For Cereal, Internets?! Not Even Venn Diagrams Make Ableism Acceptable

Content note: This post discusses ableist humour that involves psychiatrisation and belittling of ADHD.

There’s an oh-so-witty joke that has been making the rounds lately. It keeps popping up again and again, even at sites that I would expect to pass on this type of ‘humour.’ Amazingly, no one’s emailed a tip on it to FWD, I’m assuming because everyone who encounters it does the same thing I did when I first saw it, which is tremble with a combination of rage and horror and be unable to process it any further than that. Seriously, I have been sitting on this for a week and trying to come up with something to say about it that isn’t in all caps, illegal in six states, and totally incoherent.

People talk about casual ableism like it’s not something that happens anymore and they say that we are ‘too sensitive’ and then, they circulate things like this as an example of ‘humour.’ I have seen this circulated by socially progressive people who claim to care about disability issues and think that this is ‘hysterically funny,’ as noted on one post I saw about it.

It’s a Venn Diagram, headlined ‘Social Media: Unlocking the Awesome Potential of Behavioural Disorders.’ The outer circles are labeled ‘narcissism,’ ‘stalking,’ and ‘ADHD.’ At the intersection of narcissism and stalking lies ‘Facebook.’ Between stalking and ADHD is ‘TweetStalk.’ Between ADHD and narcissism is ‘myspace.’ The center of the diagram, where everything overlaps, reads ‘Twitter.’

I…really don’t know what to say about this. I am rarely at a loss for words, as I think we all ¬†know, but this leaves me wordless. There are so many problems with the attitudes embedded in this, ranging from the tendency to apply the diagnosis of ‘narcissistic personality disorder’ to ‘troublesome women’ to the complete devaluation of online friendships, interactions that occur online, and online communities implied in reducing online interactions to ‘behavioural disorders.’

For me, as a person with disabilities (including, ahem, things that the author of this ‘joke’ would probably consider ‘behavioural disorders’), social media and the Internet are invaluable and irreplaceable. Events like the regular Second Life meetups organised by GimpGirl Community provide opportunities for networking, organising, activism, fellowship, friendship, community building, education, and the exchange of ideas that would not otherwise be available. This Internet-as-pathology attitude is highly pervasive, and highly ableist. Attitudes about Internet, Internet users, and ‘normal’ behaviour work their way into everything from scientific studies on Internet usage to, well, ‘jokes’ predicated on making fun of people on the basis of their engagement with online communities.

What’s most peculiar about ‘jokes’ like this one is that they are perpetrated by…online communities. Some of the most vicious devaluation of online communities and relationships…comes from online communities. The companies profiting from this particular ‘joke’ are specifically making a profit…because it has spread through social networking and online communities.

Colour me unimpressed by this particular ‘joke,’ on multiple levels.

A Venn Diagram, showing three circles. The outer circles are labeled 'narcissism,' 'stalking,' and 'ADHD.' At the intersection of narcissism and stalking lies 'Facebook.' Between stalking and ADHD is 'TweetStalk.' Between ADHD and narcissism is 'myspace.' The center of the diagram, where everything overlaps, reads 'Twitter.'

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking ‘yes, but it is it available as a t-shirt?’

About s.e. smith

s.e. smith is a recalcitrant, grumpy person with disabilities who enjoys riling people up, talking about language, tearing apart poor science reporting, and chasing cats around the house with squeaky mice in hand. Ou personal website can be found at this ain't livin'.

6 thoughts on “For Cereal, Internets?! Not Even Venn Diagrams Make Ableism Acceptable

  1. As someone who has both physical and mental health issues that at times make it difficult for me to leave the house to socialise, I find the Internet and the communities I’m a part of an invaluable part of my daily life. I am constantly irked by the assertion that relationships conducted mostly via the Internet have ‘less value than ones in the real world’ – a statement I loathe since the Internet is part of the real world and the emotions and connections made are no different to me that having a flesh and blood person in front of me.

    This kind of joke is made by the kind of person who has no business judging anyone – the kind who isn’t bothered about the fact that at the other end, in front of a monitor, is an actual PERSON having to read their hurtful dreck.

  2. Anything popular has a backlash.

    I remember when I started hanging out at message boards (IMDb, mostly the soapbox aka political issues), there were concern trolls who told us that we had personality disorders for posting there, for getting in fights, for CARING about people there, feeling hurt by people’s insults – because it’s “only” online.

    The internet is amazing for me – I’m not alone in so many ways.

    It’s just like TV mental illnesses – it’s the vague idea of what ADHD is, which is zillion miles from reality.

  3. W.T.F. That is an absolutely vile diagram, perpetuated by absolutely vile people.

    I don’t know where I’d be without the Internet and without the best friend/love of my life that I found online. And the other friendships I’ve made online have helped me get thru some of the worst moments in my life, too, and I shudder to think where I’d be without those friendships.

    Hipster ableism, gag me with a spoon.

  4. I feel kind of bad, because I have ADHD and I have found twitter invaluable. I normally can’t focus long enough to write a blog post (if I keep at it I end up with three or four half-finished posts, and then have the exhausting effort of trying to turn it into a cohesive story, by which point I’m usually bored and interested in something else), but more frequently I can turn a thought I want to share into 140 characters. Since strangers read my twitter stream, I think it’s working and interesting.

    Narcissism is incredibly mis-used, given that a lack of healthy narcissism is also a diagnostic label(*). And stalking isn’t a personality disorder at all. But in my individual case they do have something with ADHD/twitter connection.

    (*) not endorsing pathologizing mental health, just pointing out the disconnect between popular and professional pathologization.

  5. What amazing irony — there *is* a lot of creepiness to be found on the Internet, but in my experience it’s caused by people like the ones who designed this diagram. They should have been mocking themselves (although being a bigoted jerk isn’t a disorder so I guess that wouldn’t be “edgy” enough for them).

    Also, love the sarcastic humor in the title of your post: that Venn diagrams have some sort of mysterious power to make the un-funny funny, but that this particular diagram is simply too evil to be saved.

    As an aside, I myself (having no disorders that I know of) totally fit the stereotype of an Internet Loser With No Life, so it’s good to see confirmation that there really are all sorts of wonderful friendships and experiences happening online, and it’s infuriating to know that people who are using the Internet properly and are enriched by the experience are being lumped in with people like me who use it like a numbing drug.

    Is it okay if I share this article? I have at least one relative whose sense of humor can be… insensitive [to put it politely].

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