“I want you all to picture yourselves,” senior psychology student Jacqui Albin said to a full audience at the Wang Center Theater on Friday. “I want you to picture your face, your body. How would people describe you? You exist, right? Now what if that all just vanished? What if suddenly you ceased to be? You became a ghost? You just disappear, can’t perceive yourself anymore and you don’t even have a name? This is what I lived with for over a year.”
During her freshman year at Stony Brook, Albin believed that she no longer existed. She would simply respond with “I’m not here” whenever someone acknowledged her presence.
Along with 15 other Stony Brook students, faculty, staff and alumni, Albin spoke at the third annual independently organized TEDxSBU event hosted by Stony Brook University. TED is a non-profit organization that presents talks in an effort to spread ideas.
Albin told the story of her life with schizoaffective disorder. Albin described it as a combination of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
“Sometimes I would try to walk through a wall,” she said. “I would awkwardly bump into the concrete kind of wondering ‘Why can’t I phase through this?’ It was a time full of non-stop panic and confusion. I couldn’t calm down because nothing in my life or lack thereof made any sense to me.”
With a little help, Albin was able to overcome this obstacle. She discovered that she was lacking an identity; she had an emptiness. But Albin channeled that nothingness to overcome her anxiety.
To fit into this year’s theme, “The Master Pieces,” many of the other speakers also centered their talks on obstacles that they have faced as well as problems that the entire world encounters.
“I want everybody who comes to Stony Brook, everyone who works at Stony Brook, all the students to just feel inspired,” said Jennifer Adams, the licensee and chair for TEDxSBU as well as an educational technologist in the Division of Information Technology. “There’s a lot of really cool things that happen at Stony Brook University, and I think we sort of get isolated and lose touch with that sometimes.”
Karen Sobel-Lojeski, an associate professor in the Department of Technology and Society, introduced the audience to the idea of virtual distance, which she described as, “what we lose when the human being is transferred through the machine.”
She labeled what she calls the “threshold generation”: the generation that understands life before and after the modern influx of technology. She also said this generation will be the last to understand the difference between real and virtual things.
Sobel-Lojeski told the story of a friend who, after buying an iPad for his 3-year-old daughter, caught her pinching the surface of a sliding glass door in an attempt to zoom in on the spider that was stuck to the other side–just like she had been accustomed to doing on a touchscreen.
The audience let out a collective gasp when Sobel-Lojeski made the pinching motion with her fingers illustrating the story. Some students were surprised by the presenters, including Sobel-Lojeski, and the messages they relayed.
“My favorite speaker was Debra Alfarone,”said Suson Maharjan, a junior biology student. “She was talking about the labels we put on ourselves, as well as the labels put on by other people, put on us really make a difference as who we are and who we become.”
Freshman nursing student Jordan Villar also found Alfarone’s discussion on individual labels, such as career of interests, to be inspiring.
“You make the label and identify as that,” Villar said. “I’m used to it being the other way around, so her way of thinking was revolutionary in way for me.”