For us, Social Media is a double-edged sword.

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.

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6 thoughts on “For us, Social Media is a double-edged sword.

  1. As soon as my family got the internet around 1999, I dove right into debates and flame wars. I probably did my fair share of trolling too, but for me the object was always expanding my horizons and learning from the perspectives of others. Well, that may not be what my conscious objective was, but it’s what ended up happening.

    I can identify with you as far as controversial views goes. I’d say mine are even more controversial than yours are. Social networking is how I came across them. I think the internet will continue to revolutionize the way people on Earth communicate until we blow each other up during World War 3 or 4.

  2. I’ve just entered assesment/diagnosis as to whether I am an Aspie & I’m keeping it right out of my social media for now. I posted an image of the word “Aspergers” in white on black with the question “What does this word mean to you?” & got enough responses to know there’s some pretty BS perceptions amongst my friends. That was the point, getting a feel of perceptions.

    Other than where it has professional context just 8 know, one is my mother, one a trusted friend who is also a psychologist (but not my psychologist, we agree that would be inappropriate), 2 are an Aspie & his mother, the others are deeply trusted friends. Even my Being Aspergers blog is in a new WP account to keep it apart from my other blogging activity until I’m ready to be more out about it. Circumspection rules here!

    • It’s never occurred to me to hide my condition, but I suppose if I thought it would hurt me financially or professionally, I might be more careful about telling people about it. I guess it’s like coming out as an atheist or a homosexual. You have to look at your own situation and decide for yourself what’s best.

      I wish you luck in getting the diagnosis. I’ve been trying to get it for a while now, and it’s not easy as an adult who has no money.

      • I’m not so much hiding as exercising circumspection. As for diagnosis I’m fortunate in that regard because I live in Australia where we have a universal public health care system 🙂

  3. Well, I admit that it’s easy for me to talk since I am listed under a nickname as a first name online. (But I use my real middle initial and full last name) I’m currently not working and don’t do well in the workplace already anyway.

    But, I’ve really gotten to the point that, if I am surrounded by people who I can’t be honest with, my whole life is pretty much a lie, means nothing, and I am just playing games. So, in response to that, I pretty much now really put my real self out there.

    I didn’t do well in the workplace when I tried to fit into the NT world or pretend to be someone I wasn’t.

    More people seemed to like me socially and in the workplace when I pretended, so that I could fit in, but I still didn’t fit in. They just liked me more because it made their life easier or they could prey on me more easily.

    They also viewed me as perfect and I couldn’t so much as sneeze without being thought of as having betrayed their perfect little image of me.

    That’s BS. I refuse to live like I’m walking on ice that way. I learned on FB that 50% of the people may not agree with you, but as long as you aren’t really really extreme, the other 50% of people will agree with you. I think about that to remind myself to be myself.

    Going back to pretending to be someone else or fit in the box won’t make me get and keep a job. It didn’t in the past and it won’t now.

    I couldn’t fit in their perfect little box being “perfect”, convenient and comforting for them and yet still ostracized. I always ended up breaking free and having a meltdown.

    I can’t conform to what employers and some people want now either. It’s against my conscience, because they often want me to be unethical.

    I just decided to be myself and that attracted the right people around me. I’m still without a job, but I am kinda choosing to be at the moment for necessary reasons and also I probably would be out of a job anyway due to the difficulties already mentioned.

    • Tish, I can relate to a whole lot of what you’ve wrtten here so thank you for taking the time to write it 🙂

      I’ve never had a good relationship with ‘real jobs’ & wonder whether being an Aspie is part of that – but I’m sure that’s not all of it & I’m still finding out whether I am an Aspie.

      I suspect the trick for Aspies with jobs is to find a job that plays to Aspie strengths. For me that means trying to build a mobile app based business. I have a boss who is best in the world for putting up with my odd bits, me, & do a lot of programming which is power territory for [at least some] Aspies.

      I’ve also often felt, as I said to my psychologist, like a “not quite fit” in a lot of situations. And, as I also said to her, I wonder whether that is a part of Aspie experience for me. She agrees that if I am an Aspie it would give a lot of explanation to the not quite fit thing.

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