How social media failed to work and later started working. Hopefully…

I was unaware of social media until 2007, when a person I’d been friendly with at University who’d come over from Hong Kong invited me to this thing called Facebook, that I’d never heard before. He was one of a small number of people I had something approaching a friendship with at the time.

I got the concept of what it was, and that I could find people I knew with profiles and pictures and comments about what they were doing.

I started to see people I’d come across at university and started looking up people I’d known from school. Then as it seemed to have spread through work already I added more people. It was a bit strange for someone who was still socially isolated. I had this naive idea I could use text communication to get around my difficulty with conversation, but I soon realised the downside that social media could have for me.

For example, I found all the boys who had been the group I sort of hung around with at secondary/high school and considered friends. At the time I was aware of them having more of a social connection outside of school, but once numerous pictures came out of the woodwork of them still hanging out, pictures from each others’ weddings – you know, evidence that they still wanted each other’s company a sort of realisation dawned that actual friendship had somehow been missed.

There was also the issue that almost no-one actually thought to look me up. It was just me trying to salvage the threads of a connection I obviously never had. The only chap who did message me and say hello wasn’t even one of the people I’d regarded as a friend as such!

To be fair, they were interested in hearing from me, but even so, I could see it was on the level of “someone I used to know but wouldn’t have occurred to me to get back in touch with.

It was the same as my life in general. It makes me feel like I was a sort of ghost floating by while other people had relationships with each other. Did I really exist as an entity in the minds of people I’d thought were companions at one point?

As time went on, I’d accumulated all sorts of people on Facebook I wasn’t interested in. Just junk from people’s lives. A colleague is playing a pointless game and this happened.

I started to drop the people I knew at school. Nobody noticed. I left colleagues at work for a while because it seemed impolite to drop them, but I believe when I was made redundant from that job I was tired enough of Facebook to completely delete my account.

So starting again, a load more people were added and I still thought I could get round normal conversation using text or reacting to things on Facebook.

What the FB feed looked like was pictures of people being normal, having friends, saying hey look at me with my friend eating food! Look how fun we are! We’re enjoying being normal and social and you’re just watching through this portal.

I deleted my Facebook account twice and re-added people, removed them again. I ended up with something like 12 “friends” and never looked at the damn thing.

What’s really annoying is that after I was diagnosed as autistic, I was so triggered and annoyed by Facebook I failed to notice it had moved on to provide groups for interest and even mutual support. I could have typed “autism” or “Asperger’s” into the search field for years and uncovered an enormous community.

In late 2017 it dawned on me that I could look up specific groups for autistic people and found people like me. Unfortunately, I had a bit of a difficult start and ended up dropping it again for a few months. Overwhelmed by the amount of content, got a bit too involved with some individual’s problems and didn’t find the right groups.

However recently I went back in again and it seems to be a lot more positive.

Yet I find it interesting that I was so embedded in using Facebook as a way to bypass social difficulties in reality, I completely missed the idea that there were so many people I could engage with online. I could hop over all the NT bullshit and just engage with autistic people on our real challenges that most NT people can’t be bothered to listen to or understand.

I think what went wrong with me and social media is an indication of how stuck autistic adults can get in the pursuit of being accepted by NTs and miss opportunities to connect with the right people. There must be so many more autistic adults like me out there who haven’t had the same epiphany and are still struggling to try and work their way through NT Facebook.

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