There are a lot of bad things about the internet, but one thing we have to admit is that it has given a voice to those of uswho have not had one before. It has allowed us find people all around the world who think the same way we do about things; we are no longer bound to talking to people who we can see, or whose phone number we can find. If we have a view we can put it out there and find others who share it, or who will challenge us on it. Now this is not always a good or fun thing. The fact that anyone can put their ideas out there and find like-minded people, as we all know by now, has lead to a lot of dark and unpleasant views getting validation from all around the world. There is likely nothing you could say on the internet that would not have at least a handful of other people nodding in agreement if they were to see it. It`s also true that putting your views on the intenet for all to see is a very quick way to get negative attention in your life. It`s not just small, negative comments, there are a lot of people on-line who have had deaths threats over something as small as tweeting about a game. But I think all of that can lead to us forgetting quite how amazing it is that we have the chance to use the internet to put our voices out there.
I am autistic, dyslexic and dyspraxic and I think often about the fact that if I had been born in any other time in human history how hard it would have been for me to get my voice heard. Due to my poor hand-writing and spelling if I could not type my work out, and then have the computer spell check it, even I would not be able to understand it! I would have had to dictate my work to someone to write-up, and for most of human history the chances of myself or my family ever having been taught to read and write is pretty low. Even if we were able to blogs were not a thing. I would have had to write something that could be published, and not self-published, as we would not have had the money for that. The chances of me writing about autism and disability for all but the last eighty years or so would have been pretty much zero. The truth is that for much of human history the bulk of human-kind was not even taught the skills needed to write a novel. In fact the idea of writing in all but a few upper-class white men was actively discouraged, and the idea that someone who was disabled in the way I am could become a writer was almost unknown. I am not saying there have been no autistic authors in the past (I am sure there have been) but I am also sure that there have been thousands of people who would have been autistic authors, but were never given the chance and died without achieving that dream. If you look back in time it is the same for women, disabled people, LGBTQ people, and of course anyone who was not white. While some people from those groups made it, most never did. Most people from those groups could never even dream of being writers. Of those who did dream of it most died unknown without ever having any of their work published. The financial, technological and social barriers were just too great. We are living in the first age in all of human history where the bulk of those barriers are down. Things are still so bad for all these groups of people that sometimes we can lose sight of this. It`s hard when you are having to fight for your rights just to exist in peace everyday to stop, and think about how different the age we live in now is from all others. We still need to talk about how bad things can be, and we can`t get to a place where we think “Things are better than they were so that’s ok.” especially not now that things for all those groups are starting to slip back, and hard fought gains are starting to be lost both here and overseas. But we also can`t deny the fact that while the Internet has lead to a lot of negative things, and given a voice and power to groups that wish to do harm to others, it has also given us a voice, and a community which we can use to fight against that.
I guess my point is that while I get frustrated both with writing and the internet a lot of the time, it is worth keeping in mind just how incredible the situation we are in right now is. I can sit in my room and write this – it`s legible (even though I always slip a few misspellings past the spellchecker) – and put it online for the world to see. It does not mean I don’t encounter issues in the writing world due to my disability (I have written about those too!) and it does not mean that I am going to make it as a writer, and have a big audience for my work. But what it does mean is that even if I don’t I am still able to keep putting stuff out there as and when I feel like it. I can post it, share it and send it out to people I think might be interested in it – all things that even in my parents lifetime I would not have been able to do. It means that while there might be a lot of toxic reactions to things on the internet, and while it can be scary to put yourself out there, and open to that kind of come-back, disabled writers have a better chance of making our voices heard now than ever before in human history. It`s worth thinking about that sometimes.
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