Social media is both blessing and curse. Without it I’d have very little contact with people; I’d not have gotten to know some wonderful, supportive friends. I’d not have been contacted by my daughter. But unfortunately it can’t substitute for physical proximity, the joy of sharing some activity with another.
Sometimes when I’m feeling lonely, craving some human connection, I notice photos of people I know on Facebook out with their friends having a good time and it makes me melancholy, too aware of what I rarely experience. It’s not jealousy: I’m not envying their enjoyment. It just reminds me of the past.
There are only a couple of times in my life when I have had that kind of friendship. Hanging out together, going places and doing things–sometimes crazy things like running through Aldershot town center spraying silly string at each other, or driving halfway across the country just to see where a particular road would take us.
As I’ve written before friendship is something that I struggle with. I can talk to people and often enjoy socializing as long as the environment is something my senses can comfortably handle. But I’ve never understood how to progress from acquaintance to something more, to the point where I don’t feel the need to second-guess every interaction in case I say or do the wrong thing.
My experiences growing up taught me to be reserved and wary around others, to sit back and wait for them to initiate every interaction. Because when I tried I made mistake after mistake and suffered ridicule. I learned to hide how I felt in case it was used against me.
Another obstacle has always been the difficulty I have reading people. I never know how they feel about me which makes me tread carefully, unwilling to cause offense. By the time I feel I know someone well enough to feel confident opening up around them our relationship has settled into a routine casual acquaintance.
The number of people I’ve seen over the years, at university, in the workplace and in social settings, who have that magical self-confidence and the ability that allows them to rapidly construct friendships while I’m still stuck at the level of saying good morning and talking about the weather.
It can be painful sometimes when people I like move on and I regret that I never managed to build a degree of closeness with them, a platonic intimacy. When it hits me that I know so little about them. Ah, the mysterious arts of small talk and conversation about personal matters.
6 thoughts on “Craving Some Human Connection”
Our son struggles with the same thing. I keep trying to explain that the relationship is a two way street, and it’s not all about him.
Sometimes just asking simple questions like, “Hey, what did you think about…(neutral or work related topic)?” or “Did you see the new…(restaurant that opened, car that just came out, new cell phone, whatever)? communicates to the other person that they have value in your eyes. And then, the most important thing is to pay attention to what they say. A classic mistake is figuring out how to “prove” your point while the other person is talking. And sometimes people will just reply, “Well, it was stupid.” or “I don’t know.” It may not be a rejection of you, it could simply mean they don’t know or they really thought it was stupid. If they come out with something totally whack-a-doodle and you don’t know what to say, “That’s interesting.” or “I never thought about that.” works instead of immediately launching the Great Defense.
In the two years, three friends have lost their spouses. Often my job is simply to listen to what they have to say and just BE with them. I can’t “fix” their problems but I can listen even if it’s the same old story four times in a row.
The hardest part of friendship is allowing people to be who they are with their faults, shortcomings and good points. They don’t have to agree with me and I don’t have to agree with them 100% of the time. And that’s okay. Yeah, there are childish people out there and some people live to cause trouble for others, but you’ll figure out who they are fairly quickly.
I don’t mean this to sound like a lecture. Obviously, I’ve explained it time and again to my son. You can do this, Alex. I know you can.
Hi. I also have Asperger’s and I used to experience this big time. I was so jealous when I seen other girls out partying and then putting up perfect photos of themselves. It made me feel lonely and isolated. Then, at some point, I realised that social media is just a fabrication of people’s lives. They only put up what they want you to see. They don’t put up the bad things. I shut down my Facebook account twice in my life because I thought it was bad. I still have reservations about it. I hate to say it, because I hated getting this advice myself – you have to put yourself out there. Join something usually is the best way. No matter how good or bad your social skills, it’s still human connection and you will meet good people along the way. In fact some of the best people I’ve ever met have disabilities or mental illness themselves. Where there’s a will there’s a way!
Hi Alex – I feel for you and also think FB is a double edged sword. It’s a font of connection but also of false images and impressions which can be painful to be exposed to, especially when they seem so at odds with your own circumstances. I find Twitter a little better though they are rapidly coming to resemble one another! I think Twitter is more newsy and general – but with FB a good case in point was people posting about their kid’s exam results last week. I desisted although our news was good – I was too sensitised to the people I guessed might not be feeling good about exam results and didn’t want to rub it in. It’s a good analogy in a way. People are too busy putting out the highlights of their lives and don’t consider others who may be struggling in some way. A true run down of people’s lives would read very differently.
On the connection bit – I think it’s so hard when you have work and caring responsibilities combined to find the space and energy it takes to connect in the way you describe. This is on top of the social difficulties of AS – a spoons issue as well as a social pragmatics one. This is my greatest challenge – how to juggle a busy working and family life with developing a strong social life – I don’t even try for wider circle. Online seems to work in many ways but has the pitfalls you describe. I don’t have the perfect answers but I think curating your timeline sometimes brings relief so that you don’t get exposed to so much potentially painful social “bragging”. Perhaps the other thing to bear in mind is that neurodiverse people go deep in friendships and NT can’t often match that. What you are seeing may be quite superficial – a lot of connection that might not feel quite so meaningful in reality. These are just my thoughts at the moment.
Having spent more time offline recently and being in more social situations I have felt the joy of that face to face connection you talk about – so you’re right it is substantially different and I loved it. Perhaps the secret is finding the genuine people to connect to in realtime?
I don’t diminish the pragmatics at all – so hard to get to the level of interaction that promotes further contact but somehow I feel you are so wonderful you will attract the right people in your life albeit a very select group – it’s the people who make the effort to seek us out that help us so much isn’t it!
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I hear you so loud and clear, Alex! It is who I am so exactly as well, and it’s the fear of rejection, for me, that keeps me safely hidden like that. I know too, that to find a true friend, I have to BE ME and weather the onslaught of rejection but do you know, I found myself terrified when the possibility of such a true friendship presented itself! Why on earth would that be??
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I was just posting about this! It’s why I’m actually homesick. I am VERY lucky to have met the few close friends I’ve had, but with the others I really don’t know how to build that kind of close friendship. There are some people whom I wish I’ve had that closeness with as well.
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Hi Alex, I just saw this and thought of you: http://www.bernicelandry.com/blog/2014/11/14/beethoven-sara-davis-buechner-and-the-archetype-of-the-hero
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