I witnessed a brilliant thread on Twitter today. Well, I should say, half a thread. It ended prematurely. I was immediately intrigued, and read each tweet that followed. When I do this, I visualize people having a conversation in a more physical sense. I read slowly, which can make a Twitter flyby a bit frustrating. I’m getting better at isolating a tweet before liking or retweeting it. I used to click ‘like’ first, then ‘retweet’. Big mistake. Don’t try this at home. If the tweet is not too offensive to show to the person you most admire, then it’s okay to retweet. (If I can stomach showing it to Michelle Obama, then it’s okay to retweet.) But always retweet first, that way if your timeline refreshes, you can easily locate it again at the top of your refreshed timeline. You’re welcome.
So anyway, back from my tangent. It was obvious to me that most of the people participating in the thread were on flybys, and not sitting at a computer, tweeting during an allotted time on their schedule. One mentioned being mobile, and regretting not having easy access to information. So in my visualization, most of them weren’t giving it their full attention. They were reading, but not as if they knew they’d be tested on it later. This, I believe, is how most people read Twitter. While distracted. Between scheduled activities. I allude to making Twitter flybys, but in my case, it means I’m seated with the laptop I use for accessing the internet, trying to keep up.
I suspect it’s because I’m autistic. I miss a lot. When I first began, I felt obligated to read every tweet by everyone I followed. That was easy initially, because I barely had any followers. I suppose that’s why I assumed it was the rule, but as I gained more followers, and began participating as well as reading, this became too time consuming and emotionally draining. I realized it was fine to only read the tweets that were in my timeline at the time I allotted for Twitter. If someone wanted me to see something, they knew how to get my attention. I was slow to catch on to a lot of social rules on Twitter, and probably have a way to go yet. Fortunately, about 1500 people have decided to tolerate my learning curve for about a year now. It’s fascinating.
When I say it’s because I’m autistic, I mean it literally. I don’t mean it as an excuse for misbehavior of which I’m unwilling to own up. I mean it as an acknowledgement that I’m aware of my differences in processing information. I mean it as an explanation of why my behavior, which to me is completely within the range of acceptability when in the company of others, may seem unacceptable to someone else. Today on Twitter, a friend mentioned being autistic when the brilliant conversation hit a wall of misunderstanding. Prior to her admission, another participant mentioned that it was easy to misread people without the benefit of tone and emotion. In my visualization of the conversation, I saw that person as empathetic. However, as soon as autism was mentioned, the conversation ended. Someone was offended, because they thought my friend was trying to weasel out of being “aggressive” by blaming it on autism.
In my visualization, I was seeing these brilliant people discussing an interesting topic, when suddenly everyone turned around and covered their ears. I know there’s a lot of false information out there regarding autism. It can be a volatile subject because it’s about humans. Some people believe autism means a lack of empathy. It’s a false stereotype. There are movies, like Ben Affleck’s latest thriller with Anna Kendrick, that center their plot on false stereotypes about neurodiverse people. I don’t hold any grudges against them for it, because that’s kind of what thrillers are. They hold a false stereotype under a magnifying glass, and use it to scare the shit out of you, because wouldn’t it be horrible if autism, (schizophrenia, bipolar, dyslexia, etc.), really was like that? Thrillers aren’t educational.
It upset me, because I wanted more information from these brilliant people, and instead, I witnessed them have their feelings hurt over a misunderstanding. I felt protective of my autistic friend, who was trying to explain that she wasn’t being “aggressive”, that’s just how she talks, and the lack of tone and emotion allowed it to read differently than she said it. She admitted being autistic, because she, too, saw them as brilliant people discussing an interesting topic, and felt safe sharing it with them, because they didn’t seem like the type of people who would attack someone for being autistic. She was right. They weren’t. She wanted to explain that it takes her a bit longer to process and then respond to the thread. I think she was going to add that it was why her language wasn’t being received as sent. She was trying to connect, and was shut down.
I’m not worried about my friend, even though I feel protective of her. She’s strong, brilliant, and capable. She’s already moved on. I’m bothered that someone left the conversation before my friend had a chance to express her thoughts. I’m bothered, because that person likely has a warped view of my friend, and the likelihood of the connection being reconstructed is slim. I guess it bothers me because I get a lot of enjoyment out of witnessing people connecting with each other, and it was about to happen, and then it didn’t. I’m disappointed. Ha! I found the word. Clearly, my time spent with wordsmiths is paying off. Muahahahaha!!!