Growing up there was nothing I wanted more in this world than for people to see me for exactly who I am, and like me for it. I drive myself mad looking for this, because identity is unstable. People change as they get older through a combination of experience, genetic predispositions, and neuroplasticity. Aspergers is one fickle diagnoses, mainly because it is susceptible to all kinds of misinterpretation.
And then this miraculous invention called Facebook came out.

Alix Generous

I joined Facebook in 2006 when it was still a relatively small community. One thing I loved about Facebook is that the social norms were different from in-person interaction, and often times made things easier on me. I can connect with people and not be criticized for my lack of eye contact or vocal tone.

I can filter my blunt comments, and assess my honesty before I say anything. Additionally, I can access hundreds of people within minutes who share my obscure interests, like Russian history or Phantom of the Opera. I think some of the first groups I joined were “addicted to piano,” and “when I was your age Pluto was a planet.” I had lived in 3 states and 2 countries at that point, and I could keep in touch with all of my friends from around the world.
Nowadays it seems like everyone I know is on Facebook and as a result, I have to keep my freak flag on a leash. Both of my grandmas are now on Facebook, and one of them said to me: “You better watch what you post because it might come back to bite you.”

What does that even mean? Do you even know how to use Facebook grandma? Turns out she did and also learned how to use an iPad way before I’d even seen one. To give you an idea of some of the posts my grandma was referring to, here is an example:

Dear girl who cheated off my exam today,
You’re a jerk.
Unfortunately for you, So am I. I put all the wrong answers in for you to copy and waited until you left to put the right ones in. It’s called studying.
Your passive aggressive classmate, Alix
I think social media’s impact on how we incorporate technology in our daily lives can condition us to display Asperger-type symptoms, the kind that my social skills training and family taught me not to do. Growing up my mom taught me to never use my cell phone at the table. To this day I never pull out my cell phone at a nice restaurant, even when asked to. Now when my friends and I go out, one is Instagramming their cocktail, the other answering a text from her husband, etc.
I don’t meet very many people my age who impress me with their ability to hold down a sincere conversation. I went to a youth group activity that was a meet and greet for young adults.  I knew absolutely no one. I turned to this guy next to me and asked casually “What’s your name?”. He responded with one word “Martin,” and didn’t even look me in the eye, but instead was looking down at his phone where he had Facebook open.
I was talking to a CEO who runs a prominent company, he told me that when he hires graduates he looks for people who can look him in the eye,  shake his hand, and carry on a conversation on top of meeting a few of the skills that would contribute to his company (e.g. using a computer program, or proficiency in Spanish, etc). He looks for people who have complex analytical skills or specialize in mastering one area. He could care less about the transcripts or grade point average of our degree.
There is hope for us with autism and there is a reason we should constantly strive to improve our social skills on top of pursuing our interests, because there are people who appreciate us for who we are and what we have. But in order to bridge that gap, we must have those social skills, even if Facebook and other social media is degrading the quality of interactions we have with people in person.
By Alix Generous
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  1. I am interested in learning about Autism and the negative effects social media has on individuals with Autism. Also, I am in the process of conducting a research project about Autism and the negative effects of social media because even though it seems that there are a lot of individuals with Autism who know how to use computers and are the ones people call techies, there are also quite a few individuals with Autism and Asperger’s who do not quite get the whole concept of using such social media platforms as Facebook, Twitter, etc. I hope to get as much as I can out of this research project so that more people will want to conduct research similar to what I am doing. After all, knowledge is power!

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  3. As another Aspergers101 writer, let me tell you how much I enjoyed this column. Social media and today’s technology can be both a help and a hindrance in communication. I’m realizing your generation has challenges and issues I didn’t have to face. For instance, you mentioned how you were taught never to take out your cell phone at the table. When I was growing up, there was no such thing as cell phones, and we weren’t tempted to check Facebook every 15 minutes, mainly because it didn’t exist.

    Your grandma is right when she tells you to watch what you post. While Facebook has made it easier for me to keep in touch with friends and relatives, it has gotten me in trouble a time or two as well. As Aspies, we have a hard time with “unwritten rules” of social behavior, and social media has opened up a whole new can of worms (I suppose I should go easy on the figures of speech), and rules are even less defined than other rules of social protocol.

    Again, very informative column, and I look forward to more of your blogs.

  4. Hey! This is kind of off topic but I need some guidance from an established blog. Is it difficult to set up your own blog? I’m not very techincal but I can figure things out pretty quick. I’m thinking about creating my own but I’m not sure where to begin. Do you have any tips or suggestions? Thanks

    1. It’s easy with the right format! Though I’m more about content than tech-savvy….I love wordpress (so easy to navigate) and specfically a Get Notice Theme (great for blogs) from Michael Hyatt. Here is a direct link to learn more if this is right for you.
      Thanks, Jennifer Allen

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