Have you ever wanted to be seen as a certain type of person, but known that no one sees you like that? For me, and I’m sure other people with autism, that is something we constantly struggle with. The online world can give us an opportunity to be seen how we want to be seen.
In my case, I feel that most people see me as the awkward girl who is really nice and sometimes a goody two shoes. I don’t mind being seen as somewhat of a goody two shoes because I know that I do come across like that and it is a part of me that I can’t really control. I also try to be really nice. But… the part that pretty much always keeps me from getting past a surface friendship is the awkwardness. Although I try to be as natural with people as possible, I feel like there is always this wall I hit that keeps me from being with the “in crowd.”
The internet is a completely different world though.
Online I can be whoever I want to be. I start out at the same point as everyone else instead of in person where I have things counting against me from the start. Online I can be seen as who I want to be without a wall between me and everyone else. It’s a very tempting and attractive world. I can make friends relatively easily and people can see me as a person instead of as a charity case. I’m not saying that everyone sees me this way; I’m just saying that it’s the general vibe I get from people.
It’s easy to get sucked into an online persona because of these things. Although it’s not bad to have an online personality and to have friends that are only online, I think it is also important to remember that we shouldn’t live our lives online. At one point in my life I was sucked into the online world. My friendships and potential friendships in person deteriorated because my online life was more important to me than anything else. I was consumed with this world because for the first time in my life I felt like I was someone important and irreplaceable to people. I know that my family and even some friends would consider me important and irreplaceable, but it was hard not to see myself as a burden or accessory to them. At this point in my life it was hard to see myself as a person in the eyes of others- meaning that I didn’t think people considered me equal to themselves, but instead saw me as less of a human being. So it’s easy to see how someone who feels that way could be sucked into an online world where they could be as important as they wanted to be.
Although I regret losing the potential friendships I could have gained during this time, having an online life wasn’t all bad in the long run. I learned a lot about communication and was better able to realize my self-worth through my online interactions. I grew a lot from those experiences and now I only wish that I could go back and share the person I am now with the people I knew back then.
To summarize, I want people to understand the alluring nature of the internet for someone who isn’t understood the way they want to be in person. I also believe that the internet can help teach certain communication skills in a relatively safe environment and give people the confidence they need to use these skills in person as well. The internet is a useful tool, but should not become your life. Having friendships and interactions in person are just as important or even more important than relationships online, for both people with autism and people without autism.