Plants need watering until their roots are deep enough to get enough water supply from the ground. At birth, animals need their mother’s attention up to the time they can fend for themselves. As for humans though, the attention level required is even way high than that of other animals. It is humans who require more and prolonged attention for survival than any other species.
According to the English Oxford dictionary, attention (to something/somebody), is the act of listening to, looking at or thinking about something/somebody carefully; the interest that people show in somebody/something. Looking at this definition and reading between the lines, attention has much to do with importance – whether real or perceived.
In daily human interactions, often assertions are made about how someone likes looking for attention. It may even go as far as describing someone as suffering from attention deficiency. But looking at the very nature of a human being, attention is one of its very basic needs since the urge to do anything to attain it.
Before the 21st century and its internet revolution, attention levels were more moderate and lower key. However, the advent of social media platforms brought with it the exposure of our very human need for attention. With this understanding, it seems that the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, at its core, is about attention. For example, what is seen as self-actualisation (the desire to become the most one can be) is still a pursuit of attention from others. This is because such a realization will still depend on the attention and perception of others.
However, as much as attention is part of human nature and just as with anything else, too much of it may not be good. When the pursuit of attention, consciously or subconsciously, becomes the primary purpose or goal, it may eventually lead to bad mental health. The worst is when the person seeking it is unaware and it leads to addiction that one would do anything to get it.
If there was a common understanding of the importance of attention as a basic human need, it would have also been such that it could be part and parcel of our education. Whether formal or informal, such education would then also point out the importance of ensuring enough attention supply to every individual as from birth.
Meaning that just as part of the normal health care routine for infants, parents could also be sensitized and guided on how to give enough attention to the child for their overall well being. Because if they do not do so, the child will eventually seek it in one-way or the other. In these times, often social becomes the route to meet such need, even if it may be coming from total dangerous strangers.
Thanks to social media that as much as it helps to connect people, it also happens to expose them. It has come to expose that as far as development goes, technological development has surpassed the other aspects of development such as psychological development. That as far as education goes, balancing the income statement or managing the project cycle has been attained with excellence but managing our psyche faculty remains our most challenging puzzle.
With that said, there is no doubt that the writing is on the wall. The time has come to accept that attention is an underlying basic human need. Without it, overall well-being cannot be achieved. Next time someone tells you that you like attention, please remind them of that. They may not need it at this point but there may also come a time where they may seek it from you.
OSHIMWENYO will be published every Friday in the New Era newspaper with contributions from Karlos Naimwhaka.