It’s been a week since I last emailed and it feels a lifetime ago. I’ve been to Manchester for a comedy gig, had a migraine, had a Christmas Party, caught the flu, seen the new Star Wars and I’m writing this on the train to London. How was your week?
On my blog I discussed how community might help with mental health issues. I do feel that I get a boost from hanging out with people in the real world. It’s hard work for me to simply hang out with people that in doing so I feel like I’ve won a marathon at the end. I’m tired but elated. However with the release of the new Star Wars film this week I was reminded of the fact that I no longer belong to a geeky community any more. A safe space to discuss the latest episode of something. A place to bounce ideas around with friends about what might be next.
I used to be on forums where threads would be setup to discuss these things or going back further IRC channels. I know there are Facebook groups but I generally dislike Facebook and don’t wish to give it content unless absolutely necessary. It’s a shame that the easiest way to setup a community now is to create a group on there. I’m part of a real world community that meet up infrequently and because of that use Facebook to chat and become better friends. It’s like everyone wanted to go to McDonald’s but I preferred Burger King because their burgers are superior so I’m sat there being technically right and also alone. So the question there is do I suck it up and give in to Facebook?
We live in a time of Slack (IRC for creators), Discord (IRC for gamers), Microsoft Teams (IRC for offices), IRC (IRC for no-one), Twitter, WhatsApp, Signal, Telegram, Instagram, EyeEM, Flickr (Still a thing), Facebook, YouTube, Vimeo, Mastodon (Decentralised twitter), tumblr, etc. Yet I can’t find friends and community online. Is the problem choice or something simpler? Is the problem me?
It’s entirely possible the problem is not in the cloud but in myself. For a long time now I’ve held back from being myself online. Which is interesting for an autistic person. I grew up on the internet and I found a home where I could be myself. A place where I could unmask, not have social anxiety issues and be my “normal” autistic self without issue. I often said that there was an offline me and an online me. Others I met said they were the same person but I knew differently. I knew the offline me was masking to fit in to an neurotypical world even if I wasn’t aware of being autistic at the time. Unfortunately that online me was basically Sherlock from the hit TV series Sherlock. A person so sure of being technically right but also alone. I wasn’t aware of those character traits being an autistic thing. I simply saw everything logically and couldn’t understand why others didn’t see it the same way.
“...their focus, passion about certain subjects, stubbornness, and a lack of understanding of sarcasm and the unspoken rules of social interaction could all point toward to the autism spectrum.”
Of course it’s a generalisation of autism but I can identify with it.
This lead to a time where I was part of a real world community that also interacted online when we couldn’t meet. A great way to keep the conversation going. Unfortunately my Sherlockness, my desire to try and to the right thing, what I believed to be the best thing for the group wasn’t appreciated by all. There was arguments and I lost what I thought to be friends. I sank into depression. It was not a good time for me. The only logical decision was to suppress that side of me and be more withdrawn. I accept my part in those days and maybe things would have been different if I knew I was autistic and how that affected my interactions with people. After those days I decided the best way to avoid terrible depression was to mask both online and offline. In order to have better mental health I had to take a step back from being myself and from being part of communities.
Which leads me back to today where I have no place to discuss the things I love because I fear for being too myself and losing friends. So maybe the fault really isn’t in the services but in myself. I could pay $5/month to join a Slack community for a podcast network I enjoy but I dislike the idea of losing both money and new friends.
I’m not sure I really work online or offline. I do see a reflection of myself in the modern TV character of Sherlock. I would prefer to see myself more as Data but even Captain Picard told Data to shut up now and then for being too himself. So I am left trying to find balance, trying to find a place to be myself and trying to decide what myself is. Having an autism diagnosis has helped shed light on the issues but living with them on a daily basis can be hard work.
There is still time to get a print for Christmas. UK delivery deadline is 23rd Dec.
I’m giving you, dear subscriber, 25% off my print store right up to 25th Dec. So you can use it on Christmas morning if you really want to.
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The seven most terrifying Christmas traditions around the world | Life and style | The Guardian - Christmas is lots of things to lots of people. Why do we accept its dry meat and plastic boxes? Why can’t we have scary ass demons too?
Thank you for taking the time to read issue #07 of this newsletter. I’ll be back. Feel free to subscribe or send to a friend.