Thoughts and illustrations on living with Asperger's Syndrome.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

15 Reasons Why Chat Rooms Are Great for Aspies

In the past few months, I’ve become a chat room aficionado. Chat rooms have been around since the early days of AOL, yet I avoided them for years. There was something intimidating, and risky about the idea, and its stereotype as a hangout for lowlifes and losers. But since I decided to overcome my fear, my experience has been unquestionably positive.

Many Aspies have found their comfort zone in chat rooms long before me. Others remain hesitant to try, whether out of fear of socialization or discomfort with the medium. I’d like to address the latter group here, and list some reasons why I think chat rooms can be especially beneficial to those on the autism spectrum.

1. A chat room can be confusing at first if you’ve never experienced it. But if you hang around long enough, you’ll get used to the flow.

2. It’s okay to sit back and observe until you feel comfortable. Just say hello, and if you like, greet others when they arrive. You will get an idea of who is a regular, and who will greet you time after time, and you can return their greeting.

3. People in chat can talk all at once, and even have multiple conversations. In person, this is extremely hard to process, but in chat, you have time – the transcript is right there on your screen.

4. Pauses in conversation are allowed! You can take your time in responding to a question – even several minutes!

5. No excessive use of um... like... you know… (Note, I didn’t say no use.)

6. Aspies often have trouble when a conversation suddenly ends, or changes topic. In chat, you can pinpoint where the topic changed, by scrolling up. Less whiplash!

7. In text-based chat, NT’s don’t have access to their usual conversational cues – sarcasm is very difficult to do, and nuances of expression aren’t easily detected. So the NT's are thrown off a bit, kind of like we Aspies are in in-person conversation. So it somewhat levels the playing field for us.

8. Aspies love rules, and chat comes with its own universe of rules and language. Learn new and exciting words, like wb, or -__- or o_O!

9. Also, learn the special secret tricks of chat, like how to do an action, or change your font color. You kind of have to ask someone how. Like the olden days of passing language down by word of mouth.

10. When chatting with people using a webcam, you can look at their faces without making eye contact! You can chat by text with them if you’re not on cam yourself.

11. If you turn on your webcam, you can see yourself on screen, like a rear view mirror. Handy to check if you are wearing an appropriate expression. Wouldn’t that be nice to have in person?

12. If you don’t like someone’s face, hide their cam! (Don’t tell them when you do this.)

13. Chat has an immediacy to it, and at its best, a personal connection, that I haven’t found in other social media, such as Twitter and Facebook. I haven’t given up my social media, but I prefer chat when I’m in the mood for human interaction.

14. Awkward goodbyes are allowed in chat! When you’re out of things to say, just say you’ve got to go now. Or, just leave!

15. A chat room can be a place to go and find other people to talk to, on those nights when there is no one around, and nowhere to go.

Always be safe online. Chat with a community you know, or with friends from real life. Know whether the chat room is accessible to the public, and don’t give out your name or personal information.

Chat has become an integral part of my social life. My cyber-acquaintances are important connections to me, who I enjoy interacting with, and sharing ups and downs with, unbounded by geography and with an unlimited variety of life backgrounds. A few weeks ago, one of our chat regulars passed away at a young age, from a chronic illness. We all felt the loss, even if we hadn’t talked to him much, we got to know his sense of humor, his personality, and his spirit. We were reminded how real these connections become.

There’s something wonderful about how you can walk into a room where everyone has an alias, where some are half-asleep, some are eating their dinner, and some are drunk, and you just might find their most honest self. You might find the truth.

Unfortunately, autism chat rooms are few and far between. Wrong Planet is probably the most active. If you know of an active chat community, please share it in the comments. You can also create your own public or private chat room on Tinychat – it’s probably my favorite platform.

So go ahead. Go find a chat, and click to enter.

15 comments:

  1. Great post Matt! I had never used a chat room until several years ago and I entered one that was connected to a message board I belonged to. I have since created my own chat room and the friends I share it with are my best friends in the world (from all over the world)! Some of us have even met each other and vacation together. We had time together on line to get to know one another. It is also a safe place for my Aspie son to practise his typing and social skills and I know I don't have to worry about anything inappropriate. As you said, it can be intimidating at first if there are a lot of people in the room and the conversation is flowing rapidly, but it is nice to be able to scroll up and down. I think the internet is a wonderful tool for communicating for those of us (Aspie or not) who are just uncomfortable face to face.

    Laura

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  2. Thanks, Laura. I'm glad you've had such a good experience too. I know I'm late to the game on this, but better late than never, and I know there still a few out there who are reluctant to try, so that's who this post is for.

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  3. It is something I never thought I would do, but I have found it to be a wonderful experience. Even though I'm not an Aspie, I am extremely introverted. The internet and chat rooms have really helped me to connect with people. You just have to find the right one for you. Not all chat rooms are created equal. If you don't find one your first time looking, don't give up. As I said, I finally created my own and am very comfortable with my friends who are there.

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  4. You should have a tinychat for your blog. We could all chat in the persona of our favourite characters. Saving Fuzzy for Matt of course. ~~Megan~~

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    1. Oh noes! Not roleplay again... <_< *hides*

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    2. I'm sorry. Is this something you don't want? I hope I didn't get you upset. I just thought it would be nice to have a place to chat with other Aspies. I really like your blog. I know everyone here would like me and I would feel welcome. I'm sorry if you don't like my idea. Can you please delete my message? ~~Megan~~

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    3. Hi there Megan, please don't be sorry, I was joking around. I just did a post called Rawr where Fuzzy complains about roleplay, so I was referring to that. I've thought about having a chat with my readers sometime. Perhaps I'll give it some more thought. Thank you for the suggestion!

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  5. where do i find a chat room with other adults with asperger went to wrong place chat rm didnt care fore it

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    1. I have yet to find a good one myself, unfortunately.

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    2. (I keep meaning to respond to this and have forgotten time and time again) I so so so so so wish there was a good one out there (ugh, especially on a day like today), it seems like there's such a need but how to go about getting a good chat room? Maybe eventually...

      - Hanne

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  6. Hi. I am a parent of an 18 year old young man with Asberger's, terribly depressed, angry and in denial. Now he is in college crashing and burning and refusing any help whatsoever. Any feedback from Aspey's who have been there?
    Any blogs or support chat rooms for parents of Aspey's?

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    1. Hi, have you tried WrongPlanet.net? You can find forums for all age groups there as well as parents. There are many large Facebook groups related to Asperger's as well. You're sure to find others who have been there in one of these online communities.

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  7. finally something positive about chat.. Im aspie and ive been in two chat rooms for over 7 years. It is my primary social interaction for all the reasons above.. and I find I can interact with the NTS on a level field in chat.. one does have to be careful not to give out identifying information, it is good to observe a few times to reaalise who the room idiots are,, along with the nice onces..

    I woudlnt mind finding an aspie chat for us older folks, wrong planet is good, but its primary chat regulars are people 30 and under which I do not relate to...

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  8. I have been trying hard to find a chat room. Unfortunately they either they wont let me register and have no support / technical help to get registered or they want me to have a facebook / twitter account first. I've avoided facebook / twitter because of my natural fear of bullies or being publicly shunned / humiliated. :( I agree that it is is also difficult to find older Aspies too. I'm 47. :) thanks for any support and for taking the time to read this. :)

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  9. I googled the word "Aspie" b/c my son is aspie and I use the term when talking to other parents or people who have aspie family members. It has been accepted and it is a good word and I pretty sure an "Aspie person" come up with it. I just wanted to tell you that I am so glad that I stumbled on this site as I am now under investagation by Voc. Rehab (where I help people find jobs) b/c I used the word "aspie". I may lose my job, b/c neurotypical people are often stupit. I love my "aspie" friends as they can usually make sence out of a bad situation. You have done this for me just for me being able to read your comments and advice to others..

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