I have semi-jokingly said I am probably ADD. Attention Deficit Disorder. I grew up before it was popular (or profitable) to label it. I may be, and if so, I am proud of it. It actually has benefits. (Yes, I know – potentially debilitating… It’s generally called ADHD now. I have at least one family member diagnosed with it and I probably have some form of it. But I’m looking at the positives.) By the way, I resent being labeled as having a “disorder” just because I’m different.
I suspect I am ADD because I get bored easily. I am impatient. It is hard for me to suffer fools. My mind wanders a lot and I am easily distracted at times. I don’t like to follow instructions. When watching training videos I greatly prefer recorded ones, so I can listen to them at a higher speed and skip through rambling or useless parts. And I try to avoid boring tasks.
This makes a seriously mind-numbing task like preparing taxes agony. It is well worth it to me to pay someone to go through the tedium. Yet my annoyance is selective, depending on my interests. I used to be a software developer. I could sit and focus single-mindedly on designing or writing code for hours, not even realizing the time. Likewise, now I can get lost spending hours at the computer processing images. What would be tedium for some is not necessarily so for me if I am interested in it.
On the positive side, this “malady” gives me a huge curiosity about a wide variety of things. I love to pursue new subjects and learn new things. It makes me very attentive to things happening around me. So I am predisposed to notice things most people pass by. That is a secret to my style.
Those are some of my “problems” that make me what I am, but there is a trend going on in the modern world that concerns me a lot. Much of the world seems to be captive to a new type of attention deficit disorder – our communication devices.
I may be easily distracted by things around me, but much of the world now seems in a box, oblivious to the world except what they can see through their phone or computer screen. This scares me.
It is the norm now to see everyone walking, but glued to their phone. To see many people who can’t even drive without dangerously checking email or texting. To see that most people sit at a computer or TV most of the time instead of getting out into the world.
Stuck to the screen. That becomes many people’s world.
The new anxiety seems to be fear of missing out. Fear that if we are offline for a few minutes we will miss something important. That we might be irrelevant if we do not immediately comment on the latest trend or viral video.
It is common for people now to check their email or messages or Facebook dozens of times a day. I have read that the average (young) person looks at their phone over 250 times a day. Fear. An impossible treadmill.
What is the actual benefit of that to you?
The virtual world has become a surrogate life for many people. But it is a poor substitute. Real life is happening in the real world. The things we do do not require a Like or an upvote to be significant. The world does not need a smiling selfie of you to make an event important.
I read that most people spend most of their time everyday consuming media. These are packaged experiences being fed to us to entertain us. Sounds like the Matrix or other dystopian science fiction. Wouldn’t it be healthier to be out exploring on our own? Wouldn’t it be healthier to create our own adventures?
Living in the collective means we lose the ability to think and feel and plan for ourselves.
Missing out on life
I readily admit to being neither a fan or a user of Facebook or most other social media. While I see some benefits of connection with long lost friends or relatives, the downside is the addictive power it has in many people’s lives and the amount of information they accumulate about us.
First, make a life worth living. Then spend a little time telling other people about it. If we don’t have the discipline to unplug and be independent we should treat this as any other type of dangerous addiction, like alcoholism. ‘Hello, my name is [____] and I am a Facebook addict.”
Embracing my ADD
I readily admit I am probably ADD. I accept it and live with it. Even more, I embrace it for the positive aspects it brings me.
I have a bottomless curiosity. I will take “side trips” anytime to explore things I do not know. Because I have always done this and learned new things, I have a large base of knowledge. That makes it easier to build on and connect the dots as Steve Jobs said.
I hate passing by a road if I don’t know where it goes. I really like to find out what is around the corner or over that next hill. When you look for them, interesting things are everywhere. Learning to see takes practice. Perhaps my ADD, if I have it, makes that easier for me. No matter the reason, I love that and am thankful for it.
I fear that younger people coming up will not have that curiosity and drive. I fear they may lose the ability to even look around and see the world for what it is or to live as an independent being. That will be a great loss for all of us. The benefits from the always connected, media driven world are not worth losing touch with the real world around us.
I encourage each of us to have the courage to think for ourselves. Learn to be alone in our own head occasionally. Inside is our spirituality. Inside is where creativity comes from. Step out of the hamster cage and see the Matrix.
Don’t waste your opportunities
For all his faults, Steve Jobs was wise in some ways. I will close with a famous quote from him:
Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary. – Steve Jobs