(Not) Making Friends In Aspie World – Better Alone Than In A Company Of Lies
13.11.2017 22:11 Artur Švarc
Aspies and people on the autism spectrum in general are known for perceiving social relations in a different way. One of the hallmarks of autism is a difference in making friends. While neurotypical community sees this as a serious obstacle for normal life, aspies themselves do not share their opinion.
Let me tell you a story about Ashley. She is a teenager. She has her circle of friends. She has been making friends without any difficulties since kindergarten based on interests. Some of those playground friendships evolved into meaningful relationships that have the potential to continue into adulthood. Others have fallen apart due to changing interests. With growing up new friendships have emerged. But the older Ashley gets, the more selective she is about who to spend time with and who to choose to share her most inner thoughts and feelings with. Ashley has just finished elementary school. She still keeps in touch regularly with selected classmates whom she considers friends. She has enrolled in secondary school. She is in a class of around 20 students. A few are from her previous school, but the majority of them are strangers to her. Most of them have met before and are at least acquaintances. Being a bit shy in a new environment, everyone sticks together with the few people they are familiar with from before. Except for Ashley. Soon she realizes she is a lone ranger. She spends her lunch break by herself of with selected few. Her teacher notices that and is concerned. She informs her parents, who are aware of the situation, but nevertheless talk to Ashley. Needless to say Ashley in displeased and sees teacher’s concern as an intrusion. She explains to her parents the reason behind her reluctance to making friends. She finds the majority of her schoolmates annoying and “just not her tribe.” Ashley is not being rejected by them. If she has an issue to resolve with them she does it without problem. She can either acquire or provide school related information in communication with them. She just doesn’t feel the need to hang out with them aimlessly.
Ashley is an aspie. Approaching adulthood she has become even more selective about her friends. She is self-sufficient to the point that she prefers to be alone than to settle for a relationship just for the sake of it. She is not lonely. Instead she is confident enough to enjoy solitude and saves her time and effort for people that she finds worthy of it. She spends a lot of time socializing with people with whom she shares interests or has at least something in common. She’s not a hermit. Yet she does not feel a compelling urge to be around people at all times. And other people can not comprehend that.
Most people, even medical professionals familiar with Asperger’s Syndrome, are inclined to say that she is lacking socializing skills. As a fellow aspie I look deeper than that and see something more to it. She’s not lacking anything. She’s perfectly able to socialize if necessary. It is her choice not to. She has different expectations from social interactions than an average teenager. In any relationship she expects substance, not just an illusion of being accepted by the crowd. She senses when people are not in tune with her and finds it useless effort to try to synchronize with them. Also, people do not know about her Asperger’s. She is keeping that a secret, because she is aware of the reaction it would provoke. As long as people think she’s merely an introvert, they’re willing to accept that to some extent. It is a bit more socially acceptable, after all. If they were to find out she’s an aspie, they would immediately try to alter her, to socialize and rehabilitate her. Because Asperger’s Syndrome is demonized and feared of by the masses.
Ashley is not the only aspie with mind frame like that. Although there are people with Asperger’s Syndrome who are extroverted and make friends easily, the majority of aspies contemplate thoroughly before entering into a friendship. The main reasons for that is their enhanced sense for people. It is a common myth that aspies are lacking empathy or even worse, that they do not have feelings. In reality they sense people more than they see and hear them. Established societal norms are exhausting to them because they can feel it is a charade. They do not just connect with people out of boredom or convenience, but out of genuine interest in them. They have zero tolerance for fake friendships. They prefer being alone than in a company of lies. In other words, if you want to befriend an aspie, you have to make a bit more effort than with regular people, but the reward will be much greater.
Aspies are not weird freaks and moody loners. They are people who do not waste valuable time with superficial things. They do not make small talk. They prefer having meaningful conversations. They value their privacy and they share it only with chosen people, to whom they are loyal friends. Although they seem reserved, they can be some of the warmest, funniest, friendliest people who you can think of, after they let you in their personal space. Once you have gained and justified their trust, you are rewarded with a friend for a lifetime.