Saturday, July 11, 2009

I'm A Lurker

In the blogosphere, I am first and foremost a lurker.

While I've been blogging for more than a year, and I think of myself as somewhat prolific, I spend an even more substantial chunk of time reading. Lurking, because I often read on my phone, and it's hard to type comments on my phone (especially while I'm driving a car). I DO comment, I just usually comment in my head, with my heart. And I break promises to myself all the time to later dash those comments off when I'm on a real keyboard later.

Being a lurker means that I feel a close sense of friendship or kinship with people who don't know my name, have little or no idea I exist. Being a lurker means I get to follow the lives of those who fascinate me, from whom I can learn, without leaving a trace. Being a lurker has helped me educate myself about autism.

My RSS aggregator, chock full of myriad voices, reveals my two great interests: education (particularly as it relates to educational technology) and special needs parenting (particularly related to autism). In the first realm, I feel professional, confident, empowered, excited, eager. In the second, I feel emotional, neurotic, needy, exhausted, cautious. Sometimes the two realms overlap. Then I feel awkward. Want to know how I feel about educational technology's potential for helping children with autism? So would I. I can't seem to wear both hats at once; I fall silent.

As a writer in the blogosphere, I found my voice through talking about autism, or more specifically at least talking about my family's experience with a child affected by autism. Although I've written ever since I could talk, I always preferred writing about other people -- I wrote news and feature stories, arts reviews, short stories and poems. I wrote in the third person most of the time.

Then, my son came along. From the day I met him, I adored him, and I suspected he struggled with challenges I couldn't quite articulate. It took years into my desperate struggle to understand my son better for me to find the resources I needed, wanted, craved, sought. I had looked to doctors, teachers, therapists, family members, lactation consultants, mothers' groups ... at last I turned to Google, and finally I found the special needs blogosphere. I read and read and read, and suddenly I had to blog. I had to say, ME TOO. I had to say, HI, PEOPLE IN SIMILAR SITUATIONS. THANK YOU FOR REACHING OUT! I THOUGHT I WAS ALL ALONE, AND I'VE BEEN SO CONFUSED! I read blogs, and then I needed to write one. I didn't write to be read, I didn't write for the sake of those whose blogs I followed, I blogged because reading blogs inspired me to seek the relief that writing gives.

When I blog, it is a purely selfish act. That is a good thing. I do not speak of selfish in a pejorative tone. When I blog, I help myself. When I blog, I lose mental weight. When I blog, I heal a bit. When I don't blog, I suffer. When I blog, I am real, I am honest, I open up a vein. I do not blog for comments. I do not blog for anyone else. I deeply appreciate comments, I enjoy them, I welcome them, and I treasure the friendships and connections that result. But hecklers can't really hurt me, because I don't need an audience, and I don't much care if my stories of my experience with autism don't jive for someone else. It's a great wide blogosphere out there, and anyone who isn't looking to relate or be positive can keep stepping. Or they can just read me and lurk. If you can't say something nice... lurk.

We all speak only from our own experience. In my experience, if you need to know about autism, you need the blogosphere. If you need support for dealing with autism, it's the best place to go. If you need experienced voices to describe the pros and cons of therapies or treatments, it's the place to go. If you need a good cry, it's the place to go. If you need resources for your family, it's the place. If you need to know the ins and outs of IEPs, it's the place. If you need to know how to get a screaming child out of the mall without getting arrested, or the best come-back line for insensitive relatives, or a gfcf recipe, or examples of how well special needs kids can blossom over time, or proof that you are not doing it all wrong, or a good laugh... well, you need the blogosphere.

If you need the blogosphere, start by lurking. Read people who resonate for you, and then read who they read, and read people who read them. Lurk. And then, when you're ready, send me the url for your blog, so I can keep lurking in all the best neighborhoods in the blogosphere.


Christine said...

Hey, me too!! About everything you said. Only funny thing is that now I'm finding that I don't need to blog for the same reasons as I did in the beginning. In the beginning it was so much a part of my healing process that I really don't know where I would be if I hadn't found it -- but my life, my perspective. ... everything is just different. And so I write primarily for those other people who need to hear those words: Hey, me too! And also: "Wow, my life now is pretty wonderful. Better than I ever hoped it would be!! With, despite, and because of the autism."

gretchen said...

To repeat what I've said on Facebook: Amen and Hallelujah!

And, like Christine, my reasons for blogging have changed. But I still NEED to do it from time to time.

Glad you started blogging friend!

Maddy said...

Newbie visiting from Joeymom......lurker indeed.

MOM-NOS said...

I love this. It's interesting - I sometimes think the the autism moms area of the blogosphere is now into its 2.0 version. (Maybe 3.0 - I've been out of the loop lately.)

When I started blogging in 2005, there were not a lot of us out there that I could find - but then our community started growing, and we held on to each other for dear life. I think a lot of us blogged to survive.

And then, as folks like Christine and Gretchen and me (and a whole bunch of others) became more settled, and our kids got older and we stopped living in crisis mode, our blogging changed - its content, its frequency, its purpose - and the "next generation" of autism mom bloggers stepped up and blogged with the same thirstiness we'd started with. We are all still in touch and still look to each other for support and reality checks, but now it seems like it's more often through e-mail or Facebook or Twitter or text than through blogging. At the same time, I do wish I could find the time to be more connected to the autism blogosphere. But it's so darned BIG now. It's a hard thing to navigate.

Its all evolution, I guess. And I'll bet it will be a fascinating sociological study someday.