One of the things I realized after posting about maybe not being built for being online, and which I added in the addenda, is that the conflict actually isn’t limited to being online, given that I’d also recently had an in-person confrontation with someone.
That person not only didn’t respect my boundaries but refused even to accept that other people could set boundaries that might impinge on that someone’s behavior. Thinking about this is what made me realize (or, in a sense, re-realize) that to some extent the limitation is my own, just not in the sense that the ways in which I need, and do not need, sociality are wrong.
In therapy last weekend, I noticed when discussing all of this that, really, what’s at issue is that there is a normative standard of sociality that—despite all I’ve learned about normativity and divergence since my autism diagnosis—I keep, to one degree or another trying to meet.
It’s true that introversion (another of my traits) is not unsociability, but it’s also true that at this point in my life I simply don’t have a need for anything resembling normative sociality.
That said, it’s likely also true that my budget of physical and psychological resources are running so low in their middle-age that I simply don’t have the capacity to deal with the twists and turns of what it means to be normatively social even if I thought I needed to be normatively social.
On a day to day basis, I’m perfectly fine with a level of sociality limited to cursory pleasantries when ordering a latte or thanking the bus driver when I disembark. I’m fine with the casually-distant sociality of spending a couple of hours at the goats during visiting hours. I enjoy having places to which I go regularly, the sorts of places where you are a “regular”, even though what I do there is sit by myself and read.
Trouble sets in only when I listen to the idea that this level of sociality isn’t acceptable, or somehow is deficient.
Back when I wished I could wave a magic wand and have Currently be a thing, the idea was that I do feel one, particular lack: I’ve no way of keeping up with what people are up to these days, short of regularly and routinely exposing myself to the rapids of online social media feeds. So, it’s not as if I’m one-hundred percent satisfied with my sociality, but that’s because there isn’t an asocial, or socially-neutral, way of “keeping up with what people are up to these days”.
It’s not what Colin Walker is talking about here but I did want to note his idea of succumbing to (in his case online) sociality “out of some misguided sense of obligation”.
In my case, it’s the overall societal notion that, whether it’s online or off, I’m obligated to be social in particular ways at particular times in particular places lest I be lumped into the purported “epidemic of loneliness”.
If you’ve ever been involved in academic or psychological research in the area of mental health as a subject, even if it’s “just” participating in research surveys, you’ve likely encountered questions about your social life. If you’re paying close attention to these questions, you’ll notice that they measure your responses against an unstated-by-the survey conception of what “normal” sociality looks like. They aren’t measuring your subjective satisfaction with your level of sociality.
The epidemic of loneliness, I’d note, often seems entirely based upon those normative ideas rather than anyone’s subjective satisfaction.
Which is not to say that there aren’t people experiencing a disconnection they’d rather not experience. Rachel Kwon notes a change in the way people use the “in-between moments” that present opportunities not just for liminal transition but “for connection or discovery”.
Four years ago, when I quit my nonprofit, I’d mentioned that “I’ve burned out on any vocation or avocation I’ve ever done that required working close-quarters with other people over a period of time”. My past is littered with (mostly fandom-related) groups and projects that I was with for a time, and in which I then abruptly ceased my involvement.
In the end, it’s the idea of “keeping up with what people are up to these days” that keeps tripping me up.
It’s past due time I figured out how to accept that I do not have the capacity to do that with the tools the normative world offers, and realize that excepting that one thing, my approach to sociality is perfectly fine.