Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Communication Shutdown

Yesterday, 1 November 2010, I participated in Communication Shutdown - a charity event raising awareness and support for those affected by autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This was a global event which required participants to cease accessing Facebook and Twitter for the day.

I feel compelled to write of my experience yesterday, as I was far greater affected than I had predicted. I work with children who have autism, and decided to participate to demonstrate my support for these children. In doing so, I also gained some interesting insight into my own use of social networking sites, and also discovered that I rely quite heavily on social interaction throughout the day.

My day usually starts very early (having a 1 and 3 year-old who wake at 5:00am), and I more often than not will immediately jump on to Facebook to see what's going on out there in my world. I have a sister overseas who I catch up with regularly online, and love to read what her family have been up to. I scan down my page to see what interesting information can be found in the different 'groups' I belong to, and on the various 'fanpages' I follow.

I use Facebook, and to a lesser extent Twitter, for both personal and professional reasons. There is some great information being shared on individuals' experiences with various illnesses, injuries and disabilities, and great resources to be found.

I had thought that 'switching off' for the day would be easy, but it wasn't. An email I received announced that I was 'tagged in a wall post'. It took all the willpower I could muster to not look! My fridge had broken down over the weekend, and I had a new one arriving. For some reason, I really wanted to share this with my 'friends'! At one stage I came across a site that I wanted to become a 'fan' of on Facebook so that I could receive regular updates on their products - but I couldn't. This would have meant accessing Facebook.

So in addition to showing my support for this cause, I also learned a little about the concept of communication shutdown too. Working with children who experience communication difficulties, I thought I understood. I probably still don't entirely, but I think I am a little more aware. Communication is not just about expressing wants and needs. It's about validating your own opinions, preferences, and experiences. It's about feeling connected with the world around you and its people. For me, communicating is a way of learning, and educating too. I use Facebook and Twitter to obtain and share interesting information and resources. It appears as through the Communication Shutdown project has been a huge success - for fundraising, and for raising awareness for autism. A truly worthy cause.

For more information, visit www.communicationshutdown.org