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Sin Number Two: I Actively Seek Attention

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Because, why else start a blog with autobiography at its centre? But then, why make it anonymous? The anonymity is for self-protection, the blog is a creative act of character assassination for my own enjoyment and enlightenment. And if I was to get readers, that would be pretty cool too.

Therefore, wouldn’t it look like this is a sin I have overcome? Possibly. I don’t know. I wonder. It is something that I consciously repress – something that I have made a decision to stop doing in order to be Good.

My most prolific period of attention seeking was probably the entire year of 2009, getting going in earnest sometime in April, when I got a Twitter account. There are external factors that influenced it, but those external factors were most important in creating an episode of manic youthfulness, which is what led to the shameless belief that other people cared about how fabulous and quirky and artsy I was, and made me wear some quite odd things for the sake of stylised oddness (and fun, always fun, at the centre of everything, or at least that is what I hope when I look back on it).

Boringly enough, there is a guy playing a large part in this; I was dating him from mid January 2009 to early January 2010, and he defines the year somewhat for me. It was a frustrating relationship, as I was kept at arm’s length and contact was minimal, dwindling to two hours at my house every Friday evening with zero communication in between times except for occasional weekly confirmation of these plans around Tuesday or Wednesday, via short texts with smiley faces and lots and lots of x’s. However, I was also dizzyingly happy. I remember it, I have it written down, there was a sparkling in my stomach as if my stomach acid was somehow both weightless and carbonated, I was hyperactive, hyper-creative, the sun brought on fits of joy, and I don’t remember the rain. Actually, I lie – I remember being bored out of my mind when it was raining sometime in the spring, and miserable, because the next time I saw my boyfriend was almost a week away and I felt like he was a drug that I was being deprived of (this is in fact slightly less pathetic than it sounds – he was, and is, an infectiously happy and exuberant person, and I am ever the chameleon of temperaments. If I dated a schizophrenic for long enough I’d be sure to start seeing frogs climbing up the walls on a regular basis). It was raining that day. I was sat on the floor of my bedroom (unusual, as I have very little floorpace, and the position I was sat in required me to concertina my body rather uncomfortably between the spare bed and the radiator), writing. I have what I wrote here, and it is jarringly desperate, in between all the pages about the world being wonderful, and where I coined the phrase “Quite Too Utterly Ecstatic” as my title for myself, taken from a contemporary caricature of Oscar Wilde where it was written in quotation marks underneath his name. I write:

The internet is poisoning my from the inside – yet, if it wasn’t for the internet, I’d be depressed, I think, seeing as how I don’t see him for another five days and have nothing planned for any of them and feel like I want to crawl into the cavity of the spare bed and sleep there until then.

Those aren’t the words of a happy girl. And, I think, I did fill those five days somehow – yes, chiefly with the internet, with posting my every witty observation or action that marked me out as interesting on Twitter, but also probably with writing and drawing and painting, and posting the drawings and paintings and stories on the internet for approval. I created a lot of art, but I have the vague sense that I created it because I had an audience, not, as I feel it probably should be, despite of it. It is the pure and the good artistic thing to not care who sees your art, whether it is considered a work of genius or hardly given a second glance. It is perhaps the worst thing to not create art because there is no audience, which is the flipside to my manic creativity that I exhibited to the world (or at least to my hundred-odd followers). Because I find that, without audience, I have far less motivation. There are many factors that add up to decide motivation, I know, but it is either a scapegoat that I have convinced myself is to blame or it is one of many factors that I may have inaccurately turned into the scapegoat, but is still something to consider.

I am often quite defensive when I see my symptoms being derided in others, especially when they have far more reason than I ever did to promote myself. When Lady Gaga is dismissed for paying far too much attention to her appearance, via her extravagant outfits, I say, “Yes, but isn’t that the point?” She is a performer, and her clothes are also her performance. Wilde said “One should either be a work of art, or wear a work of art.” Whether we think Lady Gaga has achieved the former or the latter depends on the level of autonomy we ascribe to her, but we can’t deny she falls into at least one of these categories. If any instance of ostentatious individuality is dismissed as empty attention-seeking, we rid ourselves of art altogether. When people accuse Amanda Palmer of attention seeking via abusing Twitter, posting pictures of herself naked and covered in Magic Marker, and trying too hard to make a connection with her fans that some would argue shouldn’t be there? I say, “Well, yes… But she’s a performer too. It’s her job.”  To be at any level in the public eye it is practically necessary to have some degree of narcissism, and it is also unavoidable to all but the saint-like. You are surrounded by people telling you that you are wonderful. Even if by default you hate yourself and listen more carefully to your detractors than your supporters, doubt is bound to creep in, just as the criticism can seep through the most assured of egos – “What if I’m not really as useless as I think I am? What if I’m actually quite good at this?” (disregarding the fact that, surely, if one was completely convinced of one’s own awfulness, one would only end up in the public eye by accident anyway).

Having said that, narcissism isn’t entirely an excuse for shameless self promotion, nor is it often the main reason behind it. Even if I spent at least a summer with the adolescent notion that I was full of limitless potential and really quite an awesome and interesting person, I was still, as is inevitable, dogged by insecurities. Does my weight detract from my attractiveness? Am I good enough at what I do to be able to make a living of it or am I doomed to work a boring job while painting and writing in my spare time and never being able to call it a career? Is the reason my boyfriend only makes the effort to see me once a week and never actually shares anything with me because he doesn’t like me? I had all that. I was fifteen/sixteen, I couldn’t avoid it. I don’t think anyone at any age can avoid it without being completely un-self aware. Therefore, part of my attention seeking, of my joy at being followed on twitter by people I admired and my conscious effort to come across as intelligent, attractive, funny, unusual, the works, was because I needed other people to think of me that way, and I needed them to tell me, so I could shut up little wheedling self-doubting, self-loathing voice for a while. I was really remarkably good at it. I shut it up for at least four months.

I haven’t really hit on any new ground or ecstatic truths here. I do think I’ve come to some sort of conclusion – that Sin Number Two is not an actual sin that I carry, because I am aware of it and I stifle it. I don’t even post Facebook status updates anymore unless something big that I genuinely think people might care about happens, like my chosen university offering me a place, or my car breaking down in the middle of a junction at rush hour with dual carriageway traffic coming from three different directions. And besides, I’m beginning to doubt whether it’s as harmful as a lot of people would have us believe – there seems to be an invisible standard that holds some people guilty of attention-seeking and some people as  being genuinely awesome, with very little difference in their actions (often, depressingly, it’s a gender divide), and it’s a very good way to shame someone unnecessarily – think someone talented is a bit too aware of their own talent? Calling them a narcissist is a good way of taking them down a peg. Or pretentious. That’s a good cover-all insult too.

I would take this opportunity to announce that attention-seeking is a sin that I am now absolved of, but then, I am writing this in a public blog, even if I’m not relying on it being read widely, so there’s still that streak of it in me – although I think now I wouldn’t have much hesitation in saying that it’s a narrower, more healthy streak. As for my Twitter usage? I deserted Twitter by accident, not by moral decision or slow reduction of interest, but because my life blew up in my face. I haven’t gone back to my Twitter page, but if I remember rightly you won’t find any kind of signing-off or farewell there. It just stops sometime in July 2010, after having tapered to a trickle over the months leading up to that point. After all, when you run away from home, if you’re doing it for the right reasons you don’t exactly stop to tweet about it.

(A CLIFFHANGER. Forgive me if I structured that ending too much like fictional prose, my journalistic style is broken.)

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