The growth of social media has provided a lot of people around the world, including those on the autism spectrum, with new modes of communication and connection with others. With 22% of adults with autism reporting social anxiety disorder (as compared to 7% in all Americans), social media provides a comfortable platform of communication that removes the pressures of real-time, face-to-face interaction and allows users time to think out their words/comments/actions before posting. Additionally, social media can be useful not only for those with ASD, but also for family members of those with ASD to find community. One mother says that she felt particularly isolated from other mothers when her son was the only one in his entire class who was not invited to a birthday party. In online platforms, she was able to connect and find solace with other parents who felt left out. As a result, social media can help people with ASD and their loved ones form relationships and reduce their loneliness.
However, for all its benefits, social media can present challenges to users with ASD. As a rapidly evolving platform and with trends and slang constantly emerging and fading, the rules of social media are not well-defined and it can be easy to misinterpret underlying implications and nuances online. Furthermore, on some sites, such as Facebook, the sheer number of people that can access anyone's profiles and unregulated comments from users with malicious intentions can induce anxiety. Additionally, social sanctions online, including a swift "unfollow" or "block," don't give the user much information about what action they took that might have offended someone else.
Although social media is not a one-size-fits-all solution for people with ASD and their loved ones, social media can still be a powerful tool for people to find community, build relationships, and feel connected to one another.
Blanks, Jennifer Artesani. "Using Social Media on the Autism Spectrum." PsychCentral, 8 Oct 2018.
Roulhac, Sydney. "Social Media and Autism: Building Community or Creating Isolation?" Madison House Autism Foundation.
"Social Media and Autism." Total Spectrum, 24 Dec 2018.