TRIGGER WARNING: THIS BLOG POST CONTAINS SNIPPETS OF POSTS FROM TWITTER THAT CONTAIN LANGUAGE THAT MAY BE TRIGGERING OR DISTRESSING FOR SOME.
A funny thing happened over the weekend: one of my tweets went ‘viral’. Viral for me anyway. At time of publishing this article, it had more than 20,500 impressions, or views, and 2,100 engagements, which means someone clicked somewhere on the tweet. Compare that to my previous best performing tweet at more than 500 and 78 respectively, and my average, approximately 75 impressions and 20 engagements per tweet. And this thing is still going up – currently by approximately 1,200 views a day.
I’d like to say that level of engagement is good news. But unfortunately, reaching so many people in the ‘Twittersphere’ has exposed me to some unruly types – the types of ‘trolls’ you’ve probably heard or read about. And boy, the things they said! 😮
So, what happened?
I had scheduled the tweet in question, about what I thought was a largely innocent topic, Autism symbols (oh, you better believe I’ll be writing an article about those inflammatory little buggars on these pages very soon!), to go live on Twitter at 6pm Saturday night. I chose that time because the tweet I sent out at the same time the previous week – a meme about why self-diagnosis of Autism is valid – had become my most viewed.
The text I included was simple and brief: Given it’s #AutisticPrideDay on Sunday, this one seemed timely…
Previously, everything I’d posted on Twitter (and on each of my social media pages) had been very low key: I get a few likes (one tweet once received 10!), maybe a share (two has always been rare), and seldom (very seldom) an actual comment.
But, at time of writing, the tweet about Autism symbols has had more than 300 likes, 135 shares (or retweets as Twitter likes to call them), and 40 comments. It’s the comments where things get interesting.
Father’s day must be a big deal in the US
I hadn’t noticed anything was even happening with the Autism symbols tweet until Monday morning, when I began casually checking to see how things had gone with social media over the weekend.
The previous Friday, I had scheduled several posts to go out to commemorate Autistic Pride Day. And during a cursory glance at the level of engagement on Sunday, I hadn’t noticed anything more significant than a mediocre spike in my average numbers.
But Monday morning Australia time, Sunday night in the US, I awoke to a considerable jump – a lot of it centred on father’s day.
Autistic Pride Day is always held on 18 June, so it moves each year. But this year, it happened to coincide with father’s day in the US, which clearly some found irksome:
SashaB was obviously riled up about Autism, Autistic people, and the aforementioned Autism symbols, posting about father’s day more than once.
She wasn’t alone in her contempt for the calendar. Even Autistic people, like 3KM2003, took issue with the clash:
This next tweet had a decidedly English feel to it (I’ve never heard a Yank use the word pillock before, but maybe it’s all the rage and I’m ignorant in this regard?). Perhaps swagmagorical has emigrated?
Rainbows are scary and not to be trusted
It wasn’t only father’s day that had people up in arms though. Many twits? twitterers? tweeters? help me out here! also took exception to the scourge that is the multi-coloured marvel of refracted light and water known as the rainbow.
Interestingly (not really – but it’s a decent way to begin a sentence), a lot of people downplayed the symbolic significance of the puzzle piece – offensive to many Autistic people because it has become emblematic of suggestions that we are missing something that non-Autistic people are not – but then played up the terrifying nature of rainbows, forbearers of certain doom that they are (not!).
The comments above demonstrate that despite studies revealing that up to 70 percent of Autistic people identify as non-heterosexual and that Autists are 2-3 times more likely to be lesbian, gay, or bisexual than the general population, it doesn’t mean that we’re safe from homophobia and other expressions of hate from within our own community.
Fortunately, people like Pinkymii(BLM) typed furiously to defend the often silent majority on this issue (as they did in response to many other scurrilous tweets throughout the day! 😊):
Where there’s hate, there’s God
It’s an unfortunate truism that people will always manipulate something that is supposed to be for good, for bad.
Now I’m not a religious person, but I’m pretty sure religion and religious people believe they’re on the ‘good’ side of the ledger, especially given the polar opposite in that particular debate. [WHISPERING: You know, hell and the devil.]
But if these tweets are a sign of where things are at with Christianity, or a proportion of it, I think I’ll continue my philosophy of abstinence from all religious endeavours for the time being.
In this first example, andrew warra managed to pull off, in a single tweet, the almost unheard of feat of addressing all three of the areas I’ve highlighted in this blog post: sexual orientation, those pesky rainbows, and religion. Gold star!
BasedPibby used the popular ‘retard’ slur made famous in the eloquent SashaB’s many tweets. But look closely and you’ll notice the lilac cross beside their handle as well.
BasedPibby states, this time overtly on their actual Twitter page, that they “Put God above everything else”. However, you unfortunately won’t be able to confirm that for yourself because, as at the time of writing, BasedPibby’s account has disappeared!
That’s right, @pibbytastic, which was alive and well yesterday, no longer exists today. But, we can live in hope that it might, one day, be resurrected.
And in breaking news…
Having seen that BasedPibby’s Twitter account had disappeared from the face of the earth, I decided to check out SashaB’s (because of course we’re besties now) to see what was happening there. To my surprise (delight?), I learnt that the Twitter hierarchy had locked her account because she had broken their ‘hateful conduct rule’. (No hate’s an actual rule!)
Despite my glib tone, it is genuinely heartening to see that these things are sometimes taken seriously by peddlers of social media. Goodness knows there are plenty of other forums, like workplaces, where, despite the rhetoric, they are not.
Fortunately, it wasn’t all bad
I realise the entire tenor of this story has been negative. But really, it isn’t all bad. I have received more than 300 likes (like that matters) for the Autism symbols post, and countless people, including Pinkymii(BLM), whom I highlighted above, did jump to my defence (although I don’t even feel like it was ‘my defence’ really, I didn’t create the graphic I used, I copied it – so maybe, in the end, they were defending, or in the case of some, disowning, or even hating on, the symbols themselves).
Here’s just a very small sample of some of the more hopeful/positive ones:
This was a nice one in response to the “pillock” comment above. It also dealt with the issue of father’s day in the US and Autistic Pride Day both falling on Sunday 18 June this year:
This one’s just, you know, great:
I’m still turned off social media
Social media isn’t something I’ve ever been able to buy in to. At the end of 2006, when Facebook was just getting started in Australia, I signed up for an account and then quickly closed it. I could see right away that it was going to take up a large chunk of time I already didn’t have. And why would anyone want to see my photos? Or hear about what I did on weekend? They didn’t in real life.
Until I started this blog in March of this year, I’d never had a Twitter profile, or an Instagram account. LinkedIn was the only one I’d actually used for a handful of years, and only then because it seemed almost mandatory when I was last looking for a job.
I feel like I’ve given social media a fair old go, and confirmed with little doubt, it just truly isn’t for me. I understand plenty of Autistic people love it – it’s a way for them to communicate and connect without the potential worry, stress, and anxiety of leaving the house.
For me though, it’s still communication – it still takes time to write and share a post, it’s still utterly exhausting, and, quite clearly, there’s still plenty of scope for a fight.
It’s why before the Autism symbols tweet went gangbusters, and then got toxic, I’d been undertaking research into whether I needed to even use social media to help promote the blog at all. Turns out (according to the ever-reliable internet!), I don’t.
So I’ll explore other avenues to try and spread the word, and hope that by continuing to write content that’s (sometimes?) engaging, others will subscribe to this blog.
Because although it’s my intention to be helpful and inspire and create, there isn’t a writer out there who if they’re being completely honest with themselves doesn’t want what they’ve written to be read.
Oh, and as a way of saying goodbye once and forever to social media (or at least for now 😉), I may share this post across my various social media channels – a final hurrah, if you will.
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