How craving attention makes you less creative | Joseph Gordon-Levitt | Summary and Q&A

September 12, 2019
YouTube video player
How craving attention makes you less creative | Joseph Gordon-Levitt


In this talk, the speaker discusses the powerful feeling of getting attention versus paying attention, and how social media's attention-driven business model has impacted creativity.

Install to Summarize YouTube Videos and Get Transcripts

Questions & Answers

Q: How does the speaker feel about receiving attention?

The speaker mentions that receiving attention is a powerful feeling and he has been lucky to get a lot of attention in his life. He expresses gratitude for this experience.

Q: What is the opposite feeling of receiving attention, according to the speaker?

The opposite feeling, according to the speaker, is paying attention. When he is acting, he gets so focused that he narrows his attention solely to the performance, blocking out any other distractions.

Q: How does the speaker feel about creativity being a means to get attention?

The speaker believes that creativity should not solely be driven by the desire to get attention. He mentions that he is happier when he focuses on the powerful feeling of paying attention rather than the powerful feeling of getting attention.

Q: How does the speaker view social media platforms in relation to attention and creativity?

The speaker discusses how social media platforms, like Instagram, sell attention. They train users to crave attention and become addicted to the feeling. He points out that the constant desire for attention can distract individuals from their creative processes and artistic pursuits.


In this TED Talk, actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt discusses the powerful feelings of getting attention and paying attention. He explores how technology has allowed more people to seek attention for their creative expression, but also highlights the unintended consequence of creativity becoming a means to get attention. He raises concerns about the attention-driven business models of social media platforms and the addiction to getting attention. Joseph emphasizes the importance of paying attention to one thing and finding collaborators rather than competitors, as this leads to a deeper creative fulfillment.

Questions & Answers

Q: What are the two powerful feelings that Joseph Gordon-Levitt discusses?

Joseph talks about the feelings of getting attention and paying attention. He explains that while receiving attention can be fulfilling, there is another powerful feeling that comes from completely focusing on one thing and being in the moment.

Q: How has new technology impacted the ability to seek attention for creative expression?

New technology, such as social media platforms, has democratized the channels of creative distribution. People can now showcase their creativity in various art forms like writing, photography, drawing, and music. However, it has also led to creativity being seen as a means to get attention, which can take away from the purity of the creative process.

Q: How does Joseph feel when he is paying attention as an actor?

When Joseph is acting and paying attention to one thing, he describes feeling a sense of focus and creative flow. Everything else in the world fades away, and he is fully present in the moment. This, to him, is what creativity is all about.

Q: What impact did bragging about his acting accomplishments have on Joseph during summer camp?

Joseph admits to engaging in bragging about his acting roles at summer camp, and at first, it brought him extra attention. However, the other kids eventually started making fun of him, which caused him to feel hurt and hesitant about seeking attention for his acting in the future.

Q: How did social media, specifically Twitter, affect Joseph's attitude towards attention?

Joseph became hooked on Twitter like everyone else and started using it to seek attention for his acting. Although he initially thought people liked him for his witty tweets, he eventually realized that his desire for attention was interfering with his creative process as he would focus on what people would say about his work and how to respond to maximize attention.

Q: How does social media's attention-driven business model affect users?

Social media platforms like Instagram make money by selling the attention of their users to advertisers. Joseph explains that the more attention users are able to gather, the more attention these platforms can sell. Therefore, they train users to want and crave attention, leading to addiction and stress when they do not receive enough attention.

Q: What is the relationship between follower counts and feelings of inadequacy?

Joseph describes how the number of followers on social media can significantly impact one's feelings of self-worth and adequacy. He admits to feeling shame about his low follower count on Instagram compared to other actors and acknowledges that the follower count makes everyone feel inadequate.

Q: According to Joseph, why is seeking attention for creativity not fulfilling?

Joseph believes that if creativity is driven solely by a desire to receive attention, it will never lead to true creative fulfillment. The pursuit of attention becomes a never-ending cycle, always wanting more and feeling unsatisfied no matter how much attention is gained.

Q: How does Joseph suggest finding focus and paying attention in a creative process?

Joseph shares that he tries not to see other creative people as competitors but as collaborators. He believes that finding collaborators, whether physically present or online, helps him focus and pay attention to the one thing they are creating together. By being part of something larger than himself, he can shield himself from other distractions and be fully present.

Q: Does Joseph admit to still getting caught up in the addictive cycle of seeking attention?

Yes, Joseph acknowledges that he sometimes still falls into the addictive cycle of wanting attention for his creative endeavors. He even humorously wonders if a part of him is seeking attention while giving his TED Talk. However, he also recognizes that the creative process itself allows him to focus and pay attention to something he deeply cares about, regardless of the attention he receives.


Joseph Gordon-Levitt emphasizes the importance of paying attention to the creative process rather than solely seeking attention. He warns against the addictive nature of seeking attention on social media platforms and how it can detract from the genuine fulfillment of creativity. Joseph encourages finding collaborators rather than competitors, as this fosters a deeper creative flow and allows individuals to focus on the one thing they are creating together. Overall, he advocates for a shift in mindset towards genuine creative fulfillment rather than the endless pursuit of attention.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  1. The speaker discusses the powerful feeling of both getting attention and paying attention, and how the latter is more fulfilling and drives creativity.

  2. The speaker addresses the unintended consequence of new technology, where creativity becomes a means to get attention and the addictive nature of social media platforms.

  3. The speaker emphasizes the importance of collaboration and finding flow in creative pursuits, and suggests that seeing others as collaborators rather than competitors can enhance focus and fulfillment.

Share This Summary 📚

Summarize YouTube Videos and Get Video Transcripts with 1-Click

Download browser extensions on:

Explore More Summaries from TED 📚

Summarize YouTube Videos and Get Video Transcripts with 1-Click

Download browser extensions on: