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Attention-Seeking Behaviors and Social Media

4 Ways We Teach Kids Attention-Seeking Behaviors with Social Media

It’s common knowledge that kids today are addicted to screens and social media. As adults, it’s easy to see the attention-seeking behaviors of kids and teens on social media. They are determining their self-worth based on how many likes or followers they get on social media. An explanation of the damage this causes is not needed. However, what is needed is for adults to take a look at ourselves. We are teaching our children attention-seeking behaviors through our own social media.

Attention-seeking behaviors and social media go hand-in-hand. Self-worth and social media are also now intertwined, for both children and adults. Now, I fully understand this may not be a popular post because most adults don’t want to acknowledge their attention-seeking behaviors through social media, even if they are able to recognize it in their children.

Obviously, children today face a lot of issues due to social media that my generation never had to endure. As a therapist, it has broken my heart to hear the damage social media has done to the self-worth of precious children.

How are self-worth and attention-seeking behaviors on social media related?

Bullying is now done through social media, which increases the audience for bullies beyond anything my generation and those before mine could ever imagine. Not only that, the amount of followers and attention children receive on social media is also a big, determining factor for self-worth. Please be aware that this also the case for numerous adults.

Unmet needs of healthy attention for children translates into them becoming adults with unmet needs of healthy attention. Attention-seeking behaviors on social media have now become the “go-to” for adults to get attention. 

Just keep in mind that most adults will not acknowledge their attention-seeking behaviors on social media are exactly that, attention-seeking behaviors. Also, they most certainly will not be willing to see that the way they use social media is teaching their children the same attention-seeking behaviors.

Self-Worth, Adult Attention-Seeking Behaviors and Social Media

Facebook more so than Instagram for my generation and preceding generations has become the place for adults to thrust their attention-seeking behaviors out into the world of social media for so many to see. Adults are using Facebook as a journal, a way to bash others and a way to promote a fictitious representation of their lives through attention-seeking behaviors.

By now, you are probably thinking about some of your “friends” on social media. There are many adults who blatantly display attention-seeking behaviors on social media. Those aren’t the people I’m necessarily talking about in this post. So, who am I talking about and how are they teaching their children attention-seeking behaviors through social media?

Ways Adults Teach Children Attention-Seeking Behaviors on Social Media

  1. Taking constant selfies to post on social media.
  2. Posting almost every move you make with your children. (e.g. every time you go out to eat with your kids, every time your kid makes a good grade, every time your kid says something funny, plus pretty much everything your kids do)
  3. Writing elusive posts in attempt for people to wonder or ask you questions about what you’re talking about. (e.g. I have something so exciting, but I can’t share it with anybody yet)
  4. Memes and posts about others that are negative and are simply grown-up bullying.

Are you still reading? Hopefully, you’re willing to truly look at yourself and how your attention-seeking behaviors on social media are teaching your children to do the same. Understand that, in the past, I have done most of the things I have mentioned, but that was before I had a son.

Social Media, Self-Esteem and Attention-Seeking Behaviors

As a child, I didn’t get much healthy attention. Now, I can see how that affected me in so many ways throughout my life and with social media in the past. Condemnation is not my goal in writing this post. I am merely hoping more people will take a look at the ways they are teaching their children attention-seeking behaviors on social media and tying their self-worth to social media.

Explanations of each attention-seeking behavior from the list above is needed. I know adults who post multiple selfies each week. Again, I am not shaming those of you who do that. I am merely hoping you will take a look at the attention-seeking behaviors you are teaching your children.

Consider a co-worker walking through your office multiple times a week with a sign that says, “Look at me,” or “Tell me I’m pretty.” The sign is covered in glitter and tons of paint. The co-worker walks by every single person’s office holding up that sign and waiting for somebody to respond to them.

Seems silly, right? Well, in my opinion that’s the exact equivalent of adults constantly posting selfies. Again, I was guilty of that in the past. So, I’m not shaming the attention-seeking behaviors on social media. I’m trying to draw attention to it in order for adults to consider what they are teaching their children with their own attention-seeking behaviors through social media.

Attention-Seeking at the Expense of Children

Now, number two in the list will probably get a lot of people riled up and understandably. I know the common defense for this will be that you want to share things about your children with friends and family members who don’t live close or you don’t get to see often.

I’m not saying you should never post anything about your children. What I am saying is that maybe adults should take a look at what they might be teaching their children about what is important in life.

Most children are fully aware of parents posting their every move on social media. It is teaching them that nearly every moment in life must have an audience. Drilling even further down into attention-seeking behaviors of adults on social media brings me to a discussion of comments I often see on Facebook.

I often see comments telling others what a great parent they are and many times the comments are from people who have never seen the parent in person with their children. This directly relates to how adults’ self-worth can often be tied to social media nowadays.

Self-Worth Based on Social Media Attention

Adults feel so good when receiving those comments and the comments make them feel special. Now, why is that a bad thing? It is teaching kids through our behaviors that our self-worth is tied to the opinions, actions and words of others. That is NEVER a good thing. We need to teach kids that self-worth comes from within.

If we don’t change our attention-seeking behaviors we are teaching kids through social media, it scares me to think about the lengths generations to come will go to in order to get attention. I can’t even begin, nor do I want to imagine how that might look.

Begging for Attention on Social Media

Shifting now to the ever-so-cryptic, elusive posts I mentioned in number three. To me, these are the BIGGEST ways adults show attention-seeking behaviors on social media. Let me give you some examples, even though I am sure you know exactly the kinds of posts I’m referring to.

“Please send me some good vibes because I have something super awesome that might happen, but I can’t tell anybody yet.” To me this is equivalent to a little girl in elementary school telling one friend that she has a secret, but she can’t tell the friend.

Obviously, she hopes this makes her friend want so badly to know the secret. If that happens, she will get attention from the friend until she tells the secret. Now, keep in mind this an example of CHILDREN. This is a typical attention-seeking behavior of a child that is developmentally appropriate. As adults, we should be able to learn how to get healthy attention.

Teaching children to do this is important. If we use social media as our attention-seeking platform, we should expect exactly what is happening with children now. They are learning that interactions on social media dictate our self-worth. I don’t have to explain the dangers of that.

Adults Bullying on Social Media

Now, let’s look at number four and see how adults use social media to bully others. At the same time those adults often post about the need for parents and schools to do more about bullying. I have seen “friends” on social media make posts and share memes making fun of others.

For example, I have seen people make posts making fun of others’ accents, physical appearance, ethnicity among other things. Obviously, there has been a huge increase in bullying due to the political and social climate of our country the past several years. Sadly, these kinds of posts give even more attention to the attention-seeking adult posting.

As a side note, it is heart-breaking for me to see the division and hate that I’ve seen on social media in the last several years. In my opinion, social media has appeared to make bullying a norm that has become acceptable.

My thought as to the reason for this is that it was reinforced as acceptable by political figures at the top. Regardless of who does it, bullying is still what it should be called.

Attention-Seeking on Social Media Results in Missing Out on Life

Have you ever been in the middle of an activity and thought about the post you were going to make about what you were doing? Do you think about the kinds of comments you might get if you post a new selfie? Are you posting multiple selfies each week, but tell yourself that you are confident with yourself?

Do you make multiple posts in a day to tell your “friends” almost every move you’ve made, such as what you had for a meal, interactions with others, how you’re feeling for the day or whatever else you feel you need to post throughout your day?

Negative Effects of Attention-Seeking on Social Media

Looking back, I realize how lonely I was when I was attention-seeking through social media. I think if we were all incredibly honest with ourselves, we would see that the world is a lonelier place now more than ever before. We are more disconnected from ourselves and others than we’ve ever been before, and this was present even prior to the pandemic.

Social media falsely gives us a sense of belonging and connection to others. However, that is a slippery slope. In reality, we are not experiencing what our souls truly need. We need actual human connection. Obviously, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, this is difficult.

I have numerous phone calls and FaceTime calls with friends and family throughout my week. It’s not the same as in-person, but it is still very valuable to me. I no longer need to journal my life on social media in hopes that people will respond and make me feel important or special.

When you put your phone away, reality can creep in. Actually taking a look at yourself and sitting with your own thoughts is a difficult task most people no longer know how to do. If they are able to do that for a moment, chances are that is followed by them telling the social media world about it.

Taking an Honest Look at Your Own Attention-Seeking Behaviors on Social Media

Think about how may posts you read about like I mentioned above. How often do you post or read posts telling your “friends” what kind of person you are or how you have done this or that to get comments or likes?

Now, don’t try to pretend that you’re just posting and don’t care if you get any comments or likes. If that were truly the case, then what’s the point in posting? As I stated at the beginning of this post, I know this will not be a popular view for many.

Not only that, I believe many people may react in a defensive way or with refusal to acknowledge the parts of this post that are true for them. Taking an honest look at yourself and your behaviors is very difficult to do. In fact, most never do because fear and vulnerability are hard to overcome.

In conclusion, I’ll leave you with one final question about adults and attention-seeking behaviors on social media. How can we teach kids not to use social media to get attention and to define their self-worth if we are doing the same?

If you are able to be honest with yourself about your attention-seeking behavior on social media, it’s possible that you didn’t get the healthy attention needed as a child. If so, you may relate to my post about Emotionally Unavailable Parents: 5 Steps to Heal.

This was first published by Psychreg. 

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Mahara Wayman

Kudos for talking about this! I agree!

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