***Anouncement!***

There is a new website for adults on the autistic spectrum who want to meet each other just for the sake of socializing. It is called called aspieSocial. If this sounds interesting to you, please come and join us!

Social is usually not the first word that comes to mind when thinking about autistic people, but the truth is that many of us have an interest and a desire to be social. It just doesn’t always work out. I am sure there are lots of different reasons for that but there seems to be a few that are common to people on the spectrum.

One of the most common things seems to be that, for some reason, the set of rules that seems obvious to most people for socialization and interaction are either unknown to many of us and/or do not make any sense at all.

When I was younger, I did not know the rules. There was no good reason why I shouldn’t know them. My parents tried crazy hard to teach them to me. My brother learned them with no problem. Other kids at school knew them to the point where harsh punishment would be given to those of us who were clueless.

Over the years, I have learned many of the rules and use them as often as possible. For instance, when you see someone you know, you say hello and ask them how they are doing. The standard answer to this is some form of “Fine. How are you?”. You answer in turn and then talk about the weather or a sports team. Depending on how well you know the person, this can also include what you did for the weekend or will be doing next weekend. People may or may not pay attention to or care about the answers. It does not seem to matter as long as there is no ‘awkward silence’. Any silence at all is awkward. This is called small talk. I believe that in many cases people actually care how each other are doing, but the things that follow the greeting often seem random and pointless. Worst of all, there are many situations in which lying is appropriate and expected.

I can not at all understand why this makes any sense. What is the point of talking about nothing just so it is not quiet? Why is quiet bad? If people are going to lie, what is the point of talking at all? If you are expected to not tell the truth if it will make someone uncomfortable, what is the point of having any communication at all? These rules seem to defy logic. I do not think I will ever understand them.

When I first started meeting other autistic people, I discovered that things do not need to be that way. Not everyone understands, follows, or even agrees with these rules. It was a huge revelation for me. It was the first time I was ever with people who are like me in that way. When I went to my first meeting with other autistic people, suddenly the thing that made me feel so different for so long — like I was the only one in the whole world who was missing this critical understanding of how people work — was changed forever. A certain kind of core loneliness was relieved.

I have been very lucky to make some very close friends over the years, but I still am kind of clueless about what to do when I am with people who I like but am not very close to. I find that when I hang out with other people w/asperger’s or other types of autism, it is much easier to socialize. While some of the rules are expected (such as not being mean to people), others are tossed out the window. It is suddenly okay for there to be silence. The conversation seems much more real even though there may be fewer words exchanged.

One night a few weeks ago, me and my friend d were out having drinks at a local bar and talking about making a website. She was thinking of making some kind of aspie social or dating site. We decided that one thing missing from the quickly growing online autistic community was a site just for being social, like myspace, but not like myspace. I have wanted to do something like that for a couple of years now. It was my original plan for the aspieland domain name, but at the time the open source solutions I tried were not ready for prime time. Then I got way too busy.

D is very busy too, but there are faster, easier ways to make an online community these days. I suggested we use ning, an online community for making online communities. I had played around with it in its beginning days and then forgot about it. I was reminded again because this years macworld conference is using ning for a macworld community site. I like the way it worked and suggested it to d. A week or so later, she sent me a link to the first draft of aspieSocial. She had opened an account and created the whole thing just like we talked about! I was very impressed and even more excited. This site was going to exist. Thanks d!

We invited a few people and they told a few people and there are now 35 members. If you are interested in something like this or know someone who might be, come visit us!