***Originally posted on BlogHer, thought you guys might be interested in how I get myself in to trouble without even trying... ***
Why I Took on Scott Stratten (@Unmarketing) Regarding the Communication Shutdown Campaign for Autism Awareness
Tonight I did something that could very well be the kiss of death as far as my social media "influence" goes. Though I don't really have any at this point, might be safe to say that after tonight, I probably never will.
I somehow got myself in to a Twitter argument with the guru of social media marketing, Scott Stratten (@Unmarketing http://www.un-marketing.com/blog/ ) over tomorrow's Communication Shutdown campaign to promote autism awareness.
First let me just say that arguing with 140 characters or less is not easy.
I'm also not entirely sure how it became an argument. A little background: the Communication Shutdown campaign is an Australian initiative to promote autism awareness by having people not Twitter or Facebook for 24 hrs starting tomorrow (November 1st), in an effort to simulate what it feels like for autistic people who can't communicate. They have special buttons for your accounts if you make a donation to a global charity which includes autism organizations all over the world.
While I understand the motivation behind it, and raising money for autism groups is great, I do not agree with the silence. My son is autistic. He cannot have a conversation with you. But I can. And I want to! For me, and many others affected by autism, being silent is the last thing we want - we want to be heard. Autism "awareness" is not just about joining in a big day of not tweeting or facebooking, it's about understanding what autism means to those who live with it. And you can't accomplish that by stepping away from your computer and not reading my blog, my tweets, or my Facebook updates about my son. You want to be aware? You want to help? Then read my blog. Follow me on Twitter, understand what my family goes through every day. Don't glare at me in the grocery store because Josh is screaming. Don't look at me like I have 2 heads when I have to sit on the floor with my 12 year old son in a bear hug so that he can get his hair cut. Don't think I'm a bad mother because my son isn't wearing shoes. He won't. And I defy you to try to get them on him.
Like I said, raising money is wonderful, and I don't have an issue with the motivation and purpose for the campaign. I just don't believe that being silent is the right way to accomplish what they want.
That of course, is just my opinion. It happens to be shared by quite a few of us in the autism community, the Communication Shutdown people themselves have even acknowledged this on their website. But when I saw @Unmarketing (Scott Stratten) tweeting to promote this campaign, I thought to myself, "this man has a huge following, he has a large voice and influence in social media. Wouldn't it be better for him to be VOCAL about autism and not silent tomorrow??" So I tweeted him a link to a wonderful article written by a fantastic mom of 2 boys on the spectrum (Sunday Stillwell, of ExtremeParenthood.com) which basically explained this perspective and asked him to please read it before deciding to participate in the campaign. Well, he took it as an attack on him personally and kept accusing me of judging him, and it deteriorated almost immediately into something that distressed me quite a bit.
I was not judging nor attacking him. I simply thought that someone with as much of a voice as he has, should be aware of both views on this issue. I told him that while I felt that the intentions were good, I just didn't agree with the method. This is where he got quite angry, assuming I was telling him he was wrong for participating. It went back and forth for a bit, eventually he either got tired of tweeting to me or decided that maybe he should back off a bit and we both said nicer things to each other and left it at that. He mentioned that after his silence tomorrow he would write a blog post about it. Which is great, like I said, he has a big voice in the blogging/social media world, I do not.
I am not sure if he will mention our exchange in the post. It will be interesting to see how he approaches this.
Honestly, either way you choose to support autism awareness is fantastic, it's better than no support! But silence doesn't get the messages out, silence doesn't help you understand. Silent, is not what I will be tomorrow. And if I had to do it again, I would take on Scott Stratten despite his being a very big fish and my being a tiny spec in the ocean of social media, because my son needs a voice. And I am it.
Something important to note: Context is everything and over the internet, with very few words used, it's very difficult to interpret others' intentions if you don't really know them. What Scott took to be judgement and presumption from me was not, and what I took as anger and defensiveness from him, could just as easily have been mis-interpreted. I also don't want to suggest that his wanting to support the cause that way was wrong, on the contrary, I was really excited to see that he was wanting to participate in something for autism. I am also looking forward to his blog post, as I mentioned, his reach is certainly broader than mine so it will be a good thing.
Was a busy day on Twitter/Facebook, I think that ultimately it all ended up fantastic, because if it hadn't been for Communication Shutdown day, there might not have been the amazing dialogue that occurred because many of us chose not to be silent!