Confessions of an Attention Whore

by Ben Cook on March 22, 2010

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I am an attention whore.

It’s true. I crave your attention.

Why?

Well sorry to burst your bubble but it’s not because you’re just so great and amazing that I just want you to know that I exist. I’m not some desperate wall flower hoping the pretty girl glances his way. Well, at least not any more. She finally did notice me and God only knows how but I talked her into marrying me but that’s an entirely different story.

I want your attention because if you’re paying attention, I can tell you what I want you to do and you might actually do it!

When I was a kid my mom would have to remind me to do my chores from time to time (always). She’d almost always remind me while I was doing something much more important like playing a video game or chatting on the computer or who knows what. I’d say ok, and sometimes even repeat the request back to her when she dared suggest I wasn’t paying attention.

Naturally several hours later I’d be getting in trouble for NOT doing whatever chore she asked me to do because I wasn’t paying attention.

So yes, I admit I am constantly doing things to get attention online. Things like:

  • using inflammatory headlines – Yes Virginia, You Ignorant Slut, WordPress is the Best CMS Available!
  • insulting large groups of people – who cares about the Dutch anyway?
  • exaggerating the true impact of any given action or decision – why not just unplug the internet while you’re at it!
  • attacking well known personalities that I disagree with – Matt Mullenweg, Matt Cutts or pretty much any other well known Matt
  • using evocative images – (see right)
  • creating an “us” vs “them” battle where one may or may not exist – Communist Russia is going to ban blogging worldwide if we don’t stop them!
  • sucking up to well known personalities that I agree with Brian Clark is pretty much a genius
  • fighting for the “little guy” who may or may not care – Google’s new policy is bad for the USERS, not just because it will screw my SEO efforts.
  • stretching to tie my point into the popular topic/meme of the day – Justin Bieber loves attention whores
  • make outlandish promises – every time this post is retweeted I’ll give an orphan a unicorn

And yes, it’s all for attention.

Because once I have your attention, I can tell you why you should subscribe to my RSS feed (for entertaining content like this of course), buy the Thesis theme (because it’s the best WordPress theme on the market and I make money if you buy it through this link), or retweet this post (because it’s awesome, haven’t you been paying attention?) and you might actually do it!

That is, of course, assuming you’re not one of the people I disagreed with or offended.

So the next time someone accuses you of doing something as link bait, to increase page views, or to simply gain attention, take it as a compliment. It means you’re probably doing something right and you’re in damn fine company (me).

image sources:  zgrredek & aynne

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Olivier March 22, 2010 at 1:00 pm

You rock. Best post I’ve read in the last 10 days 🙂

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john andrews March 22, 2010 at 1:53 pm

Thanks you for fine article. You save me time! I book mark and come back often.

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Skitzzo March 22, 2010 at 2:28 pm

Maybe I should follow this post up with how to comment whore 🙂

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john andrews March 22, 2010 at 2:35 pm

I was researching and came across your site! Thanks webmaster!

It seems sometimes that’s the attention we get… Go write a post “Don’t Comment on This Blog” and see how many comments you get. So what does it mean? Tell me.. what does it all mean??

It has something to do with the end of the blog as we knew it.

Abby March 22, 2010 at 4:12 pm

Great post. Everyone involved in blogging and social media (me included) is an attention whore. Hell, maybe just the internet in general.

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Jane Copland March 22, 2010 at 5:59 pm

Being deliberately inflammatory, insulting, exaggerating, attacking, evoking a largely negative reaction, creating battles, sucking up and fighting. Ben, these resonate to me as unhealthy for the community you’re part of.

Online debate often descends into this sort of negativity. Participants are rarely as honest as you’ve been, but do please look at your word choices. It’s not good for the collective. This form of participation doesn’t contribute positively to any cause a person seeks to pursue, and they are, in the long-term and for the population of a community who allows their meaning in, damaging.

I’m thin skinned and sensitive, I had to remove myself personally from deliberate negativity. Not the subject matters at hand, but certain forms of delivery. When a community embraces or encourages negative means of promotion and participation, it suffers as a whole.

The reading I’ve done in the last six months about the effects of embracing negativity (and attention seeking), scared me. I recognised our industry. I also noticed more acutely how being negative myself, as well as reading inflammatory text, brought me down in general. I wouldn’t walk outside with quite the smile I’d have had otherwise, and believe me, after 2008 and early-2009 had had their way with me, I needed all the smiling I could find.

Multiply this by however many people read, reply to, think about and otherwise digest negativity, and it’s no wonder we won’t flash a smile when we catch the eye of the person sitting opposite us on the train.

I’m not delusional: bad exists. But why create it or invite it in? It’s prevalent enough without invitation. I participated in the past, and it only hurt me and people around me. My lack of delusion, however, doesn’t mean I can’t embrace the concept of not creating or supporting inflammation, confrontation and deliberate attacks, especially for the gratification of one person or one group’s attention (or worse, marketing) needs. It’s really bad for the health of all of us, whether we realise it or not.

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Skitzzo March 22, 2010 at 10:24 pm

Jane, while you’re probably right, I could have included a few more words with positive connotations, my point is that we’re all “whoring” for attention. Whether you do it in a positive or negative way, that to me falls under the category of “haggling about the price” to borrow a line from Churchill.

Many times when someone dares do something like publish a warning about a HUGE problem a WordPress plugin posed, we’re accused of being in it for the page views or _______ bait or what have you. I simply don’t think being an attention whore (which is essentially the accusation being thrown around) is a bad thing. In fact, as Abby said, I think we all are in one form or another.

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Jane Copland March 24, 2010 at 5:06 am

Yep, no problem at all with things being pointed out in a non-inflammatory manner. I like that piece you wrote about the All In One pack: You have a good point, and I too saw a big mistake made with that plug-in a few weeks ago. Someone had mistakenly used the canonical tag on five of their pages due to messing something up with the plug-in. The tag pointed at the root, and even though those five pages weren’t duplicates of the home page, Google obediently removed them from the index. It was one check-box in the plug-in’s settings and five valuable pages, one level from the root, were nuked. The language you use in the post and the way you point out the real dangers of trusting the plug-in are entirely relevant and helpful.

I was pondering language choice the other day, and I happened to be watching Hulu at the time. Yes, I watch Ghost Hunters like it’s my job. Anyhow, one sentiment expressed two ways struck me as interesting. You could say (on Twitter, or wherever), “If you’re too stupid to know how to use a proxy to watch Hulu outside of the United States, you should get off the Internet”. Or, you could say, “I’m glad I figured out how to use proxies to watch Hulu outside of the United States. If you haven’t checked it out yet, read this [link].”

My problem with Twitter was that I saw the former way too often.

Sonia Simone March 23, 2010 at 1:20 pm

Jane, I love anyone who actually comes out and admits to being thin-skinned and sensitive.

I am too. It’s a big part of what makes me good at my job.

I get no pleasure out of the various nasty little pockets of vileness around the web, and I do everything I can to steer clear of them.

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Jane Copland March 24, 2010 at 5:10 am

Cheers, Simone!

Although there are things I could work on, like not taking things too personally, being sensitive has helped me be contentious and compassionate. Not saying that a person can’t be either if they are less sensitive, but it’s who some people are. I’ve been maligned for it at various points for many years, but it’s struck me recently that we shouldn’t fight it or feel bad about it. It’s just who we are.

davematson March 23, 2010 at 11:14 am

Wow, that was impressively meta.

Here I go attention whoring about how I’m an attention whore!

Well done.

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BrianJ | Online Business Blogger March 26, 2010 at 5:19 pm

Dude… You’re funny…

I think there’s a big difference in writing sarcastically and being a douche… Sarcasm is fun and it’s a great way to get attention (yes I’m a professional attention whore too)… But being a douche about something just makes a person a douche… I feel as long as people are being an attention whore in a non-douche way, it’s totally cool.

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