Like many #Aspies, I spend most of my time in cyberspace. Despite the issues I get with net-addiction, generally I look on the Net as having been a blessing to me. But, as with special-interest binges, my affinity for the Internet seems to baffle most NTs.
On the net, most communication is text, not vocal. Whether email, instant messaging, forum posts or blogging, the written word rules. With the written word, there is no tone, no inflection, no body language cues, no facial expressions to add nuance: It’s just you and the alphabet, just you and the words.
There’s just you and the words. Nobody can read your body language, nobody can hear your tone of voice, nobody can tell what you’re feeling behind the stone-faced words. Nobody can tell whether what you wrote is meant as an ironic jest, a paradoxical self-criticism, or as a scathing insult - it’s just you and the words. You must think carefully about what you want to say, so that your meaning is conveyed along with your words. Otherwise, you might mean to crack a light-hearted joke, only to have it all blow up in your face.
In fact, it’s a lot like life with #Asperger’s Syndrome.
In a meatspace conversation, there is pressure to respond immediately to what the other person has said. A brief pause is permissible, but take too long and people start to get impatient, then offended and angry. Online, because most people are limited bytyping speed, that pressure isn’t there. I can take the time to chew over my words, to think about the meaning I want to convey before I press Send. I can backspace, rewrite and rephrase, until I feel comfortable that I’m saying what I mean.
Online, gender doesn’t matter, neither does age. Not unless people choose to make it matter. All that matters is the mind. I’ve had lovely long conversations with people, even formed friendships, long before I knew any of their personal stats or they knew any of mine. And by that time, it didn’t alter anyone’s perception. All that matters is the mind.
Online, I don’t need to worry about people mistaking my tone of voice (which always sounds fine to me…!) or misreading my body language or facial expression. I don’t need to worry about people ordering me to smile (nb, this is a sure-fire way to make an enemy of me in a hurry.) I don’t need to worry about people thinking I’m weird. Online, hardly anybody thinks I’m weird at all.
Online, I can pursue whatever interest has caught my fancy and find sites and forums and communities, filled with people who have the same interest. I can find people to talk to and make acquaintences and net-buddies. Some of them will grow to become friends. I have friends in the States, Britain, Japan, Germany - good friends, people who’ve been friends and confidantes for many, many years. When I travel, they’re the people I want to meet, and it’s always a good time. I meet people from a lot of cultures, with different points of view - the conversation is almost always interesting, enlightening.
Online, I can play games with my friends and talk to them while we do something together that interests us. I don’t get overwhelmed and I don’t risk sensory overload. I don’t have to talk (just type) so I don’t risk shutting down. And when I am overwhelmed, overloaded and have shut down, the online world gives me somewhere to retreat to, where I can find what calms me and restores my energy.
There’s very little social pressure, I can take the time I need to compose what I want to say, I don’t get overloaded, I can feed my desire to learn, and I can quickly find friends with similar interests. I’m valued and treated with respect, and all that matters is my mind — so why is it such a surprise that I, like many other Aspies, prefer to hang out in cyberspace?