An observation on returning to “normal”

In the UK the government has a timeline for relaxing restrictions up to June, and I hear talk about returning to “normal” like everyone else.

Given that I’ve always found the “normal” noisy, overly busy world draining and unwelcoming, even partial return to “normal” has actually made me feel worse, and note how much the world before lockdown was stressful and overwhelming.

I can use the example of traffic on the roads. During lockdowns the roads were clear and more relaxing to use and it was actually more of a pleasure, except that it wasn’t possible to drive very far. Even partial relaxing of restrictions has unleashed a torrent of additional vehicles, meaning that some of my least favourite roundabouts have become a bit of a nightmare to navigate again.

It’s not just affecting me as I see other drivers are impatient and rushing and it’s like the stress is transmitted from everyone’s cars and vans and looming trucks, all vying to get on to a roundabout to save a few apparently precious seconds, which means being slightly earlier to meet the next queue of cars half a mile down the road.

It’s not clear to me what this extra traffic is for. Is it all just people going to shops again? Just the additional people unnecessarily travelling to offices?

So returning any kind of “normal” is not a relief, it’s emphasising to me how broken “normal” was before.

Wife of the above

Walking around the city I live next to I wandered into a fairly large cemetery that has been there since the mid 19th century, but I didn’t realise it was there.

It was early in the morning and it struck me that it’s a good place for an Autistic person to go for some peace, because people typically won’t go there to have loud parties and even bored teenagers might avoid a cemetery.

As I tried to find some of the oldest graves and noted people buried in the 1870s, where the stones were readable due to the use of metallic lettering. The dates give me a sense of time, and I wonder what the surrounding area was like in 1870. For one thing the large “box” stores on one boundary would not have been there, or most of the surrounding suburban estates.

While I was interested in some of the patterns of lichens and weathering, I noticed something about the way in which spouses are mentioned, and here’s one example.

Emma’s lettering seems to be a different colour

The phrase stood out – “wife of the above”. My feminist sense had been sharpened this week by reading an article about ingrained sexism around touch here – perhaps something to comment on another time, but the main point is that it made me feel somewhat sickened.

Here in front of me was another baked in element of sexism. In death these women have the main distinguishing feature of having been a man’s wife. Perhaps there was a bit to say about Emma’s 13 years after George died. Even modern epitaphs keep describing women as having been a great mother or “nan” and I passed one or two of those.

Another woman called Bithiah had her own gravestone, and even then she had been described as being somebody’s wife on her death in 1911. On another stone a woman named Mary was described as the “Tenderly loved and true hearted wife of” a navy commander – with his name prominently below and it didn’t seem like this is his grave as well. I can’t help thinking how this makes her also a higher status “wife-of-navy-commander”.

Why couldn’t gravestones say something else about these women’s lives? Perhaps they loved to play the piano or grow flowers. Yet here they are – “wife of the above”.

Observations while walking

I tend to notice details – this is the first time I’ve composed a post where I share some of things I notice, where I have taken a quick picture of something to note the observation.

I walked around a place called Woolbeding common in the area where I live, just a few miles from home. It is an old heathland area where woodlands were cleared for grazing (at least according to the sign I saw in the car park). For me it looks like thinned out woodland with a carpet of heather and bracken.

This looks like a fairly old barn, but I may be wrong. It seems like part of walls were repaired and the roof has been replaced, but the stonework and narrow slits for light suggest it could be over a hundred years old. I thought there was something pleasing about its presence.
A low stone wall surrounding grazing land, covered in mossy growth.
An oak tree off the path had fallen over, pulling its roots out of the ground. The tree is still alive but parts are rotting an colonised by moss and lichen. Had I looked closer I may have seen a load of beetles or woodlice.
This was quite an interesting shot to capture on a mere smartphone, by forcing the auto focusing lens to sit on a close subject. It’s a matter of luck whether the focus holds when you take the shot. You can see the lichen and moss are competing – or just coexisting – on the same bit of branch.
I love reflections on water, even if it’s “just” a muddy puddle.
A long, winding path that traces across the South Downs passes through the area, named the Serpent Trail because it has the shape of a huge snake. I noticed there were two stones each side of the path with snakes lying upon oak leaves.
Perhaps these were cast in concrete using a mould? Algae and moss colonised the pores in the stone.
Long shadows over a single track road to some houses, thanks to the sun being low down in the sky.
I passed some impressive bracket fungi living in the folds of a venerable oak tree.
I tried to tweak the colour in this photo to convey how it actually seemed at the time. It was approaching 4pm and the sun’s light had started to redden, and it was highlighting all the Silver Birches. It felt warm and golden.

I can forget how details reach out to me, and even when I do take photos I can forget to look at them. Preparing some images for this post made me reflect on what I notice and how it can be a sort of “grounding” when the world of people is too much.

On giving up alcohol

I realised on the first attempt at writing this that it wouldn’t be a recommendation to give up alcohol for the obvious reasons. It’s a description of how I got to the point where I let go of it.

The risk of “advice” is that it can be devoid of the right context. When you ask people for “advice” they’ll tell you what works for them and sometimes express that as if it’s universal.

I had been drinking alcohol regularly since my early 20s, never being a seriously heavy drinker because I simply don’t have the capacity, but still with enough instances of consuming way too much and making myself ill. I resisted alcohol for a long time because I hated the taste, but eventually I think I was influence by others to start or join in. It’s actually long enough ago now that I can’t remember if I had any conscious idea of it making social situations easier to deal with, and I can’t remember if I would ever plan to use alcohol to be more sociable, or if it has ever helped particularly.

More recently alcohol has been the only thing I could see to reduce my feelings of stress at the end of a week, or that could allow me to relax and enjoy a film even. There had been a few days with no drink here and there, but rarely more than a week off. So it was essentially a habit where I tried to avoid drinking too much by only buying something for one day. There is always the risk of passing a certain stage and essentially wanting to keep the relaxed feeling going and simply drink more.

Eventually I’d had enough of these times of going too far and giving myself a hangover the next day, overshadowing the weekend which should be a time to regenerate, not recover from self-inflicted alcohol poisoning. Something clicked in me and I didn’t want it anymore, decided to let it go and I haven’t had a drink for two months. And for me, where I’m often struggling with energy levels and burnout, it was essentially dragging down my life overall for the sake of some temporary and non-sustainable relief.

After a week or two off alcohol I realised it had been causing me extra low level energy drains, even when I just had one beer. I hadn’t made myself significantly worse for that day, but I had no alcohol-free reference because I had never stayed off it for that long. After a month my moods were more likely to be positive and what anxiety or stress I was dealing with was easier to manage.

It has tipped me over the edge from “surviving” to “living”.

It would be misleading to say that giving up alcohol is what I should have done years ago to get me to this point faster. Many autistic people have been habitually using alcohol as stress relief when they have objectively difficult situations to deal with and are struggling to find any hope, and when they are finding it difficult to change ingrained coping behaviour that holds up a “fake” life.

This post would keep going for a long time if I described all the supporting changes that happened over time, but I’ll try and get over my detail distraction and summarise:

  • Self-kindness – something that I’ve seen regularly mentioned by other Autistic writers, but incredibly important and hard to learn. You drink when you are brought low and think you aren’t worth more. The self kindness aspect leads to the ability to forgive yourself for not living up to arbitrary and unrealistic standards. Depression is diverted as you can stop saying “I’ll never be good enough” or “nobody wants me” and start internalising the realisation that the world of humans expects you to be something you aren’t so others can be more comfortable and avoid challenging themselves. The burnout and frustration isn’t all your fault.
  • Eliminating things in your life that are burning you out but adding no value. I’ve had to accept that while I like a tidy environment, it doesn’t mean enough to me to use the energy required to maintain it. I stopped wasting time on people who attach themselves to me even if get a bit starved of human interaction. I stopped trying to engage in social occasions that drain me and don’t actually improve any personal relationship.
  • Focusing on creative ambitions or interests without guilt – which means prioritising them in a way that others might see as “self-indulgent”. For me music comes before cleaning up the kitchen. Some time gaming comes before vacuuming the carpets. I don’t keep things immaculate but I do the chores enough so it doesn’t get too out of hand for me – I don’t care if someone might think I was lazy or slovenly – they have different priorities that I may see as shallow. Unless an autistic person enjoys tidying and cleaning in itself, there simply isn’t any satisfaction in taking care of chores in advance, and probably more resentment about having to do them. I may be generalising a bit but it is a strong tendency with people like me.
  • Getting some help – I’ve had therapy a couple of times to help me get over difficult periods I couldn’t have dealt with alone. I was lucky in being able to afford to pay for something more suitable to the way my mind works. It’s also important to get help from someone who has the right approach, and to be able to say when something isn’t working. Unfortunately I don’t think decent mental health support is readily available to everyone, and there are a lot of vulnerable Autistic people trying to get “support” from people who can’t provide it, even if they seem to be friends.

There is more to say, but it gets over the point that it was a lot easier to stop drinking once I’d worked on the above for a long time, and it’s asking too much to get yourself to give up a substance that gives you a temporary relief – because the attempt to give up and then fail at a particular point only feeds into the hopelessness that you can’t change – my phase of using partially successful limiting measures for consumption was needed first. And before that I had to develop the ability to avoid the kinds of thoughts that lead to depressed and hopeless moods.

I should reiterate that stopping drinking hasn’t immediately made me able to reach all possible goals, it has just made things like improving energy levels by changing diet, and improving physical fitness seem closer and I can achieve some cautious optimism after a long time of having a fairly bleak outlook.

Ambition, Burnout and Frustration

The writing of this is related to its subject. As can be seen on this blog, nothing has been published since April 25th. Also, so far this is the most prolific I have ever managed to be up to this point. I have attempted to create a site or keep a blog going since 2000 – when you could set up a site on Yahoo GeoCities for free. These were just static pages, and now you can sign up for a free blog somewhere in five minutes, assuming you aren’t bothered by the ads.

In my case I’ve owned domains for years, and paid for web hosting for various sites that only a few online friends might have seen. Every time the intention was there to make something of it, but overall I have spent more time setting up sites than writing for them, so it feels like hundreds of pounds have been slowly leaked over the last several years for an intermittent hobby. I keep wondering about giving up and saving the money which only gets me and ad-free blog that people rarely see.

However I’m back again for another go after a few months, because I’m literally fed up of knowing this site exists with nothing appearing on it.

Autistic Burnout is an idea I came across from other autistic writers, and just dipping into social media when I can cope with it. A particularly good overview was written by the Autistic Advocate (An Autistic Burnout) a couple of years ago, and I’m referring to that because I don’t want to offer another basic description – this is a personal expression of it. One of the most important points from that article is that Burnout is distinct from depression, which can be a powerful mental tool in avoiding depression.

My experience is of a chronic, low level burnout, rather than regular and potentially explosive meltdowns. I don’t have very long lived manic phases because the creeping feeling of weariness kicks in before I can have a serious crash. This may mean that I have learned a better cycle of regulation where I don’t push myself past the point of no return. My life now enables me to drop certain pressures that I have had in the past, such as those from a relationship, or internalised feelings that I “need” to be organised or tidy, or have houses like other people with rooms used in the traditional ways.

Burnout is usually related to having to work full time as a single parent, and this is kept going by giving myself a break from expectations that I “should” keep things clean and tidy all the time. I have seen a number of times when I’ve had longer breaks from work, that after several days motivation comes back to tackle some of the basic jobs that have been left for months.

Before knowing about burnout, I was usually burned out and depressed and highly anxious from feeling inadequate all at the same time. When you can realise that burnout isn’t your fault and comes from a cumulation of mental demands (including chronic sensory overload), you can gradually move away from blaming yourself for not doing more. It took me a lot of introspection time over a few years but I can avoid serious depressive phases reliably now. It’s just a shame that I am not sure I could show anyone how it works.

The application of self-kindness is essential to managing times when you can’t do much of anything and you need to not attack yourself for something you can’t just get past by “pulling yourself together” or some other trite piece of advice that is no use.

It is invaluable to be able to avoid serious depression, but it can’t necessarily remove feelings of frustration, disappointment and even hopelessness about being able to do more than merely survive, often at a lower quality of life to the general population. This is compounded by having an ambition – where one of those intense interests we are known for leads to wanting to make more of it. This will happen with any human I assume, but autistic people are usually working with a large additional handicap from struggling from the basic demands of life to a greater degree.

The last post here was about conflicts of hobbies and interests, but here I’m focusing more on my interest in music, which has ambition attached to it. Secondary interests are like interruptions to this one. The ambition means that I would like to be releasing music that gets finished, and maybe derive a small additional income from it. It isn’t something ridiculous like wanting to become a multi-platinum selling artist, giving myself something most likely unattainable so I can get really disappointed about not achieving it.

It won’t be uncommon that people will have dabbled in something for 20 years and not have a great deal to show for it. Sometimes a hobby is fine and the process of doing something creative for a bit is enough. When you throw in the intense longing to actually be finishing works this will hover around at the back of your mind.

When you deal with burnout cycles there is often a very big barrier to engaging with the interest that has an ambition attached to it. It seems that I often have ideas of planning to engage in music after work, say, and after taking care of children, but by the time there is an opportunity I’ll be struggling against a fog of Resistance that is more than procrastination or typical levels of tiredness.

I’m using Resistance in the sense that author Stephen Pressfield describes in The War of Art, which will probably come up a lot when people talk about creative blocks. Usually the problem is failing to take any time for your interest because you “don’t feel like it” or you think you’ll do it another day when you feel better, or getting distracted by watching a video about your interest instead of doing anything. This is all general procrastination that affects all people.

So an Autistic person is likely to have typical levels of Resistance, plus a large helping of burnout if other demands are sapping a great deal of energy. I haven’t even covered the difficulties presented by ADD traits or Inertia – which autistic people can report as a complete barrier to doing anything, even if you can visualise what you need to do. I’ve often wished I could telepathically make things happen because I’m sitting unable, apparently, to take a small action to do the first thing. There is also the perception that because the organisation and focus problems affect life in general, the drain from having a job and everything else becomes more than it should be.

Although I can keep depression from developing, all of this creates a chronic feeling of frustration and disappointment, and when I have to give up and crash in front of something passive, I feel like I’m letting myself off too much – even if I am concerned that pushing too much will result in dropping to even lower motivation – the state of feeling there is no way beyond trying to get through the next day.

Nothing I’ve written so far is going to be unfamiliar to an Autistic person with a strong creative ambition that never seems to go anywhere. Incidentally if you’re reading this and you’re an Autistic person who is successful at their creative ambition you can tell me how you managed it…

At the point I am now, I have only got as far as recognising that self-kindness has to be balanced with some harder internal “get on with it” exhortations. There is a kindness where you treat yourself too much like a small child and remove all demands. Where I’ve done that too much and taken it easy every day in the hope of recovering energy, I have ended up with that guilty feeling of disappointment and frustration with myself.

Over time I have also realised that I won’t likely achieve some goal of “feeling great” every day where everything is totally clear and I feel completely unimpeded. There is an element of consistent stubbornness involved, which is in fact an autistic trait at the same time – often misdirected at the wrong goals – stubbornly trying to get approval from the wrong people for example – when that stubbornness could be applied to a genuine ambition. An analogy I’ve heard is with the athlete continuing despite experiencing pain – something I came across years ago from Pressfield again in Playing Hurt. Annoyingly I notice that it’s from nine years ago.

The act of creation, particularly self-creation, is messy. It hurts. It’s terrifying.

But panic, self-doubt, claustrophobia, morbid dread, and all the classic “all is lost” symptoms are good, even if they scare the bejesus out of us while we’re experiencing them. They’re good because they are the product of being in over our heads—and being in over our heads makes us stretch and grow.

That phrase “in over our heads” – for Autistic people this can be a permanent state before even getting to creativity. I can be struggling with remembering to eat, or wash, or thinking about what to eat for dinner or having to call someone to fix a problem with my utility bill because the website that is supposed to work doesn’t.

But the overall idea holds – and it means that when an Autistic person has got over all the additional challenges and drains of the world, the achievement is arguably greater even if the results on any particular day are disappointing.

Perhaps the trick is to remember through the burnout fog that there is greater satisfaction on the other side of engaging in that creative interest, even if I can’t say I’m excited to get on with it or overflowing with inspiration. It may be emotional confusion (Alexithymia) meaning I can’t detect that I am enthusiastic because it’s masked by unusually high anxiety.

There isn’t an easy answer. I still don’t know how to keep a sustainable routine of activity. What these ideas do up to this point is allow me to consider the low level challenges to be important – not the details of technique and how to create, but finding a way to do something without pressuring myself into burnout or letting myself off entirely because neither of these options will work for me.

Conflict of (intense) interest

I liked the title I came up with for this, yet I started with using the qualifier “special”. After I briefly searched for other references for “autistic special interest” I found it must have come from a non-autistic source. Cynthia Kim wrote a post about it, starting off with

First, I need to say that I hate the phrase “special interest.” It sounds demeaning or patronizing. All I can think of is a doddering old great aunt looking over my shoulder at my stamp collection and saying, “well, isn’t that special.”

In some cases I think it’s referred to like every autistic person has a particular “special interest”, and that’s usually something related to obsessive cataloguing of something, or absorbing information for its own sake just to annoy others with endless monologues.

A better way of looking at it, for me, is that I’m compelled to go into more detail than a typical person might on any subject, and there are far fewer wider, peripheral interests, or interests that are seen as typical so they don’t seem like interests at all. These are things like cooking, home improvement, clothing and appearance, jogging, cycling. I have a fairly tenuous connection to conventional interests like these, and they will often be so uninteresting that I could be accused of not looking after myself if I’m wearing faded clothes that are coming apart.

I don’t even know if any of the literature on intense interests in autistic people really does more than look at interests that cause conventional people to consider it “odd”.

I have major and transitory interests, where the transitory interests can be just as intense as my long running ones, but may only appear once or occasionally.

The major interests have been around for a long time, and will return as near obsessions when I don’t particularly want to do anything else for weeks. These aren’t necessarily consistent, and I am usually frustrated when they drop away for some reason.

Music (listening and creating) has been there as long as I can remember, as well as computing and video games. Yet either of these can drop out entirely for weeks or months. Dropping out of trying to play or create music causes me the most disappointment because I feel I keep repeating the same learning process because the lapse has led to knowledge being buried in a less accessible part of memory.

Transitory ones sprout up and lead to temporary consuming interests that tend to disrupt the major ones that I would have preferred to maintain regularly without being hijacked.

Usually when I do have a consuming interest, whatever it is, it is enjoyable, but retrospectively I’ll look at lost time for interests where I have an ambition to improve and feel annoyed that something random dropped in. It can seem depressing that focus is elusive, and it’s something I’ve always experienced.

So many things look tantalising or interesting.

Japanese calligraphy became appealing at one point when I attempted to learn some Japanese – after an intense Anime watching phase. It was a good activity for clearing the mind, but the materials are currently idle on a shelf. 

At another point I was so consumed with learning woodwork that I acquired many tools and ended up turning my kitchen into a workshop. I don’t recommend using a bench grinder in the kitchen to sharpen chisels, but any interest in having a clear kitchen had been overridden, even if I found it inconvenient.

I once got a textbook on Geology out of the library and read it through in a few days, but I was hardly interested in much else for the duration.

Learning can be immensely enjoyable but I have ended up in states where I’m compulsively reading to “get something out of the way” so I can leave it an move on to something I actually wanted to do. My brain has stopped comprehending what I’m reading and I’m scanning words. It’s possible the meaning went in to surface later, but the immediate experience is not enjoyable.

It’s similar to compulsively working “in the zone” to solve a problem but you’ve actually spent a long time going in circles when a break would have allowed you to hit on the right solution.

When I get distracted by one interest for days and it pushes out most of everything else I end up weary of it and wish I had balanced it with something else. It’s possible I’m getting better at seeing when compulsion has taken over as I get older, but I am no more organised or consistent.

I never forget that I want to keep writing for this blog, and I’ll note things down fairly regularly, but if I’ve become engrossed by a video game it will seem almost impossible to even plan to spend 5 minutes doing any writing. Writing this now is not by any sort of plan, it’s just happening at this point.

What I might be talking about is the difference between what is an enjoyable hobby and a creative ambition. Music wants to turn into something where I can see some result, like having actually finished a piece, and simply playing about doesn’t seem satisfying enough. This can be counterproductive and lead to motivation disappearing.

What’s in play is some executive function and organisation problems, hyperfocus leading to getting stuck in a loop, and demand avoidance thwarting any kind of plan, because I have no idea if I can do the thing I want to do at a time I’ve allocated.

There’s no obvious answer for me, but the best thing I’ve identified is having my living space oriented towards my interest, so my music equipment is prominent in the living room so there is a minimal barrier to at least playing on the keyboard. I have guitars that were shut away in a cupboard, but they are now always available to pick up.

This could work for other things I want to do – if I wanted to resume calligraphy it might be possible to leave that out on a table. The ideal seems to be to have a huge room where everything can be started without a load of set up time or planning.

I’m wondering if that’s what other people with similar struggles to me have done.

Dehumanising Autistic people in academia

An article here from The Autistic Advocate looking at dehumanising language used by people who are supposedly trying to help us, yet it looks like we’re being studied like advanced primates.

The main purpose of the article is to publish a letter by Dr. Sophie Vivian, who wrote a letter to Kings College London attempting to counter the dehumanising language she found in old research that is still studied in relation to Autism.

Dr Vivian has often been horrified by the way that her Lecturers and the course material dismissed, stygmatised and dehumanised the very people they were studying and at points, whilst offering definitions of what makes Humans, Humans, actively excluded groups of people (including Autistic people) because of what they considered deficits, often based on very outdated and antiquated notions, that have long since been moved on from and re-understood.

People such as her can hopefully make some difference to how things are expressed, but the reference to where all the money goes is revealing, as that shows who the research may be actually for.

Most of the government money is funnelled into biology research, which I suspect is “cool” and high profile, leads to expensive equipment acquisition and I’d be surprised if there weren’t some pharmaceutical companies in there searching for new drugs to sell as “treatment”.

Support services are relatively unexciting and won’t lead to awards or status within academia.

This likely isn’t an aspect of academic research unique to the study of Autism. Even if money comes from “public” funds it is quite likely that private interests are pulling the strings…

How are you?

It’s a phrase that people say all the time, and answer with the standard response of their choice with varying levels of apparent honesty. Good enough, ok, fine, very well, fantastic. The response is usually related to the person’s personality.

It sounds very simple, but this question is often highly grating to autistic people on a fundamental level. Those in the neuromajority will uncritically accept this conventional exchange of words and accept it’s “just what you do” – despite knowing that the question is not asked expecting an honest answer.

I’m one of the autistics who will always be annoyed by it, and I realise there are two main reasons.

I’m wired for literal meanings, and a lifetime of dealing with people generally not saying what they mean has left me confused and eventually cynical. The “How are you?” social handshake is sitting at the bottom of that edifice of misdirection. My mind just asks why this convention is maintained when it is completely redundant in terms of information, and adds nothing beyond “hello”.

As a compromise between actually describing how I am at length or saying something short but technically untrue I might say “tired” or “ok” if I’m close enough. I’m never quite sure if my evasions or failing to come back with “and you?” come off as vaguely rude.

Perhaps at its mildest it’s a chore like cleaning the kitchen – vaguely unpleasant but generally necessary, and resulting in less satisfaction than having a clean kitchen afterwards.

There is likely and element of these rituals having to be negotiated in a state of severe spoon (energy) deprivation and there is something more pressing in mind than dealing with a verbal handshake.

Will it always be resisted internally or can I learn to say something like “good enough” without thinking about it every time? I don’t know, but for the time being – unless someone asks me the question and I know they really want to know – it will keep setting off a short moment of conflict where I wonder about saying something real or not.

Accepting my actual relationship with social media

One of the few posts I’ve written so far was talking about how I hoped to have a kind of balanced social media participation – which for me also includes online forums, or at least the one that I bother to go back to periodically. Somewhat like this blog at the moment, so I’m just writing stuff and hoping it’s interesting…

I had hoped that finding autistic groups would make it easier to stay engaged and interested in interactions in general, just because I would be interacting with people with similar traits to myself. What I have learned is that my essential capacity for interactions is the important factor. This is something that hasn’t changed even if the way I use social media has.

Since I have had regular access to the internet, there was one forum that I kept going back to, and it has been the only forum I have sustained any presence on where I’m actually recognised as part of the community. On the other hand, I have always forgotten to check it for long periods, return for a bit and then leave it again.

The same thing happens with Facebook. I can log in, have a pleasant time making a few posts or reading what is in a few groups, remember that it does make a difference to check in with some similar people, and wonder why I keep forgetting to visit again. Yet the truth remains that I do stop looking at it for various reasons.

Firstly there is a problem with the site layout being somewhat wearing to focus on key content, and not ads, unhelpful friend recommendations which are likely to be people you don’t know keep turning up. There are browser plugins to help here but only so much. I’m also a little nervous about Facebook as a company holding huge amounts of my data.

There is also always overload. There is too much going on and I can’t process it all, and I get weary after half an hour. What I feel is being drawn into an manipulated by a thing that’s trying to suck in my attention.

Facebook has come off my phone because it becomes a distraction. I’ll be checking it too often and finding I’ve accidentally spent 20 minutes looking at posts or spending way to long replying to something. Then I remember what the site does – it uses people’s drive to find connection to push advertising.

I find myself wishing for another platform with no crap and focused on connection primarily, as opposed to promotion of business or music acts or something else.

The overwhelm builds up and then I put it out of my mind. I also find it hard to get much from reacting to memes and posts with a lot of “OMG me too!!!” responses. I’m not knocking the value others might get from this, but for me it ends up being empty. It could be because I’m a bit of a grumpy cynic a lot of the time, or I’m actually not hugely social.

That is a fairly obvious conclusion – I get some occasional positive benefit from social media as I do in real life with the time I spend with family or close friends. Fundamentally I’m not particularly sociable or particularly interested in sharing everything straight away.

This is perfectly fine. I’ve learned that within the group of autistic people there are many levels of sociability. Some of us have a special interest in people and sharing many details of our experience. There are also many of us somewhat on the edges of social media with a bit of an awkward relationship with it, or we don’t need it so much and the sheer volume of data causes us to bounce off it.

I think it’s enough to know it’s there and I can find people who are pleased to hear something from me or see me pop in. It’s how I get the most from it, without it becoming a burden to try and keep up with everything.