Autistic people have special interests, they can vary in how they manifest and present outwardly. These are expressions of Autistic joy in its purest form.
However due to misinformation, internet culture, and societal pressure we are often put into positions where we suppress our special interests. Before long we can feel guilty and dislike that we ‘obsess’ over a singular topic, and purposefully do not indulge in these feelings of happiness. It feels like that part of us is undesirable, and we ‘have’ to apologize constantly for sharing what brings us joy.
Special interests tend to be something that brings us a unique type of joy, a topic that we come across and we literally cannot help but dig deeper into it. We immerse ourselves in facts, theories, practices, and skills; anything that is applicable with a specific special interest. Naturally, if we are extremely interested in something, we are going to want to obsess over it, gush about it, etc.
Now, special interests can vary greatly in the subject matter. It can be a piece of media, (movies, tv, video games) a media genre, historical moments/figures/structures, animals, and really anything. With such a wide range of content and how we interact with it, special interests can manifest in many forms like I said already.
Usually there are a few constants, however. We will absorb and repeat any and all facts on the subject, we will view as much content about the subject as possible, and we might want to create content on the subject. Special interests are once again one of the purest forms of Autistic joy, and it is so important not to shame people for sharing their special interests.
One way for us to share our special interests with people we love and care about is called info dumps. These are short periods where we talk solely about our special interest and share something that makes us happy. Some people find it annoying when loved ones do this, to that I say this. I do not care because we are constantly forced to live in a world inaccessible to us, the least you can do if you care about us is listen to what brings us joy.
I can’t remember every special interest I had as a kid, but I can definitely remember some of the major ones. When I was very young it was actually sharks that I was obsessed with. I had a bunch of books on the subject, and talked about it a lot, beyond that I do not remember much.
Then there was the Titanic. That is what I mean about historical events, I was so interested in what happened, what went wrong, and what they did going forward. I read books, articles, watched documentaries, and talked about it constantly. Then a little after that we had Bionicles. If you do not remember those magical toys, they were made by Lego, but were more figures with ball-and-joint connecters. I would constantly build and rebuild new things with pieces I had, watch the movies, watch those All-American Rejects official story videos they put on Youtube. (yeah, that is right, they had a partnership) It brought me a lot of joy in my life and gave me time to de-stimulate away from the crap of the real world.
That is the thing eh? Special interests give us a space to let our walls down, and truly just feel happy without the fear of the world around us.
Unfortunately, even that can become tainted by ableist beliefs and behaviours. With online culture has come a wave of ‘cringe culture.’ Where special interests are often mocked, simply because people have decided we have talked about a topic too much. There is this arbitrary unwritten rule online about how much something can be talked about before it is considered dead and not something to be talked about anymore. If you have a bunch of Autistic people online sharing their special interests, and finding others with the same special interests, that is amazing. However, there are people that would rather just consider it a negative behaviour.
Special interests can form and grow in different ways as you get older and growing up with toxic mindsets online can definitely affect that. There was a period in my life where I very much tried to suppress my own special interests; I felt so awful. It is so important for people to feel happiness, and Autistic joy is especially important for us because it helps relieve stress and negativity. When I refused myself that joy, I started just going through the motions. In some ways I was truly already dead.
That is why now I lean into my special interests again; I allow myself to feel the joy and talk about it as I like. I know what it was like before, and at this point I don’t care if there are people that don’t like it. That state of being is not for me anymore.
Now I’m definitely less on the side of consuming content about my special interests but creating content about it. I sometimes wonder if there is another Autistic child out there that will see my content, and know it is okay to indulge in special interests.
In addition, I have found that instead of info dumps on singular subjects that I know of, I can sometimes cycle between a few different topics. There are times where Kyla and I will be talking about like, negative work practices in the video game industry. I will suddenly realize that I managed to talk about it for a good ten/fifteen minutes straight. I truly don't know in the moment when I am info dumping. Honestly a lot of recognizing that it is different is because how stigmatized it is, and how harsh people will react to it. Simply because it is a different form of joy than the 'norm.' However, if it is not causing harm to anybody, then why critique special interests and our joy so harshly in comparison to the 'normal forms of joy.'
What is important to remember is that if we’re sharing our special interest with you, it means that we care about you and want to share something that brings us joy. We are letting you into a safe space we have created for ourselves. If it is something that really bothers you that much, it might be something you want to revaluate in yourself.
Basically, the point of saying all this is because it is very important to us. Too often Autism is associated with suffering. Despite being critical to talk about suffering that we face as Autistic people, and things that need to change in society, it is also so especially important for us to share our joy. We cannot let negativity online solely define us. We are not solely defined by what happens to us, we are also defined by the joy that we experience.
I will continue to try to practice this in my own life. I want to spread things that bring me happiness, and helps me feel better, while simultaneously still fighting and talking about the things that need to change.
That is why I am introducing a new ‘show’ to the Youtube channel. It will not be weekly like ReBlog: is, but will be consistently released the Saturday after ReBlog: when it is released. This Saturday I will be releasing the first (video) stim review.
Please do not lose your special interests, do not lose your joy. It is such a crucial part of life that makes every other part worth it.
Anyway, I hope you have an especially interesting and fantastic day!