People have been commenting about why I use social media as much as I do. Its simple really. The answer is in the name: social media. People use it for various reasons but the primary reason most users use sites like Twitter and Facebook are the social interaction features. Yet for many people with autism the primary reason is communication. It is where we converse with friends and family much like a non-autistic person picks up the telephone to chat with a friend. So much of the conversation surrounding social media is about its uses for journalism, pr, marketing and activism. Yet while those people are the most numerous of users they are not the most active. While they tend to use it doing the work time hours of 9 to 5 or even a few hours after work until they go to sleep at night, we never stop. M0st people with autism don’t have regular sleep patterns.
Autistics are usually fairly limited in their ability to interact with people in a social manner. I myself don’t have many real friends except for maybe one or two. Sure I have met a lot of nice people but that barrier that is called autism exists. Social media is how I cross that barrier. It is my portal to the world. It is where I become known to the world. It is where I interact and socialize with people and learn about the world. How many people would I have met without this online medium? Probably none. It was through Twitter that I met Stacey Soleil who is such a caring and true friend even though I haven’t spoken to her recently yet I still enjoy seeing her snarky poss on my Twitter feed. Also there is my friend Cristina Dunning who is like everyone’s personal cheerleader always trying to encourage people and cheer them up and just generally make them laugh They are just some of the awesome and amazing people I have met.
I am not the most chatty person. In most social situations I am usually the one who is sitting quietly like a wallflower but I don’t mind doing that. It gives me a good chance to observe human behavior. I am quicker to size up a person and estimate what they are about because while everyone is chatting with other people, I am observing them. I learn a lot about human behavior that way. Yet at the same time the barrier exists that keeps me from interacting and socializing with other people. I am much more comfortable with interpersonal communication as opposed to group communication. I often sit and watch as people start-up conversations with other people and just gab away while I am often sitting quietly.
Sociologists who study group behavior say that it is possible to feel lonely and isolated in groups. Our dependence on technology as a society has created a state where we all have become like islands in a vast ocean instead of countries who share common borders. Loneliness and isolation is common for people with Asperger’s is common without the use of technology. Without the use of social media Aspies like myself as well as many other autistics who are non-verbal but can type like Carly Fleischmann who has a website called Carly’s Voice and blogs about autism for CTV. Social media is the window to the world for many people who have autism.
If I did not post on here even the people who see me on a regular basis would not know anything about me. I would just be that strange guy who sits in a corner and sometimes says things that are a little weird or out-of-place. People need to understand that this is where I communicate. Like some people like to gab about their lives to their friends at parties or at work or on the phone or in various other social situations, this is where I gab about my life to mine. People tell me that I should be careful about what I post online but when they say that it is clear they don’t understand autism and some leeway is needed when making such demands. That is why I have written this. Just so people can understand the way that I communicate is different from most people. I am not saying either way is wrong of right but the world in general favors interpersonal communication over online communication because it lacks a personal touch and people are always worried about how people might react to something so they keep it offline, for me offline means in my head or in a private journal and not with a close group of friends like many non-autistics choose to do.
For me social media is my way of gabbing about my everyday life. It is the doorway into who I am. It is here that I share my stories instead of gossiping about it with people offline in social situations. If I didn’t do this no one would know anything about me not even the people who see me on a regular basis. This breaks down the barrier that autism creates. I don’t ask why people talk to each other in person or on the phone, because I spend so much time online for the same reason: to communicate and interact with people. I hope this helps people understand me better because though I am verbal I am still in many ways locked behind the walls of autism.
- 7 Tips for Stellar Social Media Community Management (hubspot.com)
- Autism in the News – 12.13.11 (autismspeaks.org)
- Be social: Do you really need a social media manager? (marketing.yell.com)
- Social Media and Internal Communications (rachelbarkley.wordpress.com)