On the internet I am gifted peace to take time to understand conversations. Without the worry of looking ‘dull’ or ‘slow’.
I used to feel guilty for not participating ‘enough’ in conversations online and out and about. Occasionally growing up, while with a group of girls, I heard “She’s just standing there watching us” being whispered.
That horror and distrust, combined with humiliation heaped upon me is no doubt why I started to mask my Autism and social difficulties.
I learned to act in certain ways (for instance cheerful and shallow) while not letting on how little or how much I knew about the people around me.
Lurking & Observing
I am a member of a number of forums and Facebook groups. My topics of interest are writing, true crime and Autism.
It doesn’t matter if I’m sitting there watching social media threads. There’s even a word for it. Lurking.
There is no need to respond to someone straight away. I can read through a few comments. Notice patterns in the general tone of replies. Notice which topics people are and aren’t raising.
I sometimes see replies that mirror my initial drafted messages. Reading them as an observer I can see how and why they look out of place.
I have time to speak. Without people laughing at me because I contributed too late.
Instead I’ll be speaking to people who understand the possible importance of what I just said. Who don’t move on with another topic. Who let me have time to think. Who don’t mind my days or week late replies.
Expanding Friendship Circles
What I’ve been looking for are groups and people in my specific areas of interest. Not just that, but with qualities that I admire.
I’m in a few writers groups on Facebook. The fun and lets see what happens groups, I rarely participate in. The groups where writers are vulnerable and share how-to articles and quality suggestions – they’re visited a few days a week.
My Safety Net
It started by joining a Facebook group for women on the Spectrum. This was the first group that I joined that I was very interested in. Slow cooker recipes are pretty cool, but the conversations don’t exactly go deep into the human psyche. For years I craved conversations that others would call ‘intense’ or ‘deep’.
This group seemed to regard deep conversations as a normal thing in life.
Just by joining, with the safety net of my neuro-diverse tribe, over time I’ve become more and more socially active online.
Its way more peaceful to allow myself to observe threads in groups and on twitter until I know what to say.
Thankful For My Diagnosis
This comfort is slowly translating itself to conversations offline.
I am glad that I know that I have Autism. Now I can make sense of why I need to observe people in conversations.
Now I can understand why sometimes I feel uncomfortable or anxious. Why I oscillate between those and feeling comfortable.
I have freed myself to observe and understand conversational patterns.
If you would like advance notice of my blog posts and books, please join my email list.