Finding My Inner Paris Hilton

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By now most everybody knows that Paris Hilton, heiress, socialite and — well, not much else — is the web’s latest amateur video star.
I take as a given that Ms. Hilton’s recent escapade, as noted at Fleshbot (not work safe) and elsewhere, does not represent any fundamental new ground for the young lady. When you devote your life to being watched: to being observed, the step that you take when finally allowing that observation to extend to your most intimate — or at least, most explicit — moments is not a particularly bold one. When put in the context of her past behavior, the act is different only in degree, not in kind.
But observing Ms. Hilton (no, not observing her doing that, but more generally) makes me wonder about a personality so in need of attention from others. She yearns for the spotlight; for the eyes of the world to focus on her for a moment, and, if possible, longer. She seeks notice wherever she can find it; basking in the radiance of strangers’ gazes and thoughts. Where once, we can assume, she sought such attention a source of approval, a validation of her own worth, now, the notice itself has become the end. Positive or negative; embarrassing or flattering, whatever keeps her in the spotlight is by definition good.
She almost acts like a blogger.
How different, really, is the desire of Ms. Hilton to be noticed — to see her name in the tabloids, to have her visage streaming into our living rooms — from the desire of a blogger to be heard? To get that big link from Glenn or Andrew; to see their blog sit atop the Ecosystem?
Not very, I submit. Any blogger who tells you they don’t care at all about links, or stats, or being read by others — well, that blogger is either lying or wasting their time. Because they have a name for weblogs written by people who don’t want other people to ever read them. They call them diaries, and they don’t go on the Internet.
So if you find yourself tsk-tsking at the foolish escapades of Ms. Hilton in between checking your Ecosystem ranking and polling your SiteMeter stats — pause for a moment. And ask yourself whether, perhaps, you might suffer from the same need for notice that drove that young lady to conclude that making a home movie while getting boffed was a splendid idea. Again: it’s a matter of degree, not kind.
Ms. Hilton has the celebrity press corps to do her dirty work for her: here in the blog world, we do it differently. In the blogosphere we are all each other’s paparazzi. Stalker and stalkee; celebrity and gossip — we each play both parts in our turn, and in the end we are all attention-addicts and enablers both. And sometimes, I fear, we need to stage our own interventions and stop our own madness.
The question to ask is whether the attention is a goal in itself, or a means to an end.
Attention for its own sake is a hollow victory; if that is what you seek then you are indeed no better than poor foolish Paris. But if that desire for attention drives you to do great work; to inspire others with a turn of the phrase or a clever remark; to create something — then embrace that desire. Let it fuel your work and drive your writing; let that yearning for the Big Link push you to scour the web just one more time to find that missing story that nobody else is noticing, but everyone should be.
Accept your inner Paris Hilton, and let her have her fun.
But please: try to keep your clothes on.