Social media is a big part of our culture, whether we like it or not. If we don’t like it, we can simply stay away from it. And I, for one, have had months at a time where I have really enjoyed that lack of pressure to participate, to ‘like’, to contribute, to keep up…

And then along comes my autism diagnosis! And then the ADHD…And suddenly, social media has the potential to go from being an aspect of life that I dread, because I constantly put my foot in it, or write things that sound a bit odd to most people, to realising that this can be a useful tool for finding my people.

I scoffed when my sister talked about ‘online communities’. I imagined teenage boys in their darkened bedrooms discussing Minecraft (nothing wrong with Minecraft, at ALL!). I had no idea how vast the neurodivergent communities are on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. There may be others – oh yes – TikTok has a HUGE neurodivergent community with some very entertaining videos that my daughter sends me… but that’s the extent of my knowledge (I am 54, so I’m not in the slightest bit up to speed with such things since my kids left home).

It’s a bit of a double edged sword for us neurodivergents: we are widely considered to be a vulnerable group because we are incredibly trusting, we often have mental health issues co-occurring, we are often isolated. We struggle to read social cues. All this and more leaves us open to being unwittingly taken advantage of, click here → to go to the glossary post on cyberbullying. Many of us will have life stories that can support that.

However, if we are selective, if we take steps to protect our privacy, if we remember that whatever we share is then out there, so we need to share it in protected environments (i.e. carefully moderated ones – and not those that can be viewed or commented on by the general public), the potential to finally feel part of our tribe is enormous. And BOY does it feel good when we do! The Gentle Autistic communities (below) are testament to that. There is something so completely validating about speaking authentically and others coming back with comments like ‘me too!’, ‘I totally identify’, ‘we’re here for you’, ‘you’ve found your people!’.

Without access to social media, my anecdotal understanding of neurodivergencies (which is worth so much more than a theoretical book written by a neurotypical professional) would be so much less, my new friendships wouldn’t exist, and my feeling of being an outsider would continue. I’m still terrified of Twitter – way too public and gobby. I get frustrated by the lack of words on Instagram. But I do love our Facebook communities – they are game changers!