And why I go stir-crazy when my broadband fails.
Initially it didn’t occur to me to write this post because it seemed so obvious, but when I mentioned it to someone else and they seemed surprised, I realised that perhaps it was not as obvious as I had thought. I love the internet and internet technology, not because I am a geek (I am, but that’s not the reason), or because I am ‘sad’ and ‘need to get a life’. It is because I can interact socially with much more ease, comfort and freedom than in a face-to-face situation. It is because I can play to my Asperger’s strengths and use my thinking style in a more positive way than in other situations.
The internet is not accompanied by the same degree of excruciating social discomfort I experience when trying to remember all the right non-verbal things I am supposed to be doing whilst talking and listening, and trying to interpret all the non-verbal things that the other person is doing. I love words, I like them even more when I can see them, re-write and edit them until they say what I want them to say. Trying to do this editing task in my head during a conversation takes an unbelievable amount of time and brain space, competing for limited resources with the non-verbal interpretation activities I need to do.
I prefer to write to someone than to speak to them because I can just focus on the words – the specific content, and the (mostly) literal meaning of the text as a whole. I can type with my eyes shut – people don’t like it when I talk to them with my eyes shut, and talking with my eyes averted is a compromise that leaves nobody completely satisfied. I can go to the kitchen and make a cup of coffee whilst thinking about the right response to a question, and then type it when I get back – people don’t like it if I walk off in the middle of a conversation without answering. I also like to text rather than phone, and as a result, you are more likely to talk to the ‘real’ me if you talk to me online, provided of course, that this is through email or Twitter, and not through instant chat!
When I took exams at university I had a scribe and dictated all my answers (I was not able to write for very long through weakness in my hands). One of my scribes, a university lecturer, commented that I wrote very well and asked had I considered science-writing. She said that my dictation was very coherent, in full sentences, with little mid-sentence hesitation, change or deviation, and that I did not go back and make very many edits to my draft. I have noticed that this is generally how I write when I write for myself too, it comes out more or less how I want it, or I wait until it does. I am not an endless drafter and re-writer.
This may in part be due to these processes I try to go through before I speak, the checking and re-checking, for factual content, clarity, potential misunderstanding etc. Unlike a conversation, there was no social aspect to my dictation, and given the space to think I was able to speak as I write. Up until this point I had not acknowledged this mental editing as a strength, I had only seen it as slow, annoying and as something others referred to as ‘overthinking everything’.
I know that I am not alone in the Asperger’s and Autism community when it comes to a love of words, word-craft, written communication, and the internet; the increasing number of blogs by ASD writers is testament to this. The internet is a forum which allows us to be judged on what we want to say, not on what we do or how we look when we say it. It frees up that part of the brain, otherwise frantically trying to bluff the social stuff, for more fruitful tasks such as getting our point across, which after all, is surely what communication is all about.
© Catastraspie, 2012.