In The Politics of Autism, I examine the role of social media in the development of the issue.
Katie Camero at Buzzfeed:
Before TikTok, many autistic creators said they had no way to connect with other autistic people. Over time, the platform has introduced them to people who understand them and their needs.
“Ever since I started talking about autism in my videos, I’ve met some very incredible and nice autistic people who are very talented and wise and who have become some of my greatest friends,” said Timothy Boykin, 23, whose TikTok account has 90.8K followers.
With the goal of connecting and uplifting BIPOC autistic creators, Jackson-Carpenter formed a group chat with some of his new, close TikTok friends. One of them inspired him to rekindle his passion for Pokémon, one of his special interests.
While neurotypical people may not find online friendships fulfilling, autistic people may actually prefer those kinds of relationships, Mazurek said, because they don’t involve in-person stressors, like having to read social cues or dealing with strong sensory stimuli.
A 2017 study found that using Facebook was associated with higher-quality friendships among autistic teens but not among their non-autistic peers. The Yale researchers suggested autistic people “socially compensate through online interaction” because of their “unique communicative style, rather than for being socially anxious.”
“Before TikTok, it was a lot of isolation because there wasn’t a place where I can be honest about things that I’m struggling with,” David said, particularly spaces for autistic women and girls and adults who were diagnosed later in life.
Now, one of David’s goals as a creator is to fill those gaps by posting content that explores what late-diagnosed adults can do to make their lives a bit easier. “How do you be a person with autism? How do you advocate for yourself when this is a very new thing to you? That has been my goal since I started,” David said. “Even if my content helps one person, that’s enough for me.”