I’m seeing a lot of autistic toxicity on fb of late with Autistics attacking others – sometimes through misunderstanding, sometimes to try and push their point of view across as if it is the only point of view.
The problem is that it just creates tension for our community and for me personally it triggers PTSD because I was the subject of a huge harassment campaign by one autistic advocate that lasted years.
It’s ironic that my last blog post here (approximately 9 months ago) was on the same topic because it keeps happening. I wonder if it is because of Autistics social communication challenges or something bigger around human egos.
I’ve learned that many Autistics fear conflict – they don’t want to be pulled into the drama. They hate choosing sides but will if push comes to shove because they fear being isolated from their community because society generally rejects them.
Our community talks a lot about inclusiveness and acceptance but needs to do a lot more to promote it within our own community. When I was the victim of cyberbullying it was the NT community that supported me, showed me acceptance and inclusiveness, that demonstrated accessibility in action, and even helped me to forge a path to real life advocacy. Some Autistics did too – but most did so quietly behind the scenes, lest they became targets too. I’m grateful to those Autistics who stood by me when I was vulnerable. Those who did not I mourned for the loss of community and friendship I thought we had.
We need to get over the egos, get over being ‘right’ and really work on the issues facing Autistics rather than targeting individuals. We need to demonstrate true inclusion of those Autistics who may hold different views to us. It doesn’t mean we have to accept their way of thinking or being – we can show them a different way. But we should not be rejecting our own, shouting them down, and dogpiling on them.
Real life advocacy matters more than Facebook. Social media is just a tool – a clumsy one behind which lie many keyboard warriors whose life is only behind monitors because they don’t do real life advocacy that makes a real life difference for Autistics living their real lives.
Let’s be clear – I’m NOT saying that online advocacy doesn’t have merit, because it does. Many Autistics cannot do offline advocacy because it can be overwhelming, involve too many sensory issues, or trigger communication challenges that may be poorly understood. Many Autistics do online advocacy through writing such as blogs – that’s great. I’m talking specifically about those who live only on Facebook and who are mostly just keyboard warriors – determining what is and isn’t supposedly acceptable to the Autistic community, especially when it targets individuals. I’ve seen too many of my community hurt by this behaviour, I have seen Autistics driven to the brink of despair because of this.
For me personally, and every Autistic has their own journey, advocacy has become about what gains I can make for our community in the key areas of education, legislation, and disability services. Sometimes I get to dabble in other areas too around inclusion, language, accessibility, employment, acceptance, and so on. Most of my advocacy is off line now – the growing toxicity confirms for me it was the right decision for my mental health. But I still do some advocacy online – mostly trying to change attitudes in a more gentle way, and highlighting my lived experience or that of other Autistics who give me permission to share.
I wish I could call people out but I’ve learned, over 10 years now, nothing happens when you do. People will continue to side with the oppressor, or stand by silently which is much the same thing, and the person who suffers is the one who does the calling out. So the best thing is to live a good life, to do the advocacy you want to be remembered for, and to empower Autistics to be the best them they can be.