In the age of social media, it is almost impossible not to see ourselves in numbers.
Likes on an Instagram post translate into popularity and shares on a Facebook post equate to how interesting our ideas are. But how is this thinking affecting us?
In a 2019 TED Talk, Joseph Gordon-Levitt (JGL) discusses the effects of seeking attention.
In this talk, he discusses the unintended consequences of social media on the creative process. Essentially, creativity is a means to an end, which is getting attention online.
At the beginning of the talk, JGL declares that getting attention is a powerful feeling that can become addictive.
Instead of seeking attention, he recommends paying attention:
“In my experience, the more I go after that powerful feeling of paying attention, the happier I am. But the more I go after the powerful feeling of getting attention, the unhappier I am.”
You don’t need to be an actor or even creative to benefit from hearing JGL’s talk.
When it comes to seeking attention, especially on social media, it includes body image, job status and material possessions. Suppose everyone applied what JGL is talking about, which is paying attention rather than seeking it, then there is more of an opportunity to appreciate ourselves and others.
Often, we see others as competitors, which intensifies our need for attention.
Instead of comparing ourselves with others, Joseph Gordon-Levitt suggests switching our perspective to seeing them as collaborators.
When you do this, you will celebrate your rather than view them as failures for not getting enough likes. Joseph Gordon-Levitt has been acting since the age of six, but he has taken a break from being in the spotlight to focus on building his family in recent years. However, he did not stop pursuing his creativity. In an interview with The Hollywood Report, he said:
“The perspective that I’ve returned with was just really wanting to focus on the art and the craft that I love so much.”
His perspective on seeking attention vs. paying attention has allowed him to explore his creativity by acting and writing, directing and producing.
Seeking attention impacts creativity because you are focused on what others will think rather than what you are creating.
Is looking for recognition of your hard work always wrong?
The answer is no, but social media has created a need for instant gratification. This need can become more of an addiction. In the TED Talk, Joseph Gordon-Levitt says:
“Being addicted to getting attention is just like being addicted to anything else. It’s never enough.”
When you become so focused on receiving attention, your art and mental health will suffer. This also goes for body image, job status and material possessions.
The more you show off for clicks, the less satisfied you will be with your achievements, especially if you don’t receive the same number of likes in the next post.
He ends his talk with, “So regardless of how much attention I do or don’t get, as a result, I’m happy I did it.”
Even if you aren’t in a creative field, you can apply this lesson to your life.
You might just find that you are not as glued to your phone and obsessed with follower counts and likes, but instead are enjoying whatever it is you are creating or doing.
Check out the video below to see Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s TED Talk!
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