In my last post, I wrote about my headphones, a piece of technology that has helped me to cope with my brain’s difficulty screening out distractions to focus on a single task, which I see as one of my Asperger’s traits. (In fact, I’m using those headphones to listen to movie soundtracks right now as I write this post!)

This time, I want to write about another technology that I used to find very helpful in allowing me to make and hold on to social connections: social media, specifically Facebook. Unfortunately, while my headphones have gotten better over the past several years (they’re wireless!), Facebook has steadily gotten worse, to the point that I made a decision to simply stop using it in 2016, when it became clear that the negatives outweighed the positives.

One of the effects of my Asperger’s syndrome is that I have always lagged behind my peers in developing social skills. I want to form friendships and connections with people, but participating in a conversation is an exercise in interpreting the nonverbal signals that others seem to pick up and give off naturally, while trying to orchestrate my own behavior so that I approximate the correct nonverbal signals myself. It can be exhausting, and it can leave me frustrated, when I finish a conversation and realize that I didn’t talk about anything of consequence, and I don’t even remember the other people’s names.

Communication on the Internet is a godsend for people like me. I can plan out my words before saying them, with no body language or tone of voice to interfere. Social media puts the person’s name right there along with a picture of them, allowing me to learn to recognize people in a way that fits my learning style. On Facebook, I was able to form connections with other people close to my age at our church– once, we got together to go to a local folk music festival, and I had a great time. I still think of it every time I hear Sierra Hull’s music. I was able to hear from the people at my church throughout the week and get an idea of the things they enjoyed, cared about, and prayed about.

I was able to stay in touch with acquaintances from college– from Cedarville, Texas Tech, and Cincinnati. They had moved on to all walks of life– farmers, professors, social workers, bloggers, mothers and fathers. Some went into the ministry, and some now looked back at the teachings we’d received in the name of Christ with a critical eye. I was enriched by both.

Probably the neatest thing that Facebook allowed me to do was to reconnect with my friends from Bloomsburg Christian School in Pennsylvania. I’ve written about how I’ve come to realize what a special group of kids they were. Almost everybody I meet or read about who grew up with Asperger’s syndrome recalls middle and high school as a time of bullying they just had to endure and eventually heal from. I was a weird kid– I sometimes did off-putting things, not even realizing I was doing them. A lot of the time, I didn’t seek out friendships because I wasn’t ready to expand my world beyond what made sense to me. But rather than pick on me, my classmates actually protected me from bullying. They let me be myself. And when I finally did begin to open up, they accepted me and included me.

I really enjoyed getting to see where God had led many of them, and sharing in their trials and joys by praying for them. It was also only because of our reconnection on Facebook that we ended up planning our 13-year class reunion, which I wrote about on this blog.

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