for your lecturer because you are not competing with those hand raisers.

3. your worthiness in a group

E.g., you may be a complete novice in singing and you keep singing to other people and honestly, it isn’t that good. If you are really good and you keep seeking attention with something which is already acknowledged by others, you will fit in the first example I gave. 

The last option does not mean that you are less worthy due to a trait or behavior. It is your worth as determined by others around you. This may not ever be a correct evaluation but yet, it matters because we are inherently social and want to develop long-lasting bonds through approval and recognition.

When you are more silent and deliberately being less of a seeker, you are communicating the following:

1. I do not need attention. I am confident and satisfied with my self-approval.

2. I am potentially an attention giver. This is something everyone would like because they are now the seekers. So they will seek your attention by focusing on you.

It’s quite a skill to know when to be a seeker and when to be a giver! Good luck choosing your moments.


P.S. This is analogous to a concept in genetics called ‘negative frequency-dependent selection’. In simple words, the rarer something gets the more attractive it may seem.
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