September 25, 2023 | Rome, Italy

A-t-t-e-n-t-i-o-n to me

By |2018-03-21T19:07:15+01:00August 28th, 2015|"American Girl"|
It's not really sharing at all. It's what we called "hogging."

am out of touch. I may live in New York City, but I’m out of touch.

I have a Facebook account, but I stopped posting. I have a Twitter account, but only tweeted once. Under peer pressure, I recently posted my first Instagram. A Pennsylvania field of sunflowers was reminiscent of the south of France: time to share.

From the sidelines, I’ve been curious about all this sharing. I grew up in a large family and if there was one thing we learned, it was sharing.

Dinner was served in large pots and portioned to ensure everyone had their portion. Clothes were handed down and my sister’s wardrobe became mine. We shared beds and bedrooms, and personal time in the bathroom was sacred. Sharing was a necessity and I know it well.

Now the world is into sharing, but it’s not really sharing at all. It’s what we called “hogging.”

Hogs want all the attention, forcing themselves into your space, taking your time and good will, being as loud, obnoxious or “friendly” to stay there.

Recently at work, a college-age temp sat across from me. At first, her bright peppiness was a pleasant change.

“How was your day? What did you do last night?” she asked me. Then a few minutes later, “I like your skirt. Your hair looks nice today.”

But it was not just a good morning gesture. It was social media in the flesh. Her comments were one-line “updates,” her compliments were thumbs-up “likes.”

She swamped me with “posts” of her life: “I walked the Highline last night and it was so cool.” Then, “I’m staying at a friend’s apartment and the couch was really lumpy but I had a good breakfast. There was a grapefruit!”

I felt claustrophobic at my own desk. She was in my personal space and wanted to stay there.

As a child, one of the first words I learned to spell was “attention.” When I tried to get into the middle of the action, my older siblings would roll their eyes and spell it aloud, “A-T-T-E-N-T-I-O-N.” I didn’t understand at first. It was spoken with disapproval and it hurt. But I got the message. I learned to fall in line and take my turn. I was not the center.

Now the rules have changed. Self-promotion and hogging rule the day — all in the name of sharing. Grabbing attention is the only game in town. Website users, media pundits and everyday Joe’s post and tweet outrageous comments. The most venomous rants get the attention, and these in turn get “shares.” Even stranger, these “shares” translate into money.

It appears we are a country driven by emotional outbursts, saying and doing whatever comes to mind without thinking of others. We’re trying to rise about the noise those around us are making. Social media has made children from adults. Their goal is to confirm their value through clicks and “likes.”

I may be out of touch with certain trends, but the deeper values I learned in my upbringing give me a sense of self that no viral post can supply. Sharing is not about self. It’s about others. O-t-h-e-r people. It’s a simple message that could use some trending.

About the Author:

Madeline Klosterman wrote the "American Girl" column from 2008 through 2019.