Who’s zoomin’ who? Autism and alternative communication

*Or Who’s zoomin’ whom if you prefer, the title of this blog post is taken from the 1985 single and album by Aretha Franklin.


Zooming is good for you

We are social animals, or so I was told on a Tuesday morning interview a few weeks back on BBC 6 music. We need face to face contact, said the psychologist, but social distancing and lockdown are affecting people. When we do not see others our empathy levels go down, our ability to feel what they are feeling is lowered. But there are ways around this. Receiving a letter wives contact and can form empathy, a phone call is even better, the sound of a voice is an improvement on written communication, but video calling, one to one is where it matters. Psychologists have shown that there is little difference between speaking to people face to face and over skype/zoom/facetime. It is s good as really seeing people as far as forming and maintaining empathy is concerned. That is a psychologists take, sorry I did not get her name, users of Zoom, however, have been saying something different …

Zooming is bad for you

A Facebook friend has asked people not to Zoom her as using Zoom causes her fatigue. That video conferencing can leave you feeling drained is in an article, also from the BBC: Here’s the link. When I read this I thought, “Welcome to my world.” This is how social interaction affects me, no matter if it is on Zoom, a video call or a face to face meeting.

The autism question

I have Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism. I am autistic. Draining is a good word for how social interaction affects me. Being amongst one or two is fine, I can even cope with theatre, and sporting crowds when the focus is on what is on the stage or on the field, people gathered for a common purpose and interacting more with the actors/athletes than they are with each other.

Not that I shun social interaction, I seek it out, but in quantities I can cope with. Every social situation requires a rest period — no two, one to prepare and one to wind down. I am not very good at picking up clues from body language, I can do it, I am self-taught in cold reading, but it is an intellectual process that takes effort and not a natural thing for me.

On Zoom the sound and vision elements can be out of synch. This means that people will not pick up body language elements in the same way. The evening before writing this first draft I was in Facebook live where the sound was broadcast live, THe picture was so far behind that the man appeared to be speaking whilst drinking tea.  Bizarre.

The playing field has been levelled. Non-autistic people are experiencing the same fatigue that I and many other autistic people share. When we get through this lockdown I hope that people will have a greater appreciation of what being autistic is like.

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