Living with Adult ADHD in the Age of Information and Social Media
This short but informative video about ADHD talk was given by Theo Siggelakis at a local TEDx event, produced independently of the TED Conferences. Theo’s presentation illustrates what it’s like to grow up with ADHD as a child and become a young adult living in an ever-connected world of interruptions and hyperlinks. Interestingly, he suggests that the ADHD brain may be better suited to handle the offerings of endless rabbit trail links that can send any of us from topic to topic in just a few quick links. Check it out.
Video Transcript: Living with Adult ADHD in the Age of Information and Social Media
So we start with David Ortiz; David Ortiz plays for the Boston Red Socks. You know who else is from Boston? Marky Mark. So I connected Boston, Marky Mark. Now Marky Mark, I don’t know if you remember, he played in the movie Ted; you know the one with the creepy stuffed bear? Yeah. And so, I correlated that to TED talks. You see, my brain works like hyperlinks, and I actually learned about this in high school when we used to play a game called the wikipedia game. This may speak to the caliber of student I was, but when we would get bored in class, we would play this game; and the way it worked is that you’d pick one page and you’d pick a really random second page, and whoever could get to the really random second page first would win. I always won.
So today, we’re going to play the wikipedia game, just to see how my brain works. We’re going to start with Ken Starr, and we’re going to get to Gibson guitars. I don’t know if you remember Ken Starr, he investigated Clinton in the ’90s. Anyway, so we’re going to be on Mr. Starr’s page, we’re going to take a nice broad topic, American. This takes us to the United States page. On that page, we’re going to go to the culture section and we’re going to click on Chuck Berry. There’s Chuck, he happens to be playing a Gibson guitar. And in four clicks, we made it to Gibson. Two seemingly random topics transitioned fluidly in four clicks, that is how my brain works.
Now, all this talk about ADHD; what is ADHD? Well, first off, ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder. It probably means nothing to you guys because all you imagine is a small child running around in the classroom that can’t control himself. Well, quite frankly, the face of ADHD is a little different. It could be a man or a woman in their 30s who’s having trouble paying her bills or his bills, it could be a college student who should have finished his work or her work 10 hours ago but is just so incredibly bored by the content, or it can be Justin Timberlake, he has ADHD too. So people look at people with ADHD, they see a couple of key characteristics. Inattention, our mouth seems like it’s run by a motor, we speak very quickly and we have a lot to say, a lot of passion. We’re constantly fidgety, like my foot, or leaving my seat. And these are the traits that people see, but the thing is the internet is built for people with ADHD
Let me show you. So you’ve got Twitter. Twitter limited to 140 characters; no matter how much inattention you have, you can focus on 140 characters, not words, characters. Instagram. Instagram is simply photos; even children can enjoy photos and sustain focus. But on top of that, the internet is a place where people indiscriminately say what they want. Like my teachers told me to think before I speak, back in the day, nobody thinks before they speaks on the internet. This is a favorite tweet of mine, it’s from an Ohio state football player. He wanted the world to know, “Why should we have to go to class if we came here to play FOOTBALL, we ain’t come to play SCHOOL, classes are POINTLESS.” A lot of great thought went into that tweet.
Now, this is a favorite Instagram post of mine. I love this rendition of small children playing Walter and Jesse from “Breaking Bad” with fake masks for Halloween. Not only did the mother think it would be a great idea to give her children fake masks and dress them up like Jesse and Walter from “Breaking Bad”, she even posted it to Instagram. A lot of thought went into this. And the funny thing about the internet, it’s making us all a little ADHD
John Ratey at Harvard University called this Acquired Attention Deficit Disorder. The way this works is that when you have ADHD like me, my neurotransmitter system with dopamine is slowed down; it doesn’t work the same way as everybody else’s. What happens is when you go on the internet constantly, you get a constant shot of dopamine and what happens is you get used to getting a constant shot of dopamine so yours, too, slows down. So when you’re stuck doing a mundane task like mowing the lawn or driving in the car, whatever you’re doing, that doesn’t give you instant dopamine like the internet, the system slows down, you get bored really quickly. So we have this society where people can’t get away from their cell phones. When they get bored, they don’t get the dopamine. And basically . . . Oh, wait a second. I got a little ahead of myself. So when you have ADHD, one of the funny things that happens is you just get completely ahead of yourself sometimes.
Anyway, let me resume where we were at. See, what has happened in society is we have two categories of people with ADHD We have people like me, I have adolescent ADHD I’ve had it since I was 3, you can ask my Mom right here, God bless her. And then, you’ve got type 2, it’s adult onset. You know, it comes from using the internet. So I categorize them kind of the same way as diabetes, there’s one you’re born with and then there’s one that comes with the environment. The difference between ADHD and diabetes, other than the pancreas and stuff like that, is the fact that there’s an advantage to being type 1. Yes, there’s an advantage. There’s two distinct advantages that set me up better to handle the internet than people without ADHD that just acquire it.
One trait is hyper-focus. When I’m interested in something, I can give it 150%. The rest of the world is stuck at 100. They’re like, “I’m doing my best,” and I’m like, “I’m doing my best.” And I’m up all night and I’m like an encyclopedia in about a week, you know. The other thing is that I’m not overburdened by the internet, I’m not overwhelmed. I have a discriminatory focus. I know exactly what I want and I don’t focus on anything else, and that’s why when I’m doing something I love, it’s not a problem. I’m 150%. If I have to do work for like my science teacher’s science class, it may take me all day, you know. The other thing, we have another advantage. It’s peripheral focus, yes. So when we’re in this zone, we don’t see the essentials that everybody else normally focuses on. We see a side detail and what happens is we’re able to create a new essential. This is what makes great entrepreneurs, especially in the technological field.
A good example of this is David Neeleman. I don’t know if you all know who David Neeleman is. As indicated by the picture, he’s the CEO of jetBlue. He created the e-ticket, exactly how most of you got here today, through an e-ticket. He credits his ADHD for his success. “One of the weird things about the ADHD I have is, if you’re really passionate about something, then you are really good at focusing on that thing. It’s kind of bizarre, you can’t pay the bills, you can’t do mundane tasks, but you can do your hyper-focus area.” The internet is built for people like us. So remember, next time you run into somebody who’s a little overzealous, talks a little too much, has some inattention, don’t look down at them, they might be your next boss. Thank you.