The urge to belong is universal.
So would a better understanding of it help tackle loneliness — and explain why stalkers, spree killers and jihadists turn their pain on others? T here is a famous Jewish mother joke. Question: How many Jewish mothers does it take to change a lightbulb? Ignore me!
Everyone needs attention, like we need to eat. This is not controversial, nor is it hard to understand. But the idea must be slippery, because it will not stick.
If we could keep in mind that people need attention, it would change the way we see almost everything they do, from art to crime, from romance to terrorism. And we must. Facebook alone harvests and sells the attention of 1.
Seeking attention when lonely – which road will you take?
This alarms some peopleand it is a big change. Specifically, people have been shown to need a type of attention that psychologists call belonging. Abraham Maslow put belonging into his famous hierarchy of needs in In particular, they identified that belonging means getting positive attention from people who know you well. Someone who thinks well of you is more likely to cooperate with you. There are more lonely people in Britain than live in London. The word loneliness is a good description of the feeling, but not its cause, which in reality has little to do with being alone.
Lonely people lack attention that is positive and accurate, in short.
Loneliness is both genetic and environmental.
Nor is it reliable. People can misjudge you. Others search for a feeling of belonging, not always in the best way.
There are many ways of asking without asking, if we are prepared to notice. Why, for instance, is it taboo to suggest that people who self-harm, or have anorexia, might want attention? Is that not a source of pain worth taking seriously? One way to seek attention is to do something that gets lots of it — art, politics, crime, journalism maybe — but that seems to have another purpose. The purpose matters. A successful model based in New York, he had returned to Essex to live with his parents, then did nothing for years. His family all but forced him to the show, aged 27, in the hope that it would shake him from his torpor.
In modelling, Jewitt explains over coffee, Instagram is non-negotiable. Over time Jewitt gathered 13, followers.
He enjoyed their compliments and exchanged messages with some. It was almost friendship. It was a big part of why I got unhappy. When arriving on Love Island, all contestants must surrender their phones. Inside, there are no TVs, no iP, no contact at all with the outside. A fresh start. The sad thing was I could have done it at any point on the outside. Now Jewitt hasInstagram followers, and mostly promotes good causes. So far he has lost around 20, since his peak after Love Island, and has come to take a strange pleasure in the process.
The opportunity for positive attention is enormous, but accuracy is the price.
1) reflect on past attachments.
As Jewitt found out, this corrodes your feeling of belonging. Even if it does, we should remember that it is also useful to keep real friendships going. Even if offline time is good for you, it can be stressful, which might make people hide behind their screens.
For some people, usually those who had a hard time growing up, this stress can be unbearable. If desperate enough, they may even force other people to notice them, preferring to be hated than ignored. These people are unhappy, and can be dangerous. They commit crimes of attention. Broadly speaking, there are two types of stalker. They feel injured and rejected … but underlying that is a desire for the attention they think they deserve.
Loneliness is common among stalkers. One of them narrates my novel, for which this article is in part a bid for attention. However, attention is not often considered to be Are you lonely need some attention motive. Their behaviour is irrational; it only makes the victim reject them even more, but the stalker either insists that the woman about three-quarters of the time will change her mind, or persists in a spirit of revenge.
A big part. After a firm rejection, the approach most experts recommend is to ignore the stalker. With this in mind, stalking behaviour seems half-rational in someone who is desperate for a feeling of belonging. Certainly most stalkers are not mentally ill in a way that a psychiatrist would recognise. Sadly, some people feel not just ignored by their ex, but ostracised by the whole world.
For them, life with almost no attention is sheer torture. A recent workplace study in Canada found that ostracism was worse than the negative attention of being bullied. The work of Professor Kip Williams at Purdue University in Indiana shows how ostracism causes pain, and can lead to antisocial behaviour. Another Mark Leary study shows it is a key factor in school shootings.
Like stalking, this is a crime that seems utterly irrational. Usually it suffices to say that the killer was angry, perhaps just insane. They are always lonely. Spree killers are fond of leaving documents that explain their feelings. Seung-Hui Cho Virginia Tech, claimed he was bullied, which baffled those who knew him. Often a grotesque spirit of belonging exists between them.
There was a time when spree killing almost did not exist. Guns existed. So did bombs and knives and vans.
So did violent and disturbed people. Indeed the world is now generally less violent than it used to be. Yet spree killings grow more frequent. A study at the Harvard School of Public Health found that mass shootings in the US in which at least four people died occurred, on average, once every days between and Then once every 64 days between and Eighteen of the 30 deadliest mass shootings in the US since have occurred in the past 10 years, including all of the worst five.
What else can we call these but crimes of attention, made possible by new media? Filmed on camcorders, then on phones. Seen live around the world. It is easy. Before the internet, it was not. Jihadists love to leave speeches too, but theirs claim grander motives. Their killing sprees, they say, are part of a plan to reach paradise and bring about the triumph of their beliefs.