Thursday, January 17, 2013

Why I'll Never Be Popular

I talked a little bit about loneliness, and feeling left out in my post This Is What Loneliness Feels Like To Me.  I'd like to take a step further into that realm, and describe how this impacts my life. 

I am the person that you always see sitting on the sidelines.  In a group of people in real life, or on-line, I will find a cozy little corner, and paint myself into it.  Part of that reason is this phenomenon where I have trouble finding my words. 
I struggle with keeping up with conversation, or simply find that I have absolutely nothing to add to the topics discussed by most people. Really.  I'll search my brain for words to add to the conversation, and all I will hear back is crickets chirping.

Another reason, is that is that I forget to talk to people. Yes, I know.  You're probably thinking, 'how can she forget to talk to people? Who does that?' Well, I do that.  I literally forget to acknowledge other's presence.   I forget to say hello, or a goodbye.  I will hear someone else say it to me while I walk by, but if I am not looking to be social (therefore looking for the cues I need to respond to anyone) I will walk several feet (thanks to my usual walking style of power-walking) before it hits me.  "That person just said something to me." Then, I have to switch gears in my head from my usual, and comfortable mono style thinking, to paying attention to my environment.  This takes several seconds, and by then it is likely the person is already gone, or is awkwardly awaiting my response.  Now, I am dubbed snotty, and anti-social at worst, and spacey, and weird at best.

Not only do I forget to greet people, but I forget to share anything with them, much at all. This means no small talk (which is what most people do as an introductory to friendship), but it also means that I come off as uninterested, and sometimes selfish.  I forget to ask them how they are.  I forget to inquire about how this, or that event went in their life, or how their mother, daughter, pet, husband, ect.. are doing.  It's not necessarily that I don't care.  I care about others, and how they feel a great deal.  I just don't remember to ask them about stuff. I don't remember to share any of these things about myself, much either.  I will occasionally, but mostly... no. 

When I was a child, and a young adult I did not know you needed to do these things.  I did not know that one had to be proactive to find friends.  I thought that somehow the more outgoing people just knew  that I wanted to be included in their group.  I don't know how I thought they knew this, but nonetheless, I did.  Not only did I think they knew I wanted to be involved with them, I concluded that because they never included me that it was purposeful.  I thought they understood my need  for friendship, and belonging, and were mindfully choosing to leave me out of their group, and their fun.  I felt rejected.  I became bitter, and resentful.  I still carry a bit of resentment (I am embarrassed to admit) toward anyone that appears to be this cheerleader, popular type that represents, in my head the people that hated, and rejected me. 

These are not just character defects that I can just get over.  These are direct manifestations of autism in many people.  At the end of the entry, I will post the DSM V criteria for autism spectrum disorder.  What I am saying in this entry is mentioned in there.  Not understanding how to interact with people is a direct manifestation of autism.  Not everyone will get depressed, and bitter when they can't, but many will, especially if we don't know we have autism, and why we keep getting left out.  I think a lot of people will go on the assumption that I am negative, and self loathing. That is probably true, but it is not what is causing my issue, like most would say.  It's a direct result of my disability.  It's something I can work on viewing differently as I learn, and grow.  What I find the most difficult are the people that don't understand that autism social issues are not the same as someone with an anxiety disorder.  I don't avoid people because I am afraid of how they will see me.  I don't avoid talking to people, because I am afraid I might say the wrong things, or that my anxiety will go too high, and I'll be embarrassed.  I simply forget, or have nothing relatable to say.  The negativity doesn't help me, or my self-esteem, but it's certainly THE cause of the problem, either.  The times I have heard someone say that to me! "You need to change the way you think." or "You can't because you tell yourself you can't". It's not as if I choose to not be all that interested in people around me, or join in on groups, ect... It's not a choice, and it has never been one. 

I was talking to a friend yesterday about why some FB pages seem to be quick successes, and why some aren't.  I wouldn't exactly call my page, or my blog (I get about 300 hits a day on my blog, which isn't too shabby) a failure, but I don't have a few thousand followers, either.  I spend a lot of time posting interesting things, and being sure I am always making my page a nice environment.  It is.  There is never any nastiness, or anything on it.  All the members seem to be there for the common good, and are always respectful. But, then I wonder..... why then do pages that are much younger than mine have the same, or more members?  Well, my friend told me some things that can help promote a page.  I do almost none of them.  One was to make, or share a lot of photos/graphics.  I see these things as small talk of the internet world, especially FB.  I find some of them absolutely hilarious, and some truthful, or inspiring.  I do share them, and sometimes, even make them.  But, in the end, I see them as not high quality interacting.  I have people on my FB page that post photos of this or that page all day.  I have no idea who they are, because they never really talk about themselves, their families, or life in their statuses. I yearn for real, personal connection with others.  The superficial is fun sometimes, but it feels limiting to me.

The other thing she mentioned was sharing.  There's that word again.  I do share pages on my page, and on my Twitter.  I try to do one a day, as I see that as more personal.  I like to feature one page a day to promote that I really think deserves to be shared.  I don't like to do a bunch of shares at once. I don't mind that others like to do it.  I just know that I don't like to.  The other sharing she mentioned was sharing something you thought might be interesting with other pages. Like, for instance, if you saw an article, or video about something you thought might interest someone, you might post it to their wall.  I know this is part of what makes ours a cooperative, friendly society.  We typically have the feelings, and thoughts of others in our minds, and use that info to make decisions on our behavior.  I don't always have the best access to that area of thought.  I'm not mean, or rude.  I don't know what others would like, but disregard it.  I simply once again, don't think about it.  I have to make it a conscious effort to do so.  I have to cultivate it as a habit, but even then it's not second nature.  It's a learned habit that I may even not get right quite often, but I try. 

I don't understand the group human relating experience.  This is not news.  I am in my 30's, so I have definitely figured this out by now.  I don't think this applies to all autistics, either. Some seem to be swayed by popular opinion, or beliefs.  Some are very religious, for example, or I have seen it many autistics get together, and decide whether they will leave a group on FB.  I am autistic, as were they, but if I decide to leave a group it will be by myself, and I will probably not announce it.  Again, I don't care that others do.  I just don't understand it.  I tend to do my own thing, by myself.  Yes, it gets lonely, as I posted about before, but the other way is tiresome.  I find that when you are tired from everyday relating, and find that small things seem like huge tasks it may be due to living in a way that is not authentic to your natural state.  Being social, and initiating social contact with others wears me out.  It's something that needs to be done at times, but it would be living a lie if i pushed myself to do it everyday. So, I will take my smaller circles of friends, and my less populated FB page, and blog.  It's who I am, and a reflection of my inner-aspie.

Proposed DSM-5 criteria for autism spectrum disorders

An individual must meet criteria A, B, C and D:

A.    Persistent deficits in social communication and social interaction across contexts, not accounted for by general developmental delays, and manifest by all 3 of the following:
  1. Deficits in social-emotional reciprocity; ranging from abnormal social approach and failure of normal back and forth conversation through reduced sharing of interests, emotions, and affect and response to total lack of initiation of social interaction.
  2. Deficits in nonverbal communicative behaviors used for social interaction; ranging from poorly integrated- verbal and nonverbal communication, through abnormalities in eye contact and body-language, or deficits in understanding and use of nonverbal communication, to total lack of facial expression or gestures.
  3. Deficits in developing and maintaining relationships, appropriate to developmental level (beyond those with caregivers); ranging from difficulties adjusting behavior to suit different social contexts through difficulties in sharing imaginative play and  in making friends  to an apparent absence of interest in people
B.    Restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities as manifested by at least two of  the following:
  1. Stereotyped or repetitive speech, motor movements, or use of objects; (such as simple motor stereotypies, echolalia, repetitive use of objects, or idiosyncratic phrases). 
  2. Excessive adherence to routines, ritualized patterns of verbal or nonverbal behavior, or excessive resistance to change; (such as motoric rituals, insistence on same route or food, repetitive questioning or extreme distress at small changes).
  3. Highly restricted, fixated interests that are abnormal in intensity or focus; (such as strong attachment to or preoccupation with unusual objects, excessively circumscribed or perseverative interests).
  4. Hyper-or hypo-reactivity to sensory input or unusual interest in sensory aspects of environment; (such as apparent indifference to pain/heat/cold, adverse response to specific sounds or textures, excessive smelling or touching of objects, fascination with lights or spinning objects).
C.    Symptoms must be present in early childhood (but may not become fully manifest until social demands exceed limited capacities)
D.    Symptoms together limit and impair everyday functioning


  1. 300 hits a day is good. We all are guilty of comparing ourselves to other pages and blogs. It's ridiculously really. I mean what does it matter. Yet, I do it. What matters really is if you connect or help at least one person, if you give one person insight, or you help them feel less alone, you help them understand themselves, or you make them laugh. That is what really counts. Your blog helps me tremendously...and I know for sure, that I am not the only one. So thank you for writing and keep it up damnit! *insert sarcasm here

    1. You are so right, in all that you say. I'm fine as I am, and I only feel bad when I start comparing, which is ALWAYS bad news.

      I will for sure, keep writing. I don't think I could ever stop. Even if I was the only person left on earth, I'd STILL blog. lol I think it's the curse of the writer. We just have to write, no matter what!

  2. Very interesting, thanks! Love your page :)

  3. I could have written this almost word for word! Now that explains why I only have 84 likes on my facebook and I have had it up for over a year! Lol! I forget greetings on my fb page too! I am horrible at Twitter.

    People have called me a "ding-bat" and spacey on many occasions. These are some of the worst things someone could call me. Ugh!

    Such an excellent post! Thank you so much it helps me understand myself so much better.

    1. I get lost on Twitter. I try, but it's a big mess of too much info coming at me.

      Thanks for reading, and commenting. I always look forward to your comments!

  4. I can totally identify with you here. The difficulties with words or lack of and interest in others, the forgetfulness, is spot on for me. Like you, I was like that throughout my childhood and young adulthood, before finally realizing that I need to learn and change, especially if I have to survive in the corporate world. Like you said, it is a habit that can be acquired with a lot of conscious effort and it can become almost natural.. but never second nature.

    Thank you for sharing. It helps me to know that I am not alone.

    1. I'm glad that it has helped you not feel so alone. Yours, and other's comments have helped me to know that I'm not alone, too. It's a great feeling!

  5. I am not on the autistic spectrum but I see so much of myself in this post. Yes I can be social and I know the social cues without having to think about them but I like to be on my own. I'm sitting in a coffee shop now and I'm enjoying catching up on my blogs before I go shopping and I'm hoping no one I know comes in that I have to talk to. I also enjoy sitting on the edge of a group listening and not really joining in. The difference between us is I could if I wanted to mostly I choose not to. My friends and family say I'm quiet but I like who I amso that's ok. I don't do face book but I love your blogs so I hope no matter how many followers you have you keep on blogging. The insights you have given me about my son are wonderful. Thank you. :-)

    1. I think that people that are introverted, or just shy can relate to this sort of thing, too. We like smaller groups, and more quality interaction, rather than quantity interaction. Nothing wrong with that!

      Thanks for your comment, and for reading!

  6. I agree with Ciara ... I do identify with a lot of what you've written. That certainly describes how I've felt about things for much of my life.

    I'm an INFJ - an introverted type that loves to form relationships but wants those relationships to be of some depth and quality. What you've described about the nature of some social media is something I wonder about too. I've read guides to social media which emphasise what I see as certain extrovert qualities above all else - like there is only one way to do things! And of course there is not - I think connections grow organically through shared interest and passion. Your page is a great example of the latter.

    I love your page - there is always something to reflect on and an interesting discussion to follow. I think you have a good balance there so don't go changin'!

    1. Thank you. Your comment meant so much to me, and was very encouraging. It lets me know that even if I may not have 2 or 3 thousand fans, that I am still making a difference.

      No changes! Except my blog layout, which I am in the middle of doing, so it may be a little confusing for the next few weeks, as I iron it all out.

  7. I loved this and your post, 'This Is What Loneliness Feels Like To Me.' I really relate to what you have written. In fact, I shared both posts on my Facebook wall. Thank you for this.

  8. You get more page views than I do. I don't think I've ever had 300 in a single day.

    This is an interesting topic, the notion of being popular. I was popular a couple of times in my life and I realized that popularity is kind of an illusion. When you know too many people you spread yourself thin, and then all your friends are reduced to only acquaintances. I realized that no matter how popular you become, a person can really only have a small number of really close friends.

    1. I also think that it's my perception that leads to me see myself as unpopular, when I really am, at least in a way. Like you said, I get plenty of hits, but when I am in my negative mind frame I don't see that. I think it's my feelings of being disconnected that makes me FEEL unpopular to people, rather than any real thing that is actually happening in my environment. I also think that you are so correct about spreading myself too thin. I cannot handle ignoring people, and I feel that I have to reply to ever blog comment, and message sent to me, no matter how many I get. So, in reality I probably can't handle much more than I have now.

      Thanks for your comment!

  9. Much of what you wrote here could have been my words!

    Especially the part about forgetting to talk to people, in the forms of not being pro-active and lacking reciprocity.

    Even my Twitter account is a victim of this and for several months now. Partly due to personal struggles and partly due to me becoming increasingly immersed in my Autism blog projects.

    As for blog hits; 300 leaves me in the dust. My count gets up to maybe half of that, IF I am posting regularly AND showing up on Twitter, otherwise it flat-lines at around 50.

    Like Aspie Kid, there have been a few periods of my life when I seemed to be popular, or perhaps more objectively, I didn't feel like a totally ostracized outsider, looking in through VERY thick glass - maybe a bit of both.

    Those periods were always sports and/or alcohol related, with the latter now formally retired.

    1. I figured that I couldn't have been the only one that really struggled with the social reciprocity thing. It's got to be a big deal if it's written into the criteria for ASD. It's really not a deficit, as much as a difference, though. My son has attended speech therapy from the age of 4 and on. He has been taught some of these skills, so he is much better than me at remembering to talk to, and greet others, despite his autism being more severe than mine is. So, if we were taught to do this as kids, I think it would have made our lives a bit easier now, rather than being an adult before realizing others feel unimportant when we don't remember to chat with them.

  10. I loved this. It's hard to be social for so many reasons. Forgetting to be polite and say hi is a big one. Sometimes it's hard to break into a group that's already started. I often feel it's rude to intrude on the group. So I hang back. View it. When ever I've just charged in... Oh boy ... Desaster!
    Also my need for space is often not respected. That's another challenge for me. I have a weird way of wanting to share and then wanting to be alone. Can I be loved but not too closely please. Oh and another problem I often have with being social is I just don't want to but I'm forced to. I love being social when I choose to be. When I have to force my self to be some where ... Well can you say collapse ... Or maybe highest anxiety attack ever. Not cool. I often need to know things like. Who what where and why before attending. Who will be there. Not just numbers I want names too. What are we doing.. Um I need a plans oh and yes it should be set in stone and no I'm not flexible. Where yes this matters if I don't like the spot or was not happy there then I'm not doing it again. So bad restaurant is just a bad restaurant. Why... Is more vague for me. It's often what I use to convince my self to be social in the first place. I have to say anxiety does play a big part in all my social activity. Very much so if I'm socializing with people I've had bad experiences with in the past or extremely judgmental people. Oh and the statement you made about Changing it. (tried to copy paste part but won't let me) anyway that brought tears to my eyes. I hear this stuff all the time. But that just brings me back to being made to be social against my own free will. Que in anxiety and other bad feelings. So why do I have to change. Why can't I socialize only when I'm comfortable? I don't have the answer yet. Oh last thing you are popular. Your popular with in your group of friends! I think your pretty cool anyway.

    1. I love being social when I am feeling up for it, too. Especially, if I can get an opportunity to talk about my special interests, or feel that others are really clicking with me. Those moments are priceless to me.

      Thank you commenting. I appreciate it!

  11. couldnt help but write my own post as i read this one!

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