Accept me! Validate me!

I saw a guy on the tram home last night holding a large envelope against his chest that I assume was his, and had printed on it “PRIVATE AND CONFIDENTIAL”. I have a feeling that holding this envelope made him feel incredibly important.

‘Look at me! I received mail that’s so important the sender had to ensure that only I was permitted to read it’.

I have often felt this craving for attention is the same reason people just love when their mobile phone goes off on public transport. Personally I always turn my phone to vibrate and 99% of the time I’ll ignore a call unless there is a pressing reason that I need to take it. And if I do answer the call I’ll near-whisper a short conversation to explain that I’ll call later or divulge some critical information that I may have for the caller.

But what’s with all this “HELLO?? HI!! I’M ON THE BUS! YEAH! OH LAST NIGHT WAS BRILLIANT!…”. And so on. Because that’s what people do. They carry on self-indulgent conversations in full earshot of a packed bus or train. They might as well be saying:

‘Look! Phone call! I have friends. I do stuff with my friends. I’m so accepted and validated!’

It’s self-expression in the same way that the Wall Street yuppie makes sure he accelerates hard in first gear in his flashy sports car or the whiny actress ensures that she’s showing more skin than anyone else at the movie premier. This sort of expression is not positive though, rather it is probably a reflection of low self-esteem. People who imagine that they are not valued in the eyes of others are going to take whatever opportunity they can to try and elevate themselves.

All it does is lead to poor social behaviour.

Think of other examples of people behaving in a way that makes them feel more ‘accepted’ – a boy-racer speeding or breaking a red light to impress his girlfriend in the passenger seat, young women having a string of sexual partners, a guy drinking 15 pints in a night and verbally incrementing for his adoring public. Now I’m no scientist, psychologist or psychiatrist, but to me this reeks of people’s desire to ‘achieve’ in the eyes of others or be seen as someone who does in fact have ‘a life’ (something we are told to ‘get’ at some point in our life by someone).

So back to our ‘phones in public places’ example. Next time your phone rings, have a bit of courtesy for those around you and bear in mind that no one cares to hear your conversation. Respect the public environment and remember that respect expected is directly proportional to respect reflected.

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