Wednesday, April 5, 2023

Autism Answer: Logging In


Glasses on a table: what we see

Logging into someone else's social media account and checking out their ads, newsfeeds, recommended posts/videos can be a healthy exercise. 
It happened to me accidentally many years ago, when I was still new to the internet, and it genuinely freaked me out. One of my sons had used my computer to check his Facebook feed and didn't log out. When I later opened the app I was shocked. The world was behaving strangely! It was weird and unfamiliar. For a few moments I literally felt lost and worried. What had I missed? 
I quickly figured out what was going on and got over my confusion, but that shock taught me something that stayed with me. 
The conversations, the ads, the shared videos and photos, they were a peek into a different world. One that was not created for me, one that was not specifically tailored by an algorithm that pays attention to my likes and dislikes, my comments and where my screen lingers, but was instead tailored to my son; who he was at the time. 
Yet, these were all conversations, interests, quotes, and products that are part of the world I live in. Just because they aren't pushed my way doesn't mean they aren't influencing my environment, which influences me. 
In the example of my son's feed, it was mostly anime, ads for video games, and people complaining about the world. 
But I have seen even more since then. 
For example, did you know that lots of people find it clever to make fun of people who think differently than themselves? Call them stupid and stuff? I thought that was only outliers, people struggling with social skills, and/or people with the job of agitating in order to create activity and misinformation. But it is far more common than I thought, which is good for me to understand.
Also, did you know make-up is still a thing? Like, a big thing? I thought it mostly died out for mainstream use when I stopped using it at nineteen. But turns out, according to the push from advertisers and influencers on a friend's Instagram feed, it's not only still a big deal but there are a gazillion ways to wear it, equally as many reasons to wear it, and don't worry there are ways to look like you're not wearing it while you wear it so you can simply be naturally pretty because - duh - everyone should want to be pretty but also you should be confident in your natural beauty without makeup or a filter but here is a filter and makeup tutorials and reviews and promo codes because let's be serious you can't compete with those of us wearing it if you don't wear it. <--- I would not have survived as a young girl in this world. 
I don't notice this stuff because I don't see this stuff, not really. Oh, there are make-up aisles and ads on the sides of buses, but I don't see them, not really. It's when someone I'm with looks, perks up, click's "like" with their attention that I see it. 
And I notice sometimes a person yelling obscenities at other drivers, calling them stupid and stuff, when they don't like something they did, or something they almost did, but I don't really think of it as how a lot of people are. I think of it as uncommon. 
It doesn't really effect me to notice for a moment. Because I don't stay in these environments, seeing for a moment doesn't mean much.
What does effect me is the affect it is having around me, on the people I spend time with, the people I live in the world with. And, conversely, my own world, the one that is cultivated more for me and my interests, though it may seem alien to others is of consequence to them.
We can't truly learn from each other if we are too completely unaware of where other people's ideas are growing out from. If we are entirely clueless to the behaviours, comments, images, beliefs being targeted and consumed by each other, we become unable to truly understand each other. 
Having diverse stories around us, people, books, films, news, opinions from places and times we are not from and where we don't stay, this is a meaningful way to grow our understanding of each other. Our similarities and differences. Needs that some might have that others rarely see. etc.
But it is also useful to simply, sometimes, visit a drastically different person's echo chamber. Log into their social media for a bit, if they're comfortable with it. Invite them to visit yours. 
It can be shocking! Sometimes uncomfortable, sometimes simply boring, but always a little peek at what is "normal" to someone that is not you can remind us that "normal" is a creation. 
For example, did you know it is normal for a lot of people to care about cars?! I have a little brother who cares so much about cars, about their shape and how well they're made and how they might change, that I used to think he must be alone in the universe. Guess what. NOPE! Oh, he might be alone in the specific way he gets emotional over the future of cars, but he is not alone in caring. Not by a long shot! In fact, cars is an extremely normal thing to care about, turns out. Interestingly, that particular brother of mine is not generally considered normal.
So, visit a new echo chamber.
What reverberations do you notice?
What reflections do you see?