Attention Seekers – An Informal, Tentative Analysis

For several years, but during the last couple of months in particular, I have made the same interesting, albeit partly confusing and even disturbing, observations. There are people, especially on the internet, who beg – desperately, as it seems – for other people’s attention. I am not referring to those who randomly post more or less unrelated comments to videos, forums, websites, or weblogs, often referred to as ‘trolls’, so as to get others’ attention by infuriating or simply annoying them, but actually never directly react to their targets’ responses. I am referring to an entirely different kind of, as it were – albeit often used derogatorily –, attention seekers. These people, regardless of time and platform on the internet (mainly social networks such as Facebook, weblog communities such as Tumblr, and other platforms such as Twitter), almost exclusively write and post self-belittling things which obviously do not apply to them. For instance, they claim to be ugly, unattractive, boring, stupid, and, therefore, lonely and unwanted. According to my personal experience, which may not be representative, of course, this mostly applies to underage girls. It is nearly incredible to which extents they are willing to go, just in order to be noticed. They expose themselves, sometimes even explicitly beg others for their attention and company – and be it only virtual –, although they appear to have actual qualities – such as that they are beautiful, attractive, interesting, have a good heart, are intelligent, and so forth – which ought to render such endeavours unnecessary.
The question is what motivation lies behind their behaviour. Since this appears to mainly focus on underage girls, is this a general problem owing to the structure, which basically, though not as openly as it used to be, still is patriarchal, of our society? Is it because we raise girls in the belief that they are, simply because of their sex, less valuable than boys; because we teach them that they have to be modest and may not show any aggression; because we make them believe that their sexual behaviour must be the opposite of that of boys? Or does all of this fit just a bit too perfectly into a preset framework of concepts, while it more or less, perhaps inadvertently, ignores existing (strong) evidence to the contrary, or at least of a relativizing kind?
Strangely enough, actual help appears not to be what said people seek. I have oftentimes reacted positively to depressive – and depressing, for that matter – posts of all sorts by offering help, and be the most I can do just to listen to their problems. Since I have suffered from severe recurrent depression (F33.2) myself for years, I know how it feels to feel constantly rejected, unwanted, a mere burden to others, superfluous, useless. Also, I am exceptionally empathetic, which means not only that I can sense rather exactly how others feel, but also why they feel this way. Astonishingly, at least for me, these very attention seekers, usually indirectly, that is to say, not expressis verbis but through their actions, reject my help and even my attention in general.
A possible explanation is to conclude that they have made themselves comfortable in their world of misery, notwithstanding that they may actually suffer, and do not want to, or even are unable to, leave their closet.
Another possibility is to say that they seek for attention, meaning that they are eager to be noticed, but not for actual help or something which could entail trust to and reliance upon someone else. If trust and reliance are what has hurt you the most in your life, you may naturally, or intuitively, avoid them so far as possible in future human relationships.
I would appreciate if this article led to some discussion in the comment section; feel free to utter all kinds of thoughts coming to your mind, regardless of whether your experience – or even better, but not necessarily: data – match or contradict mine and my hypothetical explanations.


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