Monetizing ADHD, Misfitting, and Monsters
[the june learning list]
Apparently July is upon us, but I realize I did not round-up my June reads yet, so I’m gonna do a round-up mashup. A franken-roundup?? Idk, it is hot and bright and I’m doing like 7,000 projects at once and despite a couple breakdowns last week I absolutely do not know how to stop! (I love having an overwhelming amount of ideas and an inability to sense my own limits, I love it so so much. /s)
Writing is hard when you’re swirling and restless, because writing makes you sit down with yourself. In these times I find myself avoiding writing, but I think what I’m really avoiding is the stillness of the activity, the way it forces me to stop doing circles around the room and carefully sculpt sentences instead.
All that waxing poetic to say: I’m chronically late by clock time, but feeling bad about it is no longer an option for me. I’m trying curiosity instead, and I hope that being honest about that makes you feel a little less bad if you’re “behind”, too. Calendars are made up and clocks are fake!!
Obligatory Self-Promotional Intro I’m Sorry But I Got Quoted in Gawker!??
James Greig wrote this piece called “The ADHD Urge to Find the Online ADHD Community Annoying” that’s been circulating on various Substack link round-ups, and I actually stumbled across it totally by chance in someone else’s newsletter. (Literally almost choked when my own name smacked me in the face in the middle of reading a paragraph lol)
Anyway, I really appreciate the citation, because it’s from one of my favorite essays I’ve ever written on how the ADHD industry is selling us a medicalized version of the American Dream, and it’s nice to know that people are reading it and quoting it and I am not just screaming into the digital abyss about capitalism in complete and total vain.
Greig’s piece points in the same direction of something I’ve been writing around a lot lately — how pathology has become identity and sense-making. I, too, am annoyed by many of these ADHDfluencers, but, as James says, they’re “not annoying because they have ADHD, they’re annoying because they’re TikTokers.”
What annoys me is the forced commodification of identity, the way we all feel obliged to turn everything about ourselves into a marketable quality. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say a lot of people jumped on the trend because it was a monetizable niche.
I’ve scrolled back through some of the larger accounts on IG that make ADHD content and found that they only started making it in mid-to-late 2020 — Chalene Johnson (762K) and Coby Watts (218K), for instance, both of whom have shaped their entire brands around ADHD now, but were making somewhat generic fitness content prior to the pandemic.
That’s about the time that ADHD began to really trend, and I think pandemic stress was a huge factor in that (see: all the think-pieces about discovering your ADHD while trying to work from home). I even experienced my own surge in following when I posted about ADHD that year — my 15 minutes of IG fame being when Indya Moore reposted one of my infographics.
I don’t fault individuals for playing the game (we sort of have to, or else we, um, die), what interests me is working out the shape of the machine we’re all trapped in. How did we get to this place where we’re so desperate for identity and belonging that we make every aspect of ourselves, even our mental states, into easily-categorized content and consumable merchandise?
I’ve seen much less charitable (honestly, pretty mean) versions of this discourse that blame selfishness or narcissism, but I don’t think these explanations suffice, because there are far bigger forces at play that shape our sense of who we are and what we do. That’s what interests me, and I’m glad to see other people grappling with the ADHD label start to ask these kinds of questions in empathetic ways.
Okay, end tangent! Here’s all the good stuff I got into in June: