Thoughts on tech shaming

I created a meme about tech shaming to share on my Facebook page four days ago, and it really resonated with many people. The shares and comments are finally slowing down enough for me to respond to the comments received on that image.

I need to acknowledge that there is a grammatical error in the third reason which should have been written as “use” instead of “using.” I am amazed that no one felt the need to comment about that grammatical error.

To the people who shared the image in recognition, the people who made supportive comments, and the people who made yourselves vulnerable by sharing the reasons why you use tech in the company of others:

Thank you. I hear you. I may not share exactly the same challenges as you, but I get it, and I want to say that it’s ok. You’re all awesome for being so willing to say “this is me” despite the fact that we live in a society where you might get singled out and told to just get over it.

I also want to say that I’m sorry if you were singled out by people who replied to your comments with complete disregard about the impact that their words would have on other people. I tried to monitor that thread as closely as possible, but I know that there were a few hurtful, hateful comments that I didn’t get to fast enough.

This post is mainly aimed at those other people. The ones who had the absolute gall to reply to you and tell you that you were being rude.

Dear Tech Shamers,

You came into my virtual home, kicked over the furniture and yelled at my guests, and you have the audacity to call other people rude?

When a person reveals their vulnerability by sharing their challenges on the Internet, it is absolutely not ok for other people dismiss those challenges by trying to induce shameful feelings in others.

You said “we live in a society.”

Yes, we all do. You do too, and you make up the large portion of society that makes us feel incredibly uncomfortable about the way that we live our lives. You could try being more polite yourselves. You could try learning the very valid reasons why some folks need to sometimes retreat while we’re in the company of others. You could learn how some non-speaking folks use technology to assist them in communicating. You could learn how some folks sometimes lose speaking ability in times of stress and need a device in order to assist them in communicating.

You could learn to be a little more accommodating and understanding towards others, and learn that perhaps we are not being rude. We are in fact making an incredible effort to participate in a society created by people who don’t share our challenges.

You said “people must be present when I’m talking.”

Now, I can’t say for certain whether this is tied to patriarchy, but it was interesting that all of the people who made comments along this line were people who present as men.

Firstly, have you considered that when you demand that people sit in rapt attention while you flap your mouth parts, you come across as arrogant and boring? And that’s before you’ve even flapped your mouth parts. Many Autistic people simply can’t sit still and listen at the same time. We need to move in order to listen. It’s called stimming.

Here’s another thing: Non-Autistic people sometimes need to stim too, but it’s just more socially acceptable for you. You chew gum? You knit? You tap your fingers? You click your pen? You’re stimming!

Your versions of stimming are acceptable, but ours are pathologised and used to make us feel inadequate. We do things differently to you, and that should be ok.

You said “I want to hear your voice” or “I want people to at least make eye contact when I’m talking.”

You’re ableism isn’t just showing; it’s screeching overbearingly loudly. My clearest voice can be heard right here: My thoughts make their way to my fingers typing on a keyboard with far greater ease than they make their way out of my mouth. Making eye contact makes me physically nauseous, and I can feel myself starting to shut down.

So I don’t have the abilities you have. Why do you continually expect everyone else around you to have the same abilities as you do? Why do you expect that those who have different abilities, those who are disabled, to accommodate you by making extra effort when you’re prepared to make none?

You said “I have the same problem, but I deal with it so you should just deal with it too”

Clearly, the problem doesn’t effect your life in the same way that it effects others. Don’t use your experience to dismiss the real problems that other people experience.

So, that’s why you found yourselves banned from my virtual home. Because even after I asked you to stop, you didn’t stop.

You needed to have your say. Well, I’m here to tell you that your say is completely, absolutely unimportant and irrelevant. Go have your say in your own virtual homes, but you are not welcome in mine.

I’m not even going to bother to go into the irony of you using tech to shame people for using tech. You’re not worth the effort.

If you don’t want to live in a society with people who use technology to self-accommodate their challenges, then go live in a cave.

That is all I have to say to you.

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