As several Twitter friends pointed out to me, maybe my problem with Instagram isn’t really with Instagram; maybe it’s with attention seekers. A tool is just a tool, so there’s no sense in dissing the tool; it’s better to dis the people who misuse it.
This is true, to a point… except that I really don’t have a problem with attention seekers, because we’re all attention seekers.
Since our social networks conflate “creating” with “publishing,” and everything you make automatically becomes something you’ve marketed by virtue of having released it into the world, everyone is an attention-seeker. Some of us are just less transparently desperate about it than others, so we see them as being more deserving of attention than those who beg for it.
@JustinKownacki The fact that you can’t see that some people create content because they enjoy creating content says a lot about you.
— burghbaby (@burghbaby) November 17, 2014
She’s right, it does say a lot about me. But what, exactly?
Do I want people to like / enjoy / believe / be influenced by what I say / make / do?
Sure. Who doesn’t?
Do I believe that no one does anything purely altruistically?
Yup. Even Mother Theresa felt good about helping others, which means she got something out of the exchange. No matter how virtuous we are, we’re always acting in our own self-interest.
Do I believe that no one does anything just for the experience or enjoyment, and that there must always be an end game?
Yup. If you’re creating things for yourself that no one else will ever see just because you like the act of creating them, that’s great — but you’re probably keeping them entirely to yourself, because that’s for you. It’s not online, even in a locked “only my real friends can see it” format. And if you really enjoy creating, part of that enjoyment is in seeing yourself improve. And how do you know you’re improving unless you’re gauging the reactions of others?
So, in a nutshell, is BurghBaby right? Am I incapable of believing that people create just because they love to create, and that they couldn’t care less who sees it, or how many people see it, or what other people think?
Yeah, pretty much.
Because I believe if you like something enough to experiment with it and learn more about it, you also like it enough to believe you might get good at it — good enough, perhaps, that others may also believe that about you someday.
Which means, yes, every act of creation — from movies and paintings to Instagram and Twitter — is an assertion that your creation deserves to exist, and deserves the attention of others. It was worth your time and effort to make, and you (whether subconsciously or overtly) believe it’s worth someone else’s time to consider.
That’s why we make: to change people with what we’ve made — which, in turn, changes us.
And this is why I don’t have a problem with attention-seekers: we’re all attention seekers. What I have a problem with is the way social networks commoditize that exchange to the extent that attention itself becomes the end, rather than the means to something greater.