Living with ADHD in the age of information and social media | Theo Siggelakis | TEDxQuinnipiacU


Translator: Hiroko Kawano
Reviewer: Peter van de Ven As recently as last week, I’ve been told in class
to stop tapping my foot. I’ve been told to think before I speak, to not call out, color in the lines, stop leaving my seat. Life in the public education system
as a child with ADHD was very difficult. It was so difficult, my mother
held me back in kindergarten to better acclimate me to my peers. In the long run, that served me very well; however, in the short run,
it compounded my social inadequacies. Some students labeled me as stupid. One history professor in high school went so far as to tell me
I’d only be average. But there’s a place for people like me. As I got older, I – quote, unquote –
“outgrew my ADHD.” Whatever that means. Despite my academic success, some people still question
my train of thought. Let me show you. I was watching a Red Sox game last week. David Ortiz hit a mammoth home run. Did you see Mark Wahlberg
has a new movie coming out: “Transformers”? And by the way, if you have any time this Sunday,
come see me speak at TED. You’re all confused, aren’t you? Baffled. Yes, this is my normal train of thought, and let me explain you
the logic about how this works. So we started with David Ortiz. David Ortiz plays
for the Boston Red Sox. You know who else is from Boston? Marky Mark. (Laughter) So I connected: Boston – Marky Mark. Now, Marky Mark, if you remember,
he played in the movie “Ted.” (Laughter) You know the one with
the creepy stuffed bear? Yeah. And so I correlated that to TED Talks. 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 get bored in class,
we play this game. And the way it worked was that you pick one page,
and you pick a really random second page, and whoever could get to the really
random second page first would win. I was the one. (Laughter) 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 get to Gibson guitars. I don’t know if you remember Ken’s story,
investigated Clinton in the 90s, anyway – So we’re going to begin
at 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; 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. (Laughter) Now, all this talk about ADHD. What is ADHD? Well, first of all, ADHD stands for
attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. It probably means nothing to you guys because all you imagine is a small child
running around in a classroom, that can’t control himself. Well, quite frankly,
the face of ADHD is a little different. It could be a man or woman in her 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, ten hours ago but is just so incredibly bored
by the content. Or it could be Justin Timberlake. He is ADHD too. So people look at people with ADHD,
they see a couple key characteristics: inattention; our mouth seems like it’s run by a motor, we speak very quickly
and 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 got Twitter. Twitter’s 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 speak on the Internet. (Laughter) 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.” (Laughter) A lot of great thought
went into that tweet. (Laughter) 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. (Laughter) Not only did the mother think
it’d be a great idea to give her children fake masks
and dress them up like Jesse and Walter, she then 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 Roddy at Harvard
University calls this “Acquired Attention Deficit Disorder.” The way this works is that
if you’re ADHD like me, my neurotransmitter system
with dopamine is slowed down; it doesn’t work the same way
as everybody else’s. But 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 or whatever you’re doing that doesn’t give you
instant dopamine like the Internet, the system slows down
and you get bored really quickly. So we have this society where people
can’t get away from their cell phones, where 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 happen is you just get completely
ahead of yourself sometimes. Anyway, let me resume where we’re at. (Laughter) So 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 three; you can ask my mom
right here – God bless her. (Laughter) And then you got type two:
it’s adult onset. You know, it comes
from using the Internet. So I categorized it
in kind of the same way as diabetes. There’s one you’re born with, but 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 one. Yes, there’s an advantage. There’re two distinct advantages that
set me up better to handle the Internet than people without ADHD,
that just acquire it. Um, one trait is hyper-focus. While 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!” (Laughter) And I’m up all night, and I’m like an encyclopedia
about it 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, you know,
what 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, um – But the other thing,
we have another advantage. It’s peripheral focus. Yes! So when we’re in this zone, we don’t see the essential
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
the great entrepreneurs, especially in the technological field. A good example of this
is David Neeleman. I wonder 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
that 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. He might be your next boss. Thank you. (Laughter) (Applause)

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