A common misconception about autistic individuals is that they shun social contact, that they are all introverts. But in many cases it is simply the means – not the desire – to be social that eludes them. Face-to-face, real-time conversation can be difficult, but it is not because their there is no interest in communicating. Enter social media.
To get an idea of what some autistic individuals have to say, check out the autistic bloggers at The Autism Hub. These individuals have embraced what blogs have to offer in terms of a way to get their ideas out to the world and to engage in conversation with their readers through the comments. These same people are also prolific users of social networking sites – such as Facebook, MySpace, Second Life, and even their own Ning communities – to connect with their friends.
I’ve been thinking of this in the context of making use of social media in the enterprise. One of the problems that many implementations of KM had (have?) is its “mandatory” nature: “you will contribute to the knowledge store, you will reuse, etc. etc.” As different as SM is from KM, I see SM in the enterprise facing a similar issue. Just because it is available doesn’t mean that everyone will use it. Just because social media is a good tool, doesn’t mean that everyone will naturally know now, or want to, use it. If someone isn’t social by nature, giving them a tool that allows them to be social isn’t really going to help.
In other words, social media doesn’t “make” people more social. Social media simply provides social people an opportunity to better express their inherent social nature.