So, every now and then, I’m reminded about how the “autistic community” can be pretty cold and alienating. It can be clique-y. It can push the “uncool kids” to the margins. It can punish those who fail to pass the purity tests. Every now and then, I’m reminded yet again, that the fabled “autistic community” is just that – a fable.
The other day, an autistic individual I follow on Twitter posted something that I found sort of funny, and I responded with an image that seemed to address (in an absurd way) their observation.
Most people I encounter on Twitter are pretty good sports. Even if they don’t find my tweets hilarious (tho’ they often do, and why wouldn’t they? I can be truly hilarious, plus I’m fun and a little offbeat in a refreshing sort of way), at the very least, they click the little “heart thingie” and we all move on.
But with this one autistic individual (and others they are ostensibly good friends with), I got nothing. Crickets. No response. No recognition. Who knows if they even saw it?
Well, whatever. It’s not like I live and die by whether someone likes what I post or tweet or whatever. It’s not like my life revolves around being recognized by this individual – or any other individual, for that matter. I’m autistic. I’m fine on my own.
But we have these little rules about basic online civility that don’t seem to matter much, at times, with some of the people I follow. And I get a distinct “ew! get away from me” vibe from it, like I’m intruding on their timeline or feed or whatever. I’m not invited to the conversation, and they’re not going to encourage me.
It’s not just this one person. It’s others who I know are in their close circle. They’re buddies. And I think they’ve decided they don’t like me. Which is fine. But it’s also surprising, seeing as these are middle-aged adult-like individuals who should really know better about just observing a modicum of civility. Even disingenuous responses help grease the social machinery. And since I know they grew up in “polite company”, I know for a fact, they’re capable of it.
They’ve just decided not to do it with me.
Another autistic researcher whose work I really, really respect, has seen fit to be outright rude to me, when I was actually complementing them on their work. I was literally going out of my way to be supportive, when they were catching all sorts of shit from others about work they’d done which was actually really good.
But no. They didn’t want to hear from me. Smackdown. How rude. I mean, it’s one thing to not understand the bare essentials of politeness, but I’ve seen that person be polite to other people, so I know it can be done. By them.
They just decided not to do it with me.
And then there’s that other really, really prominent autistic activist who attacked me, early one Monday morning, because I’d done something they didn’t agree with at all. Accusations were made. I explained my position and told them no offense was ever intended. But it just seemed to enrage them all the more. Long story short, I lost a halfway decent Monday morning to being unreasonably preoccupied by something I thought I’d done wrong. Logic prevailed, eventually, and I realized that I literally had done nothing untoward, but they were having a bad day and didn’t realize that the thing(s) they were accusing me of…. frankly, I actually didn’t do.
I’m more than happy to take responsibility for stuff I’ve done wrong. I apologize several times a day, minimum, for my screw-ups. But when other people come after me — deliberately, malevolently, with an actual desire to harm me in ways they think I harmed them — yeah, that’s where I draw the line.
I wish I could be the bigger person and cut them some slack, because I do believe they do good work, and they’ve contributed a whole lot to people’s understandings about autistic experience. But no. It’s not gonna happen. I still get shaky, thinking about it. And the last thing I want to do, is be anywhere near that person or their work or hear their name.
Now, I totally get that we autistic folks have a different way of socializing. But sorry (not sorry), being outright rude and obnoxious to others, treating them unkindly, ignoring them, freezing them out, and just being nasty about it… that’s something different. That’s not just a maturity thing. That’s a character thing. And I know for a fact, based on the many autistic people I know, that we are not innately deficient in character, just ’cause we’re on the spectrum.
Sometimes shitty behavior is a choice.
Time to go unfollow some people on Twitter.