5 min read

Communication

Being my autistic self
Communication

hello friend

It’s been a week since I last emailed and it feels a lifetime ago. I’ve been to Manchester for a comedy gig, had a migraine, had a Christmas Party, caught the flu, seen the new Star Wars and I’m writing this on the train to London. How was your week?

On my blog I discussed how community might help with mental health issues. I do feel that I get a boost from hanging out with people in the real world. It’s hard work for me to simply hang out with people that in doing so I feel like I’ve won a marathon at the end. I’m tired but elated. However with the release of the new Star Wars film this week I was reminded of the fact that I no longer belong to a geeky community any more. A safe space to discuss the latest episode of something. A place to bounce ideas around with friends about what might be next.

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I used to be on forums where threads would be setup to discuss these things or going back further IRC channels. I know there are Facebook groups but I generally dislike Facebook and don’t wish to give it content unless absolutely necessary. It’s a shame that the easiest way to setup a community now is to create a group on there. I’m part of a real world community that meet up infrequently and because of that use Facebook to chat and become better friends. It’s like everyone wanted to go to McDonald’s but I preferred Burger King because their burgers are superior  so I’m sat there being technically right and also alone. So the question there is do I suck it up and give in to Facebook?

We live in a time of Slack (IRC for creators), Discord (IRC for gamers), Microsoft Teams (IRC for offices), IRC (IRC for no-one), Twitter, WhatsApp, Signal, Telegram, Instagram, EyeEM, Flickr (Still a thing), Facebook, YouTube, Vimeo, Mastodon (Decentralised twitter), tumblr, etc. Yet I can’t find friends and community online. Is the problem choice or something simpler? Is the problem me?

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It’s entirely possible the problem is not in the cloud but in myself. For a long time now I’ve held back from being myself online. Which is interesting for an autistic person. I grew up on the internet and I found a home where I could be myself. A place where I could unmask, not have social anxiety issues and be my “normal” autistic self without issue. I often said that there was an offline me and an online me. Others I met said they were the same person but I knew differently. I knew the offline me was masking to fit in to an neurotypical world even if I wasn’t aware of being autistic at the time. Unfortunately that online me was basically Sherlock from the hit TV series Sherlock. A person so sure of being technically right but also alone. I wasn’t aware of those character traits being an autistic thing. I simply saw everything logically and couldn’t understand why others didn’t see it the same way.

The National Autistic Society claim that Sherlock may have been on the spectrum and say;

“...their focus, passion about certain subjects, stubbornness, and a lack of understanding of sarcasm and the unspoken rules of social interaction could all point toward to the autism spectrum.”

Of course it’s a generalisation of autism but I can identify with it.

This lead to a time where I was part of a real world community that also interacted online when we couldn’t meet. A great way to keep the conversation going. Unfortunately my Sherlockness, my desire to try and to the right thing, what I believed to be the best thing for the group wasn’t appreciated by all. There was arguments and I lost what I thought to be friends. I sank into depression. It was not a good time for me. The only logical decision was to suppress that side of me and be more withdrawn. I accept my part in those days and maybe things would have been different if I knew I was autistic and how that affected my interactions with people. After those days I decided the best way to avoid terrible depression was to mask both online and offline. In order to have better mental health I had to take a step back from being myself and from being part of communities.

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Which leads me back to today where I have no place to discuss the things I love because I fear for being too myself and losing friends. So maybe the fault really isn’t in the services but in myself. I could pay $5/month to join a Slack community for a podcast network I enjoy but I dislike the idea of losing both money and new friends.

I’m not sure I really work online or offline. I do see a reflection of myself in the modern TV character of Sherlock. I would prefer to see myself more as Data but even Captain Picard told Data to shut up now and then for being too himself. So I am left trying to find balance, trying to find a place to be myself and trying to decide what myself is. Having an autism diagnosis has helped shed light on the issues but living with them on a daily basis can be hard work.



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(ext)links

A photographer’s intimate portrayal of her brother’s autism – British Journal of Photography

Top 10 architecture of 2019

The seven most terrifying Christmas traditions around the world | Life and style | The Guardian - Christmas is lots of things to lots of people. Why do we accept its dry meat and plastic boxes? Why can’t we have scary ass demons too?