Think before you tag

Autistic activists do a lot of stuff, including fighting for change, on social media. Personally, it’s where I’m most comfortable because I communicate best in writing.

Of course, there are times when we need to take the fight offline. We do that too, but a lot of it is online – often in the comments sections on Facebook. That leads to an interesting problem.

People tag us in things to get our attention, and I’m going to ask: please don’t. Please think before you tag. We might be dealing with something else, conserving our spoons for the next major battle, or recovering from the last one.

When I get tagged, I can’t ignore the tag. Obviously, I can’t speak for all autistic people, but I do know that many do feel the same. I can’t walk away from that particular fight. Sometimes, that works out ok because I have the energy and the time to respond. Sometimes, it doesn’t because it upends my plans for the day. It uses up energy and time that could be better spent elsewhere. I know that when I get a notification that tags me, I struggle to find the words to say “No, not today”. Then, I feel obligated to enter the discussion, and that leads to more notifications. I become more involved and then the day is over and I’m exhausted, but I haven’t achieved anything.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t ask for help, but there are better ways than tagging the autistic people that you know. One way (and probably the way that works best for me) is to post a message in an advocacy group. Remember to add a trigger warning so that people can assess whether to click on the link. That allows us to decide whether we can get involve ourselves in the discussion. It also allows us to decide “No, not today” without having to find the words to do so. It also means that you’ll probably end up with more support than if you had just tagged a few autistic people that you know.

The added bonus: you’ll get to know more of us too. Some of my good friendships have started out in the comments section fighting for autistic rights (which, by the way, are human rights).

What happens if you don’t belong to any advocacy groups? There is still another way. You can PM the autistic people that you know and say “wow – look at this”. (Again, a trigger warning is sometimes appropriate and appreciated). That’s not really my first preference, and it’s probably less effective than posting in a group, but at least that way, you’re giving us the option of saying “not today” rather than tagging us in to a battle that we can’t walk away from.

So, please: think before you tag.