Tuesday, April 14, 2009

What online communication has done for my son

@benasmith tweeted today about an article condemning facebook/tweeter and so on. Seems that they are making us colder and less in touch with humanity. I call BS on this one. Even if only on the basis that it's far too early to see what impact they have on overall human interaction. I do dislike the way we've become a wired society. I refuse to wear a bluetooth headset and talk to thin air. I often turn my phone off and become unreachable. It's ok to not be plugged in all the time. That's where I think the dangers of online communication come in. Some people feel the need to forget about their real life so they can have a 2nd life. They tweet all day instead of talking. Of course these same people would have been watching tv all day a few years back or reading books to escape the pressures of having a life. Escapism exists and always have. It's not social media that's the cause. It's just a tool that some people use and others misuse.

My oldest son has Asperger's. Face to face communication is not fun for him. It causes him to have severe anxiety and he avoids it when he can. Part of who he is includes the inability to read other people, so he doesn't know how to respond to them. Though the diagnosis is more common today there have been people with Aspergers around for a long time. They were the nerds who couldn't talk to girls. (it affects boys more than girls) The math geeks who didn't understand pop culture. The A/V club members who loved technology. They've always been around and they've usually been isolated. My son has a neutral expression most of the time. Kids at school interpret this as sad or depressed, occasionally as angry. This does not inspire them to talk to him. Asperger's kids often have intense focus on things that interest them. For my kid it's computer programing and trumpet. Because he is unusually talented at his instrument the band kids ignore his odd behaviors and he's formed social connections. That doesn't mean it's not still a bit scary and anxiety producing to talk with them.

It's different online. He's been able to form connections with people who share his love of programming. Because they are not in the room it's not scary and there isn't the same anxiety. For me it was odd that he would make so many online friends, but not have any close offline ones. Still, I was happy that he had friends. Then I noticed a change. He started to use facebook to connect online with people he knew face to face. Then he started to use chat for the same thing. A zillion middle school girls use chat every day, but for my son it's a huge thing. The online communication allows him to become more familiar with people. Then when he's face to face with them there is less anxiety.

I'm glad that he was born into a time that has these sorts of tools. I can't say that if there was a cure for Asperger's I would get it. I'm happy with who he is and Teddy himself has said that he doesn't want to be changed. Would he still play trumpet as well if he were not someone with Asperger's? How about programing? Would he still be as gifted? He has gifts and they did come with a price, but he's happy, so I can't tell you that the price was too high. Maybe he would be if he lived in a time and place where he didn't have access to people in a way that kept him comfortable while fulfilling his need to communicate.


Hyperblogal said...

I've re-connected with many former acquaintances using Facebook.... although I no intention of expanding my online social networking any further than that one source.

Beautiful Mess said...

Your son sounds like a very sweet young man. I'm glad he's able to connect on a level that makes HIM comfortable. That's so important. You're an amazing mom!

Dawn said...

I never thought about what Facebook, Twitter and the rest of the social networking sites could for people beyond "the normal". Thanks for sharing.

May said...

I had to think about this long and hard before I could comment... and then it turned into a blog post of my own. It'll be posted in early May.