Instagram trains you to crave attention: Joseph Gordon Levitt

The actor uses his TED Talk to deliver an important message

By Maha Ali

KARACHI: In his recent TED Talk, titled ‘How craving attention makes you less creative,’ Joseph Gordon Levitt dropped many truth bombs. Known for his roles in iconic films like 10 Things I Hate About You, 500 Days of Summer and The Dark Night Rises, Levitt really took the opportunity to remind the audience the importance of creating art for the sake of creating, not to get more clicks, likes or followers. Here are some key takeaway points from the speech:

Instagram can get you addicted to wanting attention

We are all victim to it. Levitt pointed out that it’s not because we’re actively seeking attention but because the business model of social media/tech companies have launched people into a lifestyle that requires uploading updates of one’s life that ultimately forms a validation process. Levitt used the example of Instagram and said that it follows a model that makes money off of the attention people give to it. He said, “The only reason Instagram is getting so much attention is the fact that we get it for them. The more attention you’re able to get, the more attention Instagram is able to sell. And so it trains you to want that attention, to crave it, to feel stressed out when you’re not getting enough of it. Instagram gets its users addicted to the powerful feeling of getting addicted.” He further reiterated that this addiction is very real, much like addiction of any other kind might be. And much like any other addiction, being addicted to attention is never enough. No number of followers, likes or shares is ever enough. You always want more.

Create for the sake of creating, not for attention

“Our creativity is becoming more and more of a means to an end. And that end is getting attention. In my experience…the more I go after the powerful feeling of getting attention, the unhappier I am,” he says. The actor mentions that now, when he’s reading a script, he finds himself thinking about how his movie will be talked about on Twitter instead of whether people will be able to relate to the story or how can he personally identify with the character. In his opinion, this way of thinking stifles creative growth a lot because true and original creativity cannot be forced or created based on what might get likes online.

Make “Flow” your friend

Levitt talks about the term flow state which in positive psychology refers to energized focus: one’s focus is not distributed or divided and is rather specific to one task or thing at a time. The benefit of being in the flow state is that all other outside elements that tend to grab our attention (even daily chores or tasks) are absent from the mind and therefore the task of creating is 100% priority and can lead to higher levels of creativity and ultimately, a better output. Levitt said that when he really needs to focus on his work and creativity, he tries to not see other creative people as his competitors. He says that it’s more useful to co-create rather than pitting yourself in competition against others.

You can watch Joseph Gordon Levitt’s full talk here:



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