It’s been brought to my attention that the term aspie is no longer correct. Indeed the entire disorder has been removed from the DSM-V. Instead, the proper terms are autism spectrum and high functioning autistic. I acknowledge those are correct. However, I’m still generally not changing my terminology I use. Why? Well, for one I usually shorten Asperger Syndrome to AS, which fits Autism Spectrum just as well. Similarly, feel free to consider aspie slang for someone on the spectrum. These are the words I’ve grown up with. But, I will try to use the correct terminology when needed. I will not reference Asperger Syndrome anymore. We are high functioning autistics, even if it makes us uncomfortable at times. I’ve always considered myself one. I am striving to be a resource site after all.
This afternoon I sat down and read a superb book on alternative medicines entitled Do You Believe in Magic by Dr. Paul Offit. The book dealt with the problems with alternative medicines and the danger they present to society. Given a small focus was the toxic work done by antivaccine advocates. Offit, a man of hard science, pretty strongly lay waste to the idea of vaccines as toxic.
Reading the book made me realize I need to get my thoughts on this matter on the record. I’ve never been quiet on this, mind you. I’m a pro-science guy all the way. (1) I’m also a great fan of the work done in medicine. The history of medicine is that of perennial growth and evolution towards better practices.
Cinematour.com is a site filled with nothing but pictures of movie theaters around the country and to a limited degree, the world. The site’s goal is to catalogue every theater from the mundane multiplex to the strange art house. The abandoned theaters are particularly intriguing. The site is, by and large, a site only for people with an obsessive interest in the architecture of movie theaters and maybe the movie posters of 2003 and 2006, which appear to be the years their photographers were most at work, though the site does continue to update almost daily. A resource for people with a very specific interest.
I bring up the site because it serves as the most perfect example of the minutia aspies are known for fixating on. This is a stereotype of the disorder and one that’s probably the thing most people bring up when they think about the disorder besides the awkwardness. We’re associated with being interested in things to an obsessive degree. When we get into things, we get deeply into them to a way outsiders could never get into. It’s proven true for pretty much every one I’ve met.
When I was diagnosed at age 13, the literature on AS was extremely bleak. Which, if you’ve read my entry on how being a geek saved my life, well you might think that was unwelcome news. Honestly, just the fact that I was related to autism killed me. Probably never cried as hard as I did that day. Today of course, we aren’t even given the fig leaf of being linked to it. We’re on that spectrum hard.
My point is this: the literature then was downright depressing. The focus was on what you couldn’t do. Sure they’d note that we had high IQs but that was almost a joke! It was a quirk. Like “oooh they’re autistic AND smart.” None of that mattered. We couldn’t look forward to normal human lives. We weren’t going to fit in. We’d need help. These were guaranteed.
This was an entry I was going to get to inevitably but after reading the AV Club’s take on the worst portrayals of mental disability, I felt ready to tackle this one.
So far, actual labeled portraits of AS in film and TV are few and far between. There are exceptions, notably on Parenthood, but at most we’re usually implied. Our type is also a bit more common in quirky indie films, but look, I tend to find those hard to watch and decidedly inaccurate. Instead, we’re suggested. Characters like Abed on Community and Sheldon on Big Bang Theory flirt with the spectrum, at times quite strongly.
(NOTE: this is one of my earlier notes. I really thought it said all I had to say on the topic.)
This was inspired by the superb South Park ep on Facebook. The episode depicted how integral the site has become to society. The episode, in a rare move, didn’t really judge the site. It judged dependence on it but not the actual site. And they captured the site perfectly. Didn’t get one detail wrong.
It made me think about something: do I think Facebook is helpful in social interactions if the user is, shall we say, behind the curve. Do I think it is a help or a hindrance? I of course, am able to speak having Asperger Syndrome and being a perpetual user. Hell, one of the first things I got for my iPhone was the fb app! So, how do I feel?
It’s not easy to say so I’ll put it this way: absolutely provided the user in question wants to improve. However, it can be a tool for burrowing further into one’s own hole if they wish.
Let’s start on that dark note actually. I hope we’re all familiar with the phenomenon known as the “internet aspie”. I’m not talking about guys like me who were actually diagnosed. I have the doctor’s note folks. I’m talking about assholes who are assholes but who can’t just be assholes so as assholes they decide to do the asshole thing of taking a real disorder and like the assholes they are, use it as an excuse for being an asshole. To quote Cracked “People cringe when they hear this term because they know that a large number of the teenagers claiming Asperger’s are, in fact, merely dicks.”
These people are too scared and too bullied to face the real world to be blunt. They want to crawl into their hole. What they don’t get is the fact that, guess what: nobody cares about your damn dog but you!
These people are going to burrow into their hidey holes no matter what. It’s a hard and fast rule. And guess which hole they choose? Facebook. Facebook could support itself on the crumbs of society. Hell most of the too irritating for words members of the incredibly awful wrongplanet are internet aspies. People who want nothing to do with society can use facebook as an excuse. They have “friends”.
But this isn’t about them. This is about those who actually want to succeed. And for them, damn do I love facebook. I’m speaking very heavily from experience. If the internet is our great equalizer then facebook is a subtle tilt of the playing field towards normalcy. Why?
Of those I know closely, I know a few who don’t use it mind you. My dad also doesn’t use it but give him time. My mother not only uses it but she’s addicted. If she wants to deny it, well I can quickly kill that by advising her mutual friends to check her activity, though she was an early adopter to the internet anyway. The key is, everybody uses it. Everybody. And facebook placing everybody on the same field means that aspies aren’t allowed to burrow as easily. The people they deal with can be anybody. So long segmentation.
And thus facebook allows the true dream: a simulator of social interaction with real consequences. A way to discreetly learn about people’s interests. Facebook can be a staging ground for real friendships. People learn how to deal with other people, real other people, in a safe way.
It can encourage the worst, but it can bring out the best. Yay.