Living with ADHD in the Age of Information & Social Media: Theo Siggelakis (Transcript)

Theo Siggelakis

Theo Siggelakis – TEDx Talk TRANSCRIPT

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 “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. Do 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. 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.

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 student I was but when we get bored in class, we play this game.

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And the way it worked is 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 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 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 be 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, if 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.

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 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 it’s just so incredibly bored by the content, or 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 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.

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So you got Twitter. Twitter limits it 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.

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 meth for Halloween. Not only did the mother think it’d be a great idea to give her children fake meth, and dress them up like Jesse and Walter from Breaking Bad.

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: New 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 stopped 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.

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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 happens is you just get completely ahead of yourself sometimes.

Anyway, let me resume where we’re at. So what has happened in society is we have two categories of people with ADHD; we have people like me, I’ve adolescent ADHD. I’ve had it since I was three, you can ask my mom right here. God bless her.

And then you got type two. It’s adult onset you know, it comes from using the Internet. So I categorized it kind of in the same way as diabetes; it’s one you’re born with, but then, there’s one that comes with the environment.

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.

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.

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’ve a discriminatory focus, I know exactly what I want, I don’t focus on anything else. And that’s why you know when I’m doing something I love, it’s not a problem. I’m 150%.

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