Tuesday, August 11, 2015

(Not) Being Consumed by Activism

Autism advocates I admire have recently shared their "burnout" with online followers. These advocates are not seeking sympathy, nor are they wallowing in self-pity. Sadly, they must anticipate negative reactions before taking a break from online and real life activism.

I separate online from real life because the online world can be more exhausting and far more negative than the physical spaces in which advocates operate. Online statements are easily misconstrued, taken out of context, and magnified both intentionally and unintentionally by readers. Trying to maintain civil discourse online can be an impossible task.

In the physical world, what I still consider the real world, people pause before speaking. Rarely can they hide behind anonymity before being cruel. Public cruelty can at least be exposed in many settings. Online, different rules seem to apply to human behavior. Decency is lacking.

When I fail to follow a particular Twitter account, like a Facebook page, or refuse to blog about a particular cause, people take it personally. If I liked, followed, and blogged about every cause that every visitor suggests to the Autistic Me, I could add dozens of new inputs to my already cluttered social media streams.

It is perfectly reasonable to separate my life from nonstop activism. Thankfully, I have never had a problem with taking a break to enjoy dining out, taking drives, visiting gardens, and doing other things with my wife and my family to remain healthy. I make no apologies for putting my family and myself ahead of general activism. If I am not well, I cannot be an effective teacher or activist for others.

The advocates I admire have too often placed the needs of others ahead of their own health. Great men and women have exhausted their minds and bodies because others expect them to do so. If you are asking an advocate to support your cause, to add to your page, to follow your Twitter campaign, or making any other requests, you need to consider that the individual from whom you seek help might also have special needs… Or simply be a tired, overworked normal human being.

Please, if you are an advocate, take care of yourself. If you rely on advocates, remember that they have needs, too.

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