Previously titled “Facebook Detoxes, Autism Acceptance, & Letting Go.”
Every once in awhile, I like to do a Facebook detox for several months.
When I stop using Facebook, it’s not because of other people, so much as listening to my gut to keep my social anxiety, depression, and panic attacks under control.
But it’s complicated, since other people trigger social anxiety, which snowballs into everything else. So I’ve got external aggravation, input into me, becoming my problem to fix—forever.
It’s not like micro-aggressions are going to stop.
Forever is hard to hold in two hands.
Who’s responsible for these micro-aggressions?
As a lifestyle, I have to clean up internalized oppression, while wearing a body that says I shouldn’t have this problem.
As a daily practice, I have to battle myths like “high-function autism,” and the autism gender biases, all while will-powering through non-stop fight-flight issues.
That pretty much defines micro-aggression. All those pins and needles, straws on the camel’s back—it’s micro, yet it adds up.
I never hold resentment towards any person(s) when I withdraw socially, so much as my gut keeps a tally on all the straws on my back, (because no one else is even remotely aware of those straws,) and the invisible challenges I face—of which there are many, whether you want to think there are or not—until eventually I crack, then I got to go, because it’s not like the straws will stop.
Aside: “Whether you want to think there are or not…”
If you have a family member who has autism, and you tell them either (a) to their face, or (b) behind their back, “You don’t have autism,” just stop.
I’ll keep trying to word this in a way that should elicit empathy, and not negative feelings, even though I know misinterpretation is inevitable.
I think even the most well-meaning non-autistic people say micro-aggressive things that, if you were autistic, you would see are harmful.
I think even the most WELL-MEANING NON-AUTISTIC PAY say micro-aggressive things that, IF YOU WERE AUTISTIC, YOU WOULD SEE ARE HARMFUL.
…Sorry not sorry about the yelling.
Honestly though, not trying to stir negative feelings.
Rather, I’m trying to make you wonder why I ought to yell.
BECAUSE OF THE MICRO-AGGRESSIONS. THEY DON’T STOP AND IT SUCKS.
For instance, you might catch yourself saying harmful things like:
- “You should say ‘person with autism’ instead of ‘autistic person.'”
- “I just don’t think you should limit yourself to a label.”
- “But you aren’t, like, very autistic, right? You’re just a little autistic.”
I don’t want to explain why these are harmful, at least not in this blog post. I’ve gone over it in previous blog posts, and I’ll continue to regurgitate my thoughts about this space in future blog posts, because it’s still terrain I feel I need to explore—just not right here, right now.
If you need answers right here, right now, feel free to copy-paste any of those bullet points into Google. Then go on a Googly adventure.
You are responsible for learning what’s aggressive vs. non-aggressive, but not because I told you so.
It’s going to get a little more ranty now. I won’t yell anymore, though?
To say no one holds responsibility for these micro-aggressions is inaccurate.
To say it’s on the autistic person to adapt is inaccurate.
You should feel responsible to learn about the world and the people in it. We all hold responsibility to understand our blind spots in how we treat people. You should feel responsible—not the autistic person crying foul, and not “society in general.”
But you shouldn’t feel responsible because I told you so.
After all, no one specific person is the lamb for the rest.
The individual responsibility is also a collective one.
So how could I tell you so? You, the individual?
You should read about autism, and culture, and different religions, and gender, and how to take care of the planet, and so should your neighbors, and none of you should point (or think we’re pointing) when you don’t,…because it’s not a guilt trip, it’s not a blame game, it’s not an individual-based issue…we just need so to have conversations about why we don’t pursue awareness more, like the conversations I try to (gently, gently) unravel on this blog, and we need to do it collectively, without coming up with individual reasons why we aren’t a part of it.
You should either be doing the research, or asking yourself why you’re not, and you should do this as part of your collective stakes, not because me or your mom or any other person on this planet said to do it.
You are responsible as an ethical obligation.
You should learn more about your neighbors as an ethical obligation.
Because you’re human.
Because you have a moral compass.
Because who’s gonna check your moral compass if you aren’t doing it?
I should be doing the research, and I do it most every day, because when I ask myself why I’m not, I don’t have an answer. Collectively, I don’t think we have an excuse or answer for the dismissiveness we’ve applied to autism—and every other group that suffers from lack of awareness from the collection—and individually, we should hold ourselves accountable for this issue (but not necessarily hold our neighbors accountable… just you, holding you to the magnifying glass: focusing on your personal growth, because you can, because you should, because you know you should).
Aside: Blog Conversation vs. Verbal Conversation
Of course, in a blog, I’m only talking to myself (unless someone leaves a comment,) but this still feels like an engaged conversation because I’m talking to myself in a public space, which means people could comment on it, and people won’t interrupt me, put words in my mouth—or they might try, except my opinion is plainly right here.
I realize the limitations of unpacking conversations in blogospheres.
I also realize the danger of conversations becoming “permanent” on the Internet, instead of our society giving less weight to depreciating opinions.
Yet I also think blogs are quite enabling, especially for those of us who have social anxiety now because of gaslighting from back then.
How else do we get our opinions across?
It’s not like we were ever allowed to do it verbally.
Anyway, to put my frustration with autism awareness (and all forms of awareness) another way, if the “because ethics tells you to” argument doesn’t work for you:
You benefit from our contributions to culture; so why aren’t we included in that culture more?
I think the onus is on every person to read about autism, since we make up 1-3% of society, and you benefit from technology developed by this very vulnerable population—ex., if you’re on Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook (which is a whole different mess that, again, I’m not going to address right now, but in the future, yeah, maybe, sure)—but I also think every autistic person should learn how to handle their co-morbid disorders based on a lifetime of being exposed to these emotional and psychological toxins, because what other choice is there but to adapt to the world presented before all of us?
And who are we to point and demand?
Not that we should have to point and demand.
If all of us followed our moral compasses all the time, adaptation wouldn’t be on the table here. And yet it is. We have no choice. This also means we aren’t responsible if we fail to adapt, because what other choice were we given that allowed “responsibility” to join the party? Can you be responsible for getting a multiple-choice problem wrong when you were only offered (a) adapt as an option?
It’s a matter of idealism vs. “being real,” without “being real” compromising my well-being anymore than it has to be, nor without it destroying my belief that it’s ultimately on you (and all of us) to properly exercise our free will to learn about experiences outside of ours.
I think the world would be a better place if we practiced empathy to marginalized groups in general, and learned about one another—and make no mistake, autistic people are on the bottom of this barrel, or we would not suffer a 10% suicide rate—thus my ongoing urgency, my need to suggest awareness, even though it’s never an expectation, nor a place to foster resentment that could sour between me and any specific person.
I don’t think autistic people should have to adapt as much as we do. All this internal balancing and adaptation, I’m sure you can tell, is an exhausting psychological process, maybe even the root of the anxiety and/or depression itself, and if shit was done right, autistic people wouldn’t end up in this space as often as we do.
Yet I don’t think this “better world” is a world I will see, because I don’t think enough people will see this as I do; and I don’t think I would want a world that allowed this to be different, unless it was different because people willingly decided it should be so, except people won’t decide that, etc. etc.
Welcome to my headache!
Let me try again…
More people want to erase autism than understand it. And even if people decided they wanted to understand autism, neurodiversity just doesn’t have the momentum. We will remain at a high risk for anxiety, depression, and suicide for a long time, because society’s structured in a way that slants that direction, and even small re-structures are difficult.
Knowing this, I have a deep well of tolerance for micro-aggressions, at least when it comes to individual relationships. It’s like the exposure kills me over the long haul, yet the resentment towards any one person evaporates, if it was ever there at all. I don’t struggle with letting go so much as endurance. I know I fight a losing fight, but I want to fight the long fight, so by necessity, I can’t take much more baggage with me (In still unpacking childhood issues for heaven’s sake!).
And Facebook can be serious wear-and-tear on endurance. It can invite you to check in some baggage. It can make the fight for awareness and acceptance—yes, it’s really just about wanting acceptance, isn’t it?—suddenly, occasionally, unbearable.
So I’ll break until summer to keep my mind and heart on learning and teaching—a wholesome detox from this Facebook thing.
And then I’ll go back.
Curiosity killed the cat and the cat lady. I’ll feel better one summer morning, then wonder, “What memes am I missing?”
First draft published 1-25-19. Edited 2-13-19. Reason for edit: I committed to updating each of my current projects every 2-3 days, with the caveat that updates did not preclude new content. So today’s update, I’m just applying polish to this post. Thanks for visiting!
Kourtnie has an MFA in Creative Writing from CSU Fresno and a BA in English from CSU Fullerton. When she isn't writing or making art, she's moonlighting as a professor at community colleges. Read her writing at Kourtnie.net or Wattpad.com/user/KourtnieNet.