Benefits of Social Media Use for Autistic People
At a Glance
In this blog post, we'll cover the most common benefits of social media use reported by autistic people.
Social media and technology use by autistic people often gets a bad rap, but hopefully this blog post will help professionals and caregivers better understand how it can be helpful.
For more information, you can check out our Social Media for Self-Advocates Toolkit from the Lifespan Toolbox.
Social media is still a relatively new technology, and we're all still learning how it works, its impact, and many different people use it on a day-to-day basis.
Below, we're going to cover 6 main ways that autistic individuals have shared that they benefit from using social media.
Many autistic individuals use social media to connect with others, they develop friendships and relationships online, and get to create their own world. When you think about it, what an awesome way to come into your own and hone self-advocacy!
1. Amplify My Voice
In the world as it exists today, there is no better way to amplify your voice and be heard than the large social media platforms where so much of the public gathers.
Simply using social media does not guarantee you will be heard by a large audience, but if you have a good idea that catches on then one of the most useful places for it to get attention is on social media platforms.
Practices like signal boosting are indicative of the value of being heard in these spaces.
In online spaces, it is possible both to see more people and be seen by more people, which can make it that much easier to find common communities.
Many autistic adults have spoken to the value of online community and communication and the logistical challenges of creating similar networks offline.
3. Finding Spaces Where There Is Minimal Pressure to Mask
One unfortunate reality of physical social spaces is that they are all too often assumed to be in line with neurotypical norms, which can create an undercurrent of pressure to mask neurodivergent behavior even if nobody directly intends to do so.
In online spaces there is considerably more real estate to go around, including for spaces that don’t treat neurotypical behavior as a standard to which we all must adhere.
Of course and unfortunately not every space on the internet will be actively inclusive, but we will cover that portion more closely in the Challenges section of the Social Media for Self-Advocates Toolkit.
Overall, while there remains a tremendous amount of research to be done on the subject to land on more conclusive evidence, there is some active interest in studying the effects of online spaces on neurodivergent masking.
4. Access to More Research and Discussions
These days, the vast majority of the information you could possibly want is available online.
Whereas in the past, some paywalled material would remain offline, today even expensive professional and scholarly work is typically available in some space online, even if you might still have to pay quite a bit for it.
Gradually, we are stating to see more open journals appear, where research is free and accessible at any time online.
While there is not always away around some of the gatekeeping that can happen, you are also much more likely to find active discussions on similar topics that are open to readers and participants.
Open discussions can be both a source of new ideas and for visibility of people who share your perspective or point of view.
5. Connections with Other Autistic Self-Advocates
For those actively seeking out neurodivergent communities, especially those who do not live in densely populated areas, social media represents an opportunity to form active and real connections with other self-advocates.
While online connections carry a social stigma of being “less serious” than connections formed offline, the reality is that online connections are leading to offline friendships more and more often.
Many autistic adolescents and adults report experiencing just as deep and feeling connected friendships online as in person. Sometimes even more so online versus in person.
6. Create Alternate Support Networks
Sometimes the practices or ideas we wish to change are so institutionally entrenched that there is no practical way for a self-advocate to meaningfully seek change within those institutions.
In the absence of the support we should be receiving, social media can be an invaluable tool for organizing less formal support networks that can help make up the gap.