30 January 2012

Life in a Soundbite Society

In my vlog this evening, I talked about a comment that was made by one of my professors. She claimed we live in a soundbite society, that many people these days are so bombarded by technology and constant streams of information that we're essentially drowning in it (my words) and, because of this, we can only pay attention to brief snippets. These brief snippets are essentially what causes us to form our opinions about much bigger issues (her words) and this isn't necessarily a good thing - more on that in the vlog.

Another big issue I have with today's no attention span society is the prevalence of buzz words like attention deficit disorder. I myself am diagnosed with ADD and have been learning how to live with it for the past six years of my life. In my experience, it seems like every time I share my diagnosis with someone on campus, there's always That Person. "Oh, wow. I think I've got ADD too. I mean, I can't pay attention to anything for very long."

Excuse me? You think you've got ADD just because you have a short attention span? Please educate yourself before lumping the two of us in the same group. There is more to ADD than an inability to focus. Hyperfocus, for example, is one of the truly awesome things about ADD. If the only evidence you have re: your "diagnosis" is an inability to focus/multi-task, I'm sorry but I'd appreciate it if you butt out on my disorder.

In my experience, ADD is turning into something of a buzz word. I'm wondering whether it is, perhaps, over-diagnosed as a side effect of our collective shrinking attention span or under-diagnosed for the same reason. There are people these days who can't pay attention to a fifty minute lecture, who can't wait three minutes for a microwave to cook food, who can't be bothered to read a book and must instead gather their facts from an abridgment, a film, or cliff notes. Do all of these people have ADD? I believe that is statistically impossible, though I've done no research on the stats. It just seems like a far too large number, hypothetically.

So, I wonder: is ADD over-diagnosed because nobody can pay attention to anything longer than three minutes or under-diagnosed because the symptoms aren't always noticed in today's "soundbite society"?