Social Media…..love it or hate it?
I love social media, I’m just not very good at it, although I’m working hard to improve my skills with the help of the best in the business, Spaghetti Agency, Todd and Jo are the real experts in social media, if I had 1% of their knowledge I’d be rocking the internet! Having said that, a lot of people seem to hate it, and I kind of get that, fish pout, inappropriate selfies and the constant stream of coffee and buns floating around on Facebook is enough to put anyone off. Do we really need to know what you’re eating unless it’s relevant to a slimming group or similar?
Take some time to look around properly, however, and you’ll find some gems that are definitely worthwhile, and I found one such post on Facebook yesterday. It got me thinking (always a good thing), whilst also reinforcing my love of social media. It was a post from a guy called Bryan who has Aspergers Syndrome and is well worth having a look at, in one short minute he explains why social media is so important to him.
So, exactly why is social media so important to some people?
- Verbal Communication can be a challenge
A lot of people on the autistic spectrum struggle with verbal communication for a couple of reasons. Firstly, if they are feeling anxious, speech can be impossible, they just can’t get the words out. I’ve seen this repeatedly with my own children and it’s incredibly frustrating for them, what we need to understand is that their inability to speak is physical, not just an unwillingness to use their words. Secondly, some people on the spectrum struggle to understand face to face conversation, this is mostly because their brains operate at such a fast pace, and they see and hear so much more detail, that they struggle to process all of the incoming information.
2. Detachment makes communication easier
Taking the face to face element out of the communication process actually works very well for those on the spectrum, whereas most of the rest of us find face to face a far better form of expressing ourselves. This is an important point for people to understand, we’re all different, and as Bryan so beautifully puts it (and what my TED talk was all about), Autism is a different brain wiring, not a disability, ‘Different, not Disabled’. Perhaps if we were all more mindful that ‘one size does not fit all’ our ‘differently wired’ friends and colleagues would find life much easier? I could go off on one here about the education system ( for system insert ‘sausage machine’!) but frankly, I could write a book on that and may well do so.
3. Creating friendships
Taking some of the need for social skills out of the equation makes life much easier for autistic people to create friendships. That is unless you have access to something along the lines of the autism support group I created 3 years ago, Autism One on One. I started it for numerous reasons, one of the greatest being the fact that the NHS rarely provide these types of group, but another huge motivation for me was the fact that people on the spectrum and their friends and family needed a social outlet where there would be no judgement and everyone understood everyone else’s challenges. We actually have a very strong group of young adults who attend for the social element of being able to, as one of them put it, very aptly, ‘meet my own people’. With each other they socialise very easily as the ‘normal’ expectations of communication are not there, they can be blunt and brief and no-one takes offence! The great thing about social media is the opportunity to meet like-minded people and create a social group on-line without the pressures.
4. No travel required!
Travelling can be another challenge for our autistic friends, again for several different reasons. Sometimes the complexities of timetables (impossible for most of us I believe!) can just be too challenging, sometimes anxiety makes travel difficult or any number of other reasons. Whatever the reason may be, the opportunity to make friends all over the world from the security of home and a laptop is immeasurably beneficial for all of us, but in particular, those of us who find all of the above a challenge.
A huge number of people on the autistic spectrum have experienced bullying…….there……I’ve said it, and it’s true. They’re different and anyone different comes in for s**t from ignorant people who have no idea how awful the impact on the victim can be. I was bullied throughout my entire school life for many reasons, I understand the pain and despair. Bullying can make you suicidal, I totally understand that, and Bryan was bullied, bullying on-line is a lot easier to manage (you can block people on Facebook!) and therefore is a great way to minimise the risk of it happening again. Not that I advocate people on the spectrum becoming hermits, far from it, they need to be challenged and to challenge themselves as much as the rest of us in order to grow stronger, but sometimes, taking the risk away for some of the time can be incredibly helpful.
Social Media can be a life saver
As is always the case, we need to see social media for what it represents to all people, not just our own personal dislikes. For many, it’s a life saver and should be respected as such. Personally, I’ve been able to reach out and support/help many more people than I otherwise would have thanks to being able to talk to total strangers on-line and offer advice or suggestions that may help them. Autism One on One is run from a Facebook page and members post challenges they need suggestions with as well interesting and helpful information and new studies. Social Media is an incredibly powerful force, let’s treat it with the respect it deserves as well as using its power wisely.