This won’t be a thorough examination of how the internet has helped me take off my autistic masks, but I’ll share several thoughts.
1. You don’t have to fight for the floor with asynchronous communication. Whether it’s email, social media, or typed chatting, you can just type your whole comment or contribution without worrying about someone else interrupting you. (Though there is still plenty of room to have your comments ignored.)
2. You’re not put on the spot. You usually have plenty of time to compose your thoughts without people staring at you, waiting for you to say something coherent.
3. You don’t have to hang around and experience people’s responses. If you want, you can ignore threads, not open or reply to emails, or even block people who suck the life out of the room or are harmful for you to be around.
4. It’s easy to lurk. If you don’t have the confidence to contribute, or the energy to converse, you can just watch and read from the sidelines, and you still feel like you’re a part of something larger than yourself.
5. It’s easy to hold back get the lay of the land before diving in. Similar to the above, joining a new group or getting to know people online is easier than joining an in-person or even on-video or on-phone group. People don’t necessarily expect you to jump in right away, and usually hope that you’ll get to know how the group works or what the energy of the group is first, before diving in.
6. You can modulate your own energy and participation. If you feel like you’ve been “too much” for people (as if there were such a thing), you can just be quiet for a while until they’re no longer sick of reading what you have to say.
7. Finding your people. Once you find more and more of your people, those who accept you for who you are, it’s easier to be comfortable sharing parts of your personality with others. And this regular support of who you are helps you gain more confidence to share more often, online and, eventually, even in person.
8. No one can see your face. Your face can be doing anything and it won’t matter to other people.
9. No one can see the rest of you either. When people read my words online, I don’t assume they’re judging me for how I look.
10. I can still process my experiences by talking out loud (which I totally do all the time). You can make your own comments to yourself without the group hearing. You can have honest and genuine responses of glee, sorrow, or fury in the privacy of your own home.
I’ve been able to be less apologetic about who and how I am because of my experiences on the internet (mostly Facebook, if I’m being honest, due to the autistic people I’ve met there, and a couple of other groups). And since life’s too short to bury who you are, this has paired nicely with middle age and the IDGAF kind of attitude I’m trying to embody now.
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