Early this morning, I woke up to answer nature’s call. It turned out to be a pretty bad case of diarrhea which is still, unfortunately, running its course. Because I was wide awake after that runny episode, I decided to check Facebook. There, I saw a post by the comedian who refers to themself as “God”. God wanted to know…
I was enjoying most of the responses, the vast majority of which were astute, and made good sense. But then someone posted this comment:
Being the loudest person in the room.
Now, I don’t think this was a particularly offensive comment. I’ve been around for 51 years now, and I know that people who are very loud often want to hear themselves talk. Even God commented that this was a good observation.
I know it’s not always insecurity that causes people to speak loudly, though. Sometimes people are loud for practical reasons, like the genuine need to be heard. Or sometimes they have a hearing problem and don’t realize that they’re loud… or they live with someone who doesn’t hear well and are used to speaking loudly for that reason. I would add, though, that even in those situations, a person can learn to modify themselves based on their audience. Yes, you might get used to speaking loudly if you live with someone who is hard of hearing, but common courtesy might influence you to realize that not everyone is hard of hearing and other people would appreciate it if you didn’t “boom” at them.
Moreover, I don’t think the poster who mentioned being loud was referring to those who are loud for practical reasons. I think there’s a certain type of loudness that comes from people who are insecure, and demand that everyone hear their voice, even if they aren’t necessarily listening to what is being said. Take, for instance, the guy on our flight from Yerevan to Frankfurt, who was very loudly talking about his life in London for everyone to hear. It came off as kind of narcissistic and inconsiderate, especially since it was so early in the morning and most people were hoping for peace and quiet. Narcissism is often rooted in being deeply insecure.
Anyway, I was about to move on from the post when I noticed this comment:
…that could just be a sign of hearing loss or autism. Let’s try not to weaponize something that can’t be helped.
And inwardly I sighed, because of the shaming tone of that response, and someone’s decision to edify a stranger on social media. I think it was the “Let’s try” part of the comment that annoyed me the most, because it sounds shaming, and because God is supposed to be a funny page. I don’t understand why people have to turn everything into an “educational moment”, especially on a comedian’s social media page. I don’t think the original comment was so offensive that it needed correction. However, if the person really felt they must point out other reasons why people are “loud”, they could have done it in a less obnoxious, preachy way, like this:
Maybe the person has hearing loss or autism.
The original comment wasn’t referring to that situation. In fact, the person came back and posted this:
I think you know to whom I’m referring. (again, an assumption)
To which the shamer wrote this:
Sure I do, but I’ve been falsely accused dozens if not hundreds of times of being that person, when it wasn’t that at all. Just offering some perspective.
Maybe the commenter could have been more specific about the type of loudness meant, but again, it’s just Facebook. I’m sure it never occurred to them that their response would draw criticism. It’s more likely they were referring to someone who is obviously being obnoxious about being loud. To their credit, the original poster did say “totally understood”, and moved on without incident.
As someone who lives in Europe, I notice that a lot of Americans are LOUD. They can’t all be hard of hearing or suffering from autism (or another condition). I think it’s a cultural thing for a lot of us, and it comes from repeatedly being told that your country is the best in the world. As an American, I can say that I don’t think the United States is the best country in the world by a long shot. But that’s just my opinion. Your mileage may vary.
More people piled onto that comment. Someone thanked the shamer for pointing out that sometimes people are loud for reasons other than being insecure.
Thank you. I am on the spectrum and I talk really fast, and often loudly, because that is how my ADHD manifests itself.
Fair enough. But most people aren’t going to know that you have ADHD, or some other condition, unless you decide to let them know. And as humans, we tend to draw conclusions based on the information we have. God knows, plenty of people have come to erroneous conclusions about me without knowing anything about me. It’s kind of part of being human, isn’t it? It doesn’t necessarily mean someone is an asshole.
The next comment came from someone who decided that having a condition is no excuse. She posted this:
People on the spectrum can learn to modify their behavior. High functioning autism doesn’t give people a pass.
Naturally, that comment made some people angry. I may, myself, make some people angry when I state that I think she has a point. Because obviously, people who function in the world without supervision can be taught which behaviors are acceptable, and which aren’t– at least to a degree. Moreover, if you don’t know the person well enough to realize that they have autism or another issue, your impressions of them aren’t going to matter much, anyway. If I’m on an airplane at 6:00 AM, listening to some guy talk very loudly about his sports cars in London, I might think he’s an obnoxious asshole when it’s possible that he’s really just on the spectrum. But since I probably won’t see or interact with him again in my lifetime, what difference does it make? Especially if I keep those thoughts private?
So then someone posted this:
only if they know they have it. Many don’t have a diagnosis.
Does this mean, then, that everyone who speaks too loudly is potentially someone with a diagnosis, and not someone who is just showing off to the masses? Probably not. And maybe it is a good thing to be charitable in one’s thinking. But if that’s your position, why are you hanging out on God’s Facebook page? The God page isn’t exactly known for being charitable toward everyone’s behavior. The person who runs that page habitually shares “Am I the Asshole” posts from Reddit.
The “no excuses” lady came back with this response, which provoked more angry emoji reactions:
they don’t need a diagnosis to respond to negative feedback.
True enough, I think… although in fairness, I think people on the spectrum probably get a lot more negative feedback than the average person does. I will also admit that I really don’t know a whole lot about autism, myself. I’m sure it existed when I was growing up, but we didn’t hear about it much at all. Now, it seems like it’s become an epidemic, and many people use the diagnosis to explain “difficult” people’s behavior. I’m not saying that’s necessarily wrong because, as I said, I don’t know that much about autism. But I also figure I’m not alone in my ignorance. Because of that, people will make assumptions.
Another person took on “no excuses” lady with this:
why should they have to modify their behavior?
By that logic, I’d ask, “why should anyone have to modify their offensive behavior?” If this is how people feel about socially inappropriate behaviors, why even question it when people do things that other people find annoying? Why have AITA posts? Why not just assume everyone has a diagnosis of some sort, which many Americans will then claim they don’t have to disclose to anyone because of “HIPAA”–which of course, when it comes to healthcare privacy, is a law that medical professionals must follow, not rank and file US citizens. HIPAA, incidently, is strictly a US thing— it’s not a human thing that everyone on Earth follows. And God’s page is followed by people around the world who come from many different cultures.
The comment thread continued to escalate. Several more people piled on the “no excuses” lady, and their comments got nastier, more hostile, and more personal. I started to wonder if the self-described people on the spectrum are in control of their ability to interact with people without resorting to insults and rudeness. Isn’t that part of the very definition of an asshole? And before anyone comes at me, I’m not trying to say that being an asshole is part of having autism or any other diagnosis. But I did wonder if part of having autism means that a person gets a license to just be rude to other people without allowing them to respond in kind.
It sounded like a lot of the shamers were saying, “I have a diagnosis, so I can’t help being loud, nasty, and insulting. You should be more understanding and tolerant about my condition, even if we aren’t acquainted, and you don’t know that I have a diagnosis, and even if I’m being a massive hypocrite.” Insulting comments, by the way, are much less socially acceptable than being too loud in public is. Shall I blame those very personal, hostile, rude comments on the diagnosis? Or can people with autism, who get dragged for speaking too loudly in public, regulate themselves enough not to insult strangers on the Internet? If they can’t regulate themselves, should they be allowed to post?
Just as I was about to give up hope, someone posted this to the “no excuses” lady:
i got my diagnosis at 54 years old, and i started asking people close to me to help me be better at containing myself when i get excited, angry, whatever. most of the time they just say to tone it down when i get a bit over the top, and it’s been really helpful to identify the situations where i can improve my listening and communicating. it’s actually made my life easier.
Wow! How refreshing! Someone is taking responsibility for themselves and trying to modify their behavior so that people don’t think the worst about them. I realize that this is a difficult thing for a lot of people, and maybe for some it’s impossible. Still, I think it’s commendable that they are willing to try. I know some people think that asking people with the diagnosis to try to modify their behavior seems “ableist”. But other people probably see it as a way of improving their situation. I was impressed that the above commenter chose to respond without hostility and shame. I wish more people could do that. The “no excuses” lady sure seemed to. She wrote this:
great work, this is exactly what I mean, you’re choosing to benefit from feedback and I bet your friends and family appreciate this about you.
And this made me conclude that the “no excuses” lady isn’t an asshole, even though a lot of people were assuming that about her. She responded with kindness, appreciation, and empathy toward the person who posted that they had a diagnosis and were trying to learn how to fit in better with people who don’t have diagnoses. I really think that was her main point. You can have a diagnosis and use it as a crutch, or you can have a diagnosis and work to move beyond it. The choice is up to you, of course, but if you choose the crutch route, don’t be surprised if people don’t understand your difficulties and negatively judge you accordingly.
Listen, folks… I can understand how difficult it can be to deal with people when you have a personality that people think is “weird”, “obnoxious”, or “annoying”. I’ve struggled with such a personality all of my life. Plenty of people dislike me after meeting me once and never getting to know me. I had a field instructor when I was getting my MSW who accused me of not being very introspective. He was definitely WRONG about that, but then, he didn’t actually know me very well, and based his assumptions on his short term experiences with me. If he knew me better, he might know that I am actually very introspective. But I’m also eccentric and outspoken. That’s what he saw, and he drew conclusions about me based only on what he saw. We all do that, to some extent. He’s not in my life anymore, so honestly, who cares what he thinks?
I finally decided to quit reading the Facebook post after someone posted this:
it’s not a choice, my parents tried to change the way I spoke when I was a kid and I literally was not even aware of when I was doing it even after it being brought to my attention. Since I got in trouble randomly (from my perspective) all the time for talking I became really uncomfortable talking and instead spoke super quietly for the next 20 years
“No excuses” lady wrote this response, which I think makes a lot of sense:
If it’s not a choice then not changing is understandable and others need to be compassionate and understanding. But if it can be changed, and it often can, then it’s the responsibility of the annoying/inappropriate/whatever person to change it and that’s not going to happen if we just assume “oh, they must be autistic, they can’t help it.“ Behaviors like giving good eye contact, not interrupting, and not talking incessantly in a loud voice in public can often be changed.
Naturally, she got “laughter” reactions for this comment, as well as a few more accusatory, hostile, name calling responses. I gave her a “like”, because I think she makes sense. I think the vast majority of people on the spectrum must be able to make some choices, as we all can, to some extent. Otherwise, what would stop them from committing crimes that would put them jail? I know some of them do commit crimes– there are a lot of mentally ill people who are incarcerated. But do most people on the spectrum do that? I hope not, and I wouldn’t want to assume such a thing about everyone who is “on the spectrum”. If people with diagnoses can learn not to commit crimes that would put them behind bars, most of them probably can learn to modify some of their behaviors, with effort, competent therapy, and empathy from people who know and care about them.
But really, I just wish people who preach about kindness, acceptance, and tolerance would actually practice what they preach. If you want people to be more understanding and offer forbearance toward you when you’re trying, don’t come at people with meanness when they misunderstand. If you want respect, act respectable. Meanness is a deterrent to communication.
When people are hostile, judgmental, and make assumptions about who I am, it doesn’t make me want to understand who they are. I just want to get the fuck away from them. And that’s one thing that these folks who are aggressively demanding acceptance, respect, tolerance, and for people to stop judging them, don’t seem to understand. I also doubt these kinds of hostile interactions online do much to change people’s perspectives toward problematic behaviors or people with “issues”. They sure don’t make God’s page any more fun to visit or read.