Friday, August 10, 2012

When Worlds Collide: Virtual v Real

Brodie lives on his computer or maybe I should say he lives most of his life through the computer. He's a bit of a Facebook-aholic. His virtual world and real world overlap a lot. Sometimes he has problems dealing with what happens online and it oozes into our world. There have been many times where we have to help Brodie deal with things, help him learn from these experiences or just pick up the pieces. While there are times when there is an easy solution to problems there are plenty of times when I feel like I am banging my head against the wall.

Social media has it's place. It can be a very good tool if you know how to use it well. It can help people keep and maintain friendships. It can help create new friendships or even help you find lost friends. It can also do the exact opposite. Relationships can be damaged beyond repair and can cause many problems in the real world.

Having a family that has multiple disabilities including mental health problems can make things extremely difficult when it comes to 'life online' and life at home. I feel that sometimes Brodie's Aspergers causes him to misunderstand what people write. Online you cannot see a persons face when they have written something. Words may have a double meaning and can often be taken the wrong way. You can't always tell when someone is having a joke or are deadly serious. It can be confusing to "normal" people let alone someone who has a disability or a mental health problem.

Can you imagine what it is like when two people who have difficulties reading people in the real world get upset and misunderstand one another online? I know what its like. Its hard. Very hard.

Picture this: Someone has in the past been diagnosed with schizophrenia. They don't want to be medicated. Being medicated means that their creativity is inhibited. I totally understand that. Personally I would hate to be lose my creative side. I also understand what happens when you choose not to medicate. There can be swings in behaviour. You can be fine for months and then slowly you become paranoid and behave totally out of character. You can do things that you would NEVER think of doing when you are well.

Now throw into the mix someone like Brodie, who has Aspergers. Both of these people have difficulties socialising in the real world. They are much better 'friends' in the virtual world. They interact with more people and are even better at it online. There are still problems with misunderstandings but usually they can be explained and sorted out relatively easily (most of the time).

Now throw a spanner in the works just to complicate things a little further. The other person is having an extremely bad week. They are not medicated. The Aspie is joking around online having fun and the other person doesn't understand what the Aspie is joking about. They explain that it isn't funny, at least to them it isn't. Personally I didn't see what was funny about it either but that's beside the point. Words get exchanged. The Aspie is now scared, upset and is having a panic attack. For all you know the other person is anxious and upset too.

What do you do? Soothe the Aspie? Try and find a way to solve the situation. Get the Aspie to block the other person on facebook or set them to restricted profile? Run away and hide? I quite like that option but obviously you cannot do that. Running away from a problem never solves it. It only changes the geography.
If you were faced with this. What would you do to help out? Would you even bother to help out?

Sometimes I truly wonder whether social media is worth it considering all the problems it creates in my world. In Brodie's world. The virtual world is spilling over into our real world and I'm not always sure that it's a good thing.

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