While my co-author resoman517 asserts that Facebook has been a great boon for him overall, and I do understand his reasoning, it is my view that contemporary social media (Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, even e-mail) constitutes a double-edged sword, metaphorically speaking. Yes, it can allow us to connect with other Aspies, or even NTs who share our interests and pet foci…but they are also media where we can be bullied, harassed, persecuted, etc. We can get drawn into arguments, flame wars, etc, that are emotionally anxiety-inducing and frustrating.
Especially in times of great national controversy or crisis, I often find that I retreat from Facebook altogether, for days or even weeks on end…not least because my quirky, often unconventional views are unwelcome or treated with outright hostility, and I am so conflict-averse that I’d just rather avoid the linguistic combat involved until things cool off and subjects can be examined more dispassionately and objectively with the distance of time.
I also know fellow Aspergians who go to the extreme of leaving Facebook altogether, deleting their accounts and staying offline for extended periods before slowly coming back, re-creating their accounts, and slowly re-building their severed connections. I know of at least one Aspergian who has abandoned Facebook completely and refuses to go back and has decided to camp out on Google+ indefinitely. This seems to work for him, but I admit I do miss his company on Facebook. Even when I communicate with him via the Googleverse, he is slow and seemingly reluctant to respond. He points out that he’s reluctant to participate in blogs like this unless we can guarantee we police the comments section to weed out potential bullies, trolls, etc. I understand his concern and implemented these protections on some of my personal blogs on the Blogger platform. We currently leave the policing/editing functions up to Ankh here on our main WordPress platform, our de-facto webmaster.
One Aspie friend who has retreated from Facebook completely in the past describes a scenario that is parallel and familiar to my own…it goes a little like this…you make new friends and interact…the more you feel comfortable the more you let loose and be your “real” self, but eventually this causes friction and pushback, as NTs discover they have objections to the real you that they do not accept…they push back; we, averse to conflict, pull back or withdraw altogether. In the most severe cases we disengage entirely. We then wallow in extreme loneliness and depression for a length of time. If we don’t commit suicide first, we tentatively return back to the social world…logging back onto Facebook after a long hiatus, say, or re-creating a previously deleted account…or friends decide that the “not-on-speaking-terms” probation is over and interact with us again…we re-join the world, but furtively, with our guards up, keeping our “real” personalities hidden, played close to the chest, as it were, until we once again feel comfortable to let our guard down. Our most constant friends are the ones to whom we’ve let our guard down completely yet still accept us in all our awkward glory…these are few and far between. To the others, we let slip selectively bits and pieces of our best selves, constantly checking if the bonds of acceptance still hold or are starting to fray. Social media can be a great tool of connection, but it does have its down sides, its dark sides, etc. It’s not for the faint of heart.
There are times when I would have, basically, a classic “aspie meltdown” (but not recognize it as such) and compose a really angry email to someone. And I would refrain from sending it until the morning. But this self-check often would not work, as, upon reading it with cold and sober eye the next day, I decided that yes, that’s exactly what I meant to say and I still mean it and I’d still hit send….
The most frustrating thing is writing and re-writing a composition, bending over backwards to not give offense, taking elaborate care with one’s wording—and at the end of the day STILL YET offending someone such that one should’ve just gone with one’s original snarky impulse, if only to gain the emotional satisfaction of it, since the consequences end up being more or less the same. Goddamn, it’s like why do I even try!?
Facebook is the current social media that’s “in” right now. It used to be MySpace, but I myself admit I’ve not logged into MySpace for months now. LiveJournal even less often. I do not think that Google+, despite its own hype, will supersede Facebook, but I also don’t believe that Facebook is forever. It’s just incredibly convenient in the present moment. I’m only just now starting to explore Twitter, but I freely allow that I don’t really understand Twitter nor its protocols at the moment. I like to follow it during Rockets home games, and sometimes send out my own Tweets, but I don’t fully get it, at least not yet.
I’ve heard mixed things about dedicated Aspie/Autistic social sites like Wrong Planet. Some of my co-authors report negative experiences with it. I tried it but lost interest. Others swear by it. I know that it has improved recently with new authors like Kirsten Lindsmith, the then girlfriend of the son of John Elder Robinson of Look Me in The Eye fame. There are also a lot of autistic individuals (diagnosed and undiagnosed) in Anime/Manga fan culture, too, as well as in the atheist / freethought community.
On the one hand, the internet does provide a social outlet to home-bound autistic individuals who otherwise cannot get out and interact with the real world at all. On the other hand, it can potentially inhibit less impaired individuals from going out into the real world to “practice”, as it’s in many ways easier than dealing with the complex social web of the “real” world. Having grown up in the pre-internet world, I can attest that part of what made me as well adjusted as I am currently is not having the capacity to spend all day “online”, but disconnected from the immediacy of face-to-face interaction. I participated in Cub Scouts, YMCA baseball, etc. I went out for NJROTC in High School; I played videogames on my Apple II+ but also made friends with people who played the same or similar games on their PCs. Most of all, I played D20 RPGs with friends, specifically Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. I tried to stay connected to “nerd culture” up through college and beyond.
I like this blog, I like Facebook, but I won’t pretend they don’t sometimes have downsides for ASD individuals, too. They can help, but they can also hurt. I like writing for this blog, but at the same time I feel self-conscious in putting myself “out there”; but I do so in the hope that I can help others, despite some personal risks to myself I may invoke in the process.