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