Ableism, secrecy, and “the lost art of interpersonal skills”

My efforts to move non-transparent, inaccessible systems and discussions online are oft greeted with mentions of the “lost art of good interpersonal relationships”, or the like, discounting relationships formed and maintained online with the written word.

I along with many, many others built tight communities of interpersonal relationships spanning the globe using the written word. Our relationships are unconstrained by geography. Online, we find and create cultures that suit us rather than making do with the society our physical selves happen to inhabit. The art of good interpersonal relationships is not lost.  It is better, more accessible, and more impactful than ever.

After 42 years of coping in a neurotypical world, my spoken-meatspace interpersonal skills are far more developed than the online interpersonal skills of those who bemoan the loss of our ability to form relationships. In an age when millions of digital natives are meaningfully connecting in myriad and complementary ways, the lost art narrative is supremely out-of-touch. Instead of deploying lost art counter-narrative when someone tries to bring discussion in the open, step into the digital commons and bootstrap yourself into online interpersonal proficiency. We tech geeks, we digital natives must flip this script in order to modernize and empathize legacy systems. We haven’t lost art. We acquired new art, and it is time our systems and institutions, especially public ones, did so as well.

Debate in the commons with the written word so that all might witness regardless of their situation. I’m autistic and have a neurological disease. I’m averse to spoken communication, especially in the sensory flood of public physical spaces. When you hum with paresthesia from toes to teeth and your muscles boil with fasciculations, the energy to exchange conversational styrofoam with someone applying meatspace schmooze is exhausting to conjure. Insisting on physical , spoken conversation is bad threshold flow. It prevents neurodivergent and disabled from entering discussions and sharing their perspectives. Instead of pulling me into the status quo of private, synchronous, geography-locked conversations from which only those present can learn, come online and communicate where all can learn.

Transparency and accessibility are my motivations. They are best served by public online discussion free from the constraints of time and place.


One thought on “Ableism, secrecy, and “the lost art of interpersonal skills”

  1. I have lupus. I manage to work most days. Sometimes the online world is the only one in wich I feel I can exist. Like at the moment. I went outside for over 15 minutes. I am desperately ill. Thank you for sharing.

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