Everybody wants to be seen. The drive is unavoidably hammered into our DNA. But capturing anyone’s attention, even for a moment, is quite the challenge these days. So, it’s no surprise to see the extremes people go to satisfy this hard-wired need.
Pulsing with an evolutionary mandate to earn our place in the safety and strength of the group, we are compelled to make a contribution.
Without the automatic community that was naturally built into the prehistoric tribal life for which we were adapted, we have become a touch desperate. Perhaps, even more than a touch.
With our amygdalas constantly freaking out that we’re about to be cast out and eaten by saber-tooth tigers, we scramble to increasingly obscure corners of notoriety. And alternative social groups.
So chronically unsatisfied is our basic need for attention that the underlying social mechanisms that give us the ability to make healthy connections can themselves become dangerously off-rail.
We can too easily get stuck in ineffective behavioral loops.
In some cases we can wind up sitting by ourselves, clambering for online fame. And even when we are “successful” there, the drive for face-to-face, tribalesque belonging is too specific to be satisfied by the love of adoring strangers and unembodied devotees.
It’s easy to miss just how pervasive a deficit of attention and belonging can be in our own lives. We may believe that we’re simply in pursuit of money, position, or awards, but what we really need is just the assurance from our peers that lets us know we are liked, included, and safe.
The tragic irony of it all is that because the admiration we need is local and not global, even obscene wealth, household celebrity, and absolute dictatorial power can never bring satisfaction. We can not quench our thirst with goblets of gasoline, no matter the barrel price. Yet, we are burning the world to the ground trying to.
When we realize that what we really need can only be found in small, in-person groups, we can begin to build the world we all actually want where it’s possible to get, and give, the attention we all crave.
Originally published at Boston.com