***We interrupt our regular programming to bring you the following public service announcement.***
I’ve seen a lot of tweets recently from autistic people worrying about where they are going to go if everyone deserts Twitter. And I thought I should probably let you know, dear reader, where I hang out. Since if I feel like I fit in there, which is so rare, you might want to know.
I’m a Redditor these days, and have been for a while now. I mostly hang out on r/AutismInWomen, with occasional forays into r/autism. As the name suggests r/AutismInWomen is for autistic women. It’s been mind-blowing interacting on this subreddit, I’ve felt accepted and understood there in a way that I have never felt before. Which is heartbreakingly sad, given that I’m 46, but never mind, hey. That’s my lot in life.
To explain what I mean, let me tell you a story.
A year or so a stranger invited me to connect on LinkedIn. I accepted because she works in publishing, as a freelancer I’m pretty used to accepting connections from people I’ve never met – it normally means I’ve got a job offer about to hit my inbox. She said she’d seen a photograph of me in her copy of PhysicsWorld magazine and decided to look me up. A quick google confirmed that I was a fellow physics editor and fellow CIEP member, but when she searched for me on the CIEP forums she was surprised to not find me there. She asked if I would like to join. No, is the short answer.
Autism causes social communication difficulties. That’s basically the definition. And I gave up on internet forums years ago. For example, there was a forum for women set up by a major British retailer in the late nineties I used to hang out on for a while. But it was only a matter of time before I’d be my normal autistic self and blunder into a conversation and say something too bluntly or the wrong way or try to be helpful when they just wanted to vent. I got called a lot of hurtful names. For someone who was only hanging out in those spaces because she struggled to make friends the “normal” way it wasn’t worth the pain. I’d rather be alone and lonely in both real-life and online.
And r/AutismInWomen is the opposite. I can be me and no one calls me a troll. In fact, even the neurotypicals who wander in for advice about dealing with the autistic women in their lives thank me for my wisdom and upvote me. It’s been a revelation to me to not be shunned and ostracised. And it basically confirms to me that I really am not neurotypical.