Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder

19 Jun 2007, 13:05 p.m.

Notes On Attention And Shyness

Hi, reader. I wrote this in 2007 and it's now more than five years old. So it may be very out of date; the world, and I, have changed a lot since I wrote it! I'm keeping this up for historical archive purposes, but the me of today may 100% disagree with what I said then. I rarely edit posts after publishing them, but if I do, I usually leave a note in italics to mark the edit and the reason. If this post is particularly offensive or breaches someone's privacy, please contact me.

An inadequate excerpt from Sarah Brown of Cringe, on hopes laid bare in a teenager's diary:

You want someone you like to come into your room and ask you if you've read all those books and which was your favorite and who is this in this photo and when was it taken, blah blah blah, you want that tractor beam of attention, that teenage feeling.

I'm reading "MU Tales", an addictive serialized novel about a shy girl starting college, and "Nothing Better", an addictive webcomic about a shy girl starting college and they're helping me understand what it's like to be pathologically shy.

But I'm also thinking about the other side of that coin: show-offiness. What's the basis for our scorn of attention-seeking? If it's about selfishness, does it inevitably turn into "Harrison Bergeron"? Is it a collective effort to treat conversations as ends in themselves instead of a means to an end? From The Big Kahuna:

It doesn't matter whether you're selling Jesus or Buddha or civil rights or "How to Make Money in Real Estate With No Money Down." That doesn't make you a human being; it makes you a marketing rep. If you want to talk to somebody honestly, as a human being, ask him about his kids. Find out what his dreams are - just to find out, for no other reason. Because as soon as you lay your hands on a conversation to steer it, it's not a conversation anymore; it's a pitch. And you're not a human being; you're a marketing rep.

These quotes, links, and thoughts underly my upcoming column on attention-seeking and modesty; that'll be this coming Sunday.