Last weekend was Ryan’s high school homecoming dance. He got ready alone, he ate dinner alone and he stood in the endless line to get in alone. I tried hard not to let my sadness of seeing him standing in a line of hundreds of kids alone overshadow the courage it took to stand in that line alone, but, I still sobbed as I pulled away. Then I went home and looked on Facebook…the grandest of The Social Media Sh** Shows and I cried harder.
I saw this kid who likes Ryan, that kid who admires Ryan, this kid who was in the musical with Ryan and that kid who sat next to Ryan in Algebra all smiling with their dates, their friends, their clique. I get it, I’m not naïve enough to think that on one of the holiest days of the high school year, kids are going to go out of their way to think outside their social circle and include someone new, so they certainly aren’t going to include someone they don’t quite get, someone who is “different”. I don’t like it, I think it sucks for my son, but, I honestly recognize that they are teenagers trying to find their own way too.
What I don’t understand, is the need to torture myself further by getting my ticket to The Social Media Sh** Show and reinforcing my awareness of the high school hierarchy by continually checking Facebook and Instagram.
Yet, with each sharp knife to my heart from this update and that one, I continued to scroll and see face after face that I recognized who all think Ryan is "so sweet". I told myself to put my damn phone down and go open a bottle of wine (I did open the wine, but, kept scrolling as I poured). I thought to myself, maybe I should have posted a photo of Ryan standing in line alone to see the impact that might have, but, I knew it would have little impact on the kids because, well, they are kids, but, then I thought maybe such a stark picture of what reality is like for some kids would have had an effect on parents. Then as I continued to scroll, I realized we parents feed into the frenzy.
We spend hundreds of dollars on the clothes, the nails, and the hair. We rent limos, make dinner reservations, secure a perfect place for the perfect photos, and pray our kids get invited to “the” after homecoming party. I’m not pointing a finger at anyone, unless of course I’m standing in front of a mirror, because I was just as guilty of chumming the waters when my oldest kid was “in”.
All I could think, as my fingers kept scrolling, is that if it hurts me as a mom, imagine what it is doing to our kids? Imagine what it must feel like to pick up their phone, enter their pass code and within seconds they see and they know right where they stand that day and where they don’t. They can see instantly as it is happening if they made the cut or not.
It. Must. Be. AWFUL.
Here is the funny thing, as hard as The Social Media Sh** Show is on me, my Ryan could care less about it. Even if they were giving tickets away to the show that included a lifetime supply of Auntie Anne’s Cinnamon Sugar Pretzel Nuggets, he still wouldn’t go. He has a Facebook account which he NEVER uses, an Instagram account that he might look at once every other month and no Snapchat or Twitter accounts. Some might argue that since social struggles are a hallmark sign of individuals with autism that it makes sense Ryan isn’t interested in the social going on’s of others. Some might argue that the pain of not being included is too much so that’s why he has no interest. And some might believe that since Ryan doesn’t have many friends, he would never get followers and likes, so what's the point? I'm here to tell you that it is none of that, and I ought to know, because I went straight to the source.
And in Ryan’s words, “Social media is about people acting ridiculous and that’s not who I am plus, I think it’s a complete and total waste of time.” Where were those words of wisdom on Saturday night when I spent two hours wasting my time on The Social Media Sh** Show when I could have watched two episodes of Outlander?!
Once again, Ryan has proven that he is smarter than me…smarter than most of us.
Ryan came home from the homecoming dance and said it was “great”. He met a friend there, he danced and he stayed for an hour and a half. Do I think he would have liked to have been included for something with someone before the dance? Of course I do. Do I think that if he would have been included that he would have immediately posted a pic of that moment on social media for everyone to see? Of course I don’t, because in his words, “What’s the point of it?”
I read an article once by a researcher who believes that autistic individuals are more evolved than neurotypicals. Well, in the world of social media, my kid is a young man walking on two feet and I am still scampering around on all fours like an ape. I guess that puts him in the Evolved Clique. We should all aspire to be in that clique and I hope someday I am...right after I post this blog to my Facebook Page.