The Star Wars fanbase is an extremely passionate bunch, with strong opinions of all extremes. I have learned much about myself and my relationship with social media because of my interactions with this fanbase. I hope my experience as a young adult with autism and avid movie buff will help others navigate some of the ups and downs of social media.
Of the Star Wars franchise, I really love watching the original trilogy, the first two seasons of The Mandalorian, and two out of three films from the sequel trilogy. Now, I’m with everyone else who agrees that the last of that trilogy, The Rise of Skywalker, is hot garbage, yet a vocal majority of Star Wars fans also say the same about the other two sequel trilogy movies that I love: The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, even saying they’re worse than any movie from the prequel trilogy.
Whenever a Star Wars-based social media account posts anything even remotely related to the sequel trilogy, the comment thread is always toxic with hatred for all three of those movies. It presses my need to make my own opinion heard: I believe the first two movies from that trilogy are really good, even better than the entire original trilogy. I realize that putting this opinion out there only starts trouble, as these types of internet trolls are always happy to start fights with anyone who disagrees with them. Yet I just can’t stay away from voicing what I see as the truth, especially with a fanbase as toxic as the one for Star Wars, and I feel an overwhelming need to knock some sense into the idiots in that community, or put them in a position for me to report them and watch them get punished. You can follow this link to read more of my thoughts about all the Star Wars movies that I believe are worth your time to watch.
This type of interaction is also tied to my anxiety: I’m afraid that no matter what my opinion may be, I'm always wrong. It doesn’t matter whether my opinion clashes with a child, a Harvard professor, or a jobless troll on the internet, I always doubt my own judgment. Often, when an internet user resorts to throwing insults, I take it a lot more personally than others do; I wonder if what they said to me is true. One time, someone on the internet called me a creepy middle-aged man (even though I'm 30) and it made me wonder if I really am creepy because I enjoy certain media primarily made for kids. Yet as much as I dislike engaging in online fights, I feel the need to do so in order to convince myself that the other is wrong. This addiction has prompted the decision for me to leave Twitter and Facebook. Looking back, I don’t miss those platforms one bit.
So how then can others on the autism spectrum navigate a toxic world, especially when online, the place where much of our lives happens nowadays?
Well, first off, it’s the duty of a parent to survey their child's internet activity like a hawk. Anyone can get in a lot of trouble online, and not just the illegal kind or the "revealing too much personal information" kind. The internet is full of a lot of scummy people, and the online setting seems to bring out everyone’s worst traits. The anonymity of comments makes spiraling down that rabbit hole of toxicity way too easy. Everyone needs to understand that social media bickering doesn’t do anyone any good. There will never be a winner, only two losers.
Unfortunately, social media is much more attractive to kids on the autism spectrum since they don’t have to struggle to read facial cues. I for one am a slow processor when thinking of words to say verbally, and I often get lonely, so I have resorted to starting conflicts with strangers on social media to at least have some form of communication. That’s why I encourage involvement in social clubs and volunteer groups for more chances to meet with people face-to-face, something that we all need, autistic or not.
However, because some fans’ hatred of certain Star Wars movies is not fully possible to avoid, and for reasons I’m still working on, I have clung to the fear that I should feel ashamed for loving The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi.
I have found that I need to constantly remind myself of the great things done well in those movies. Despite my autism, it’s possible for me to find confidence in my own judgment, and you can do the same if you are on the spectrum. If your lack of confidence in your opinion is causing you genuine stress, then it’s time to shove aside whoever’s saying the opposite opinion. That may mean you have to leave social media, but you should do whatever you need to ignore the opposing argument and remind yourself of why you have the stand you’ve taken. I understand that this is not the familiar “be open to other people’s points-of-view” message, but if someone else’s point-of-view is causing you low self-confidence and diminished mental health, then that’s the time to shut off your ears to the other side.
You can see my movie recommendations on our Pacelli Publishing website, and check out my book, What Movies Can Teach Us About Disabilities, which includes a chapter about how autism is portrayed in the movies.
Inspiration for Life with Autism
This blog has a variety of articles about people living life with autism, and topics and ideas that can help in the journey. Guest bloggers are welcome. Inspired by Trevor, a young adult film critic, photographer and college graduate on the autism spectrum.