Social media – blessing or curse?

Like many these days, I’m an unashamed social media addict. (Well just two anyway – Twitter and Facebook. I’m on Instagram too but hardly use. Snapchat, Whatsapp & others are a total mystery to me. ) How did this happen and is it related to my Aspergers? My relationship to social media is strange. Well maybe not. I don’t actually post much, but spend/waste hours reading in the hope of finding something of interest or just to fill in odd minutes. On the whole, it serves its function well. It’s led to me contributing to an article in a national magazine and submitting my views on LGBT issues to a famous celebrity’s memoir, amongst other things! I do reply to others’ posts sometimes, but it takes me a while, often I have to think about my reply and do it hours later, sometimes the next day. I’m not a spontaneous person when it comes to language. If I reply straight away, I may think I haven’t worded it right or I’ve said something offensive – easily done by me, if I haven’t given it thought. I’ve written a few embarrassing things in my time. The whole point of social media is that it’s ephemeral and in the moment, so I kind of miss it. Sometimes the whole thing does my head in. Trawling through can be exhausting – all these people and issues. Also it can do the very opposite of what it’s intended to do – it can be isolating, because it seems everyone else is having more fun than me and I’m not included.
I was quite anti-the whole thing for years. I joined Facebook in 2007 but until last year, only had 10 friends on it: some cousins and random people I knew vaguely years ago. Last year I sent my first friend request. The word “friend” is too loaded: the thought of asking someone and them rejecting me was too much. I had enough of that at school. Now I know that Facebook is not real life, and “friend” has a different meaning. I’ve recently connected with loads of people, and realised you can use it to connect with groups and issues too. I still prefer Twitter: joined that in 2013 to follow my favourite singer, and gradually built up followers, mostly fans of said singer. Her fan club is Twitter-based: I blame that for getting me addicted! A tweet from them can literally make my day. I like the 140-character limit, brief and to the point. Now I’ve started following various people connected with the autism world too, and it’s a whole minefield, no wonder my head gets done in. I need to switch off in the evenings, in order to get some sleep. My partner is anti-social media and isn’t on any. The world kind of passes her by; she has a sweet innocence that a lot of us have lost. Most of the world passes me by too as I live in my head, but social media gives me the illusion of being just that little bit more connected.

Special abilities in my childhood

Anyone who knew me as a child, knew I was odd without doubt, far odder than I am now. A number of my abilities were admired, especially by adults. So why not celebrate them here? My mum recalling these traits, along with my own recollections, helped me to get my diagnosis.
In the year I started school, I understood very quickly how time worked. I got told off in class for getting up from my table frequently to look at the clock, long before most children could read it! We had a calendar hanging on the wall at home, a month to view in a long strip, coloured brown with orange flowers and a white space for each day. To this day, when I need to recall a date, I picture that calendar, with the months ordered with December on the left to January on the right for some reason, I think that’s because when each month was done, my parents tore off the page to the right. In my mind I “write” on that calendar and almost never forget a date.
Also, around this time I developed a system for “seeing” the days of the week. Each day was coloured on my mental week-chart: Monday was white (traditional associations with washing-day) Tuesday brown, Wednesday green, Thursday blue, (most interesting things happened on Wednesdays and Thursdays) Friday yellow (because the mood was lighter at school) Saturday grey (it could be the hardest day for me due to lack of routine) and Sunday orange (because our church was made of orange brick). I don’t know what a psychologist would have made of this, if I’d ever had an opportunity to explain to them, but I was never taken to see one – autism in the 70s was not spoken about except in the most extreme forms, and even then rarely in girls.
Like many children with Aspergers, I was a precocious reader and writer almost without being taught. From the moment I knew how to do both, there was almost no stopping me. I filled notebooks with stories and observations and commentaries on real-life situations. Words on a page made far more sense to me than when people spoke them. I was always brilliant at spelling: I could see a word and remember it forever. (Not such a useful skill now we have spellcheckers!) I only ever remember once getting a word wrong in a school spelling test. The word was “marmalade” and I spelt it “marmarlade”. Quite why this word was even in the test, I don’t know! I’ve never liked the stuff anyway.
I also learnt to read music instinctively. My first piano lesson was when I was 5, and a couple of weeks after that I was writing down melodies of hymn tunes that I’d heard in church, by ear. People thought this was amazingly clever, but to me it just seemed blatantly obvious. I’ve always been able to hear music and see it written down. Not really an essential life skill, but I’ve used it to great benefit.
So that’s a little insight into how my child-brain worked. I would never wish to brag, and I’m no Mozart or Einstein. These skills weren’t tested or developed until much later on – if they had been, maybe I could have been some sort of child prodigy, but I’m quite glad I wasn’t. (I’ve never yet heard of a child prodigy who went on to have a happy, normal, fulfilled life). But it’s good for those of us who are neuro-diverse, to sometimes celebrate our skills, it’s quite fascinating to me and hopefully will be for others too.