The “I Like It” meme to promote breast cancer awareness, in which women posted cryptic updates stating where they liked to set their purse — and this without actually mentioning the word “purse” so that for all the world it looked like a whole bunch of women posting about places they like to have sex (e.g. “I like it on the counter”) — was patently stupid. It managed to be even more backwards than the campaign that preceded it in which women posted updates stating only the colour of their bras. At the very least, that one managed to somehow involve breasts.

Today, a global fundraiser for Autism called “Communication Shutdown” kicked off. The idea? Encourage people to pay for and download a “chapp” (charity app) and shut off Twitter and Facebook for the entire day.

Wait, why are we being asked to do this? Let’s ask their info page!

We realise that nothing can truly simulate what it is like for people with autism.

I absolutely agree. So why are we not using Twitter and Facebook then?

Our aim is to simply encourage a greater understanding from people outside the autism community. Social network users have become reliant and even addicted to platforms like Facebook and Twitter. And if they shutdown for 1 day, they will feel a sense of disconnection and a sense of frustration. By creating a little empathy, we hope to encourage a wider understanding and acceptance of people with autism – an understanding we recognise those in the autism community already have.

Wait, what? These people have managed to simultaneously get the point and ignore it entirely.

The notion that not using two of (arguably) the Internet’s largest social networking sites simulates the communication difficulties that people on the Autism spectrum face every day even remotely enough to engender empathy is at best misguided and at worst downright insulting. Clearly, neurotypical people would have so much trouble communicating with each other if they weren’t using Twitter or Facebook. Come on guys, get real. We might as well be posting our bra colours. =P

Even putting the blatantly asinine and insulting nature of the campaign aside, what good does it do for some small fraction of the world to fall silent? If 5% of everybody I followed on Twitter stopped posting updates for a day, I would not even notice. I’ve gone entire days not posting to Twitter without being noticed as well. How does doing something that most people would not even notice do anything to raise awareness at all? If nothing else, the “I Like It” meme on Facebook managed to drum up attention, even if it was sometimes of the highly negative variety.

No, I agree with Corina Becker: autistics should be doing the exact opposite. Staying silent doesn’t do nearly as well at getting anybody’s attention as speaking out does. While the so-called “high-functioning” or “verbal” autistics can’t speak for those who don’t have a voice (digital or otherwise), they can speak for themselves and personally I think more should be done to encourage that. Or perhaps the neurotypicals who do sympathize with autistics can share their thoughts. In any case, it’ll achieve a lot more than saying nothing at all.

Unrelated: This is my first blog post for November and in the spirit of NaNoWriMo, I will be attempting to write a full blog post every single day this month. I realize that my blogging has started to fade and I consider this an excellent opportunity to commit myself to writing more.