The internet, and more specifically the world of social media, is akin to a vast room filled with people, all of whom are jumping up and down, waving their arms and shouting “Look at me! Look at what I did!”. You are one of those people. So am I.
It’s not a flaw to desire attention. I’m not judging anyone for it. I think it’s safe to say that the need for community and acceptance is rooted so deeply in the human blueprint that it’s practically a genetic trait. Community and attention aren’t the problem. Expectations are.
I have accomplished things that I’m very proud of – a pride made all the more powerful when those achievements are viewed in comparison to the plethora of failures and mistakes I’ve given birth to – and I love sharing them with people. I love sharing them so much that I get upset, feel hurt, and take it personally when it seems that no one is listening or interested. It can be isolating and tough to swallow when it appears as though nobody cares about the things I have done.
As I said, this desire to share accomplishments, and the deeper desire for attention, is not a flaw in itself. The flaw, rather, is found in our expectations. We expect people to care. All the people, all the time, upon each and every announcement. We expect it so confidently that we can be crushed when we receive muted, realistic reactions from those around us.
Here is the key, though: the other people aren’t failing me; my expectations are.
Now, knowing the truth doesn’t always make reality easier to deal with. I’m not claiming anything close to the notion that I’ve got it all figured out. I still feel abandoned and hurt when I mention a product or event and get little-to-no response. I still take it deeply personal when people I once called friends “unfollow” me or stop talking to me. I’m only human, and I certainly don’t have it figured out.
But does that make me too emotionally fragile? Do I just need to man-up, grow a pair and get on with life? Should I work through my obvious struggles with self-esteem and confidence and find a better way to process reality?
Probably. It’s not healthy to take everything personally. I’m not supposed to act like a baby. But, I’m also not interested in acting like an unfeeling, emotionless robot.
Most people aren’t paying attention to you. That’s both good and bad. It means that your failures are much less public than you think, and your successes fall on far fewer ears than you’d like. Most people are just too busy to care; busy working, busy with family, or busy jumping up and down beside you waving their arms and shouting for attention. Attention that you think you deserve as well.
So at the end of the day, what I really feel like doing is just giving up on trying to stand out in the crowd. There are nice people with me in this enormous room, and I like seeing what they’ve made or done. But sometimes…just sometimes…I want to leave. There are too many heads bobbing up and down in this sea of people, and not enough attention to go around.
In the grand scheme of things, my website or product or book or whatever is just too insignificant to matter to the masses. I’m not ok with that (yet), but I know I should be. I’ll work on that. I promise.
I can’t change you or any of the others in this room with me, but I can certainly alter my own expectations. I can grow thicker skin. I can be willing to redefine what I consider to be a success or failure.
And I can think twice before jumping up and down and shouting for attention. So few are listening anyway; they’re too busy doing the same thing I am. At least, that’s what I think.