Move Away from the Computer: How to Make Friends in Real Life
The internet is a wonderful and amazing place that offers so many opportunities to people from all walks of life to chat with like-minded individuals and build lifelong friendships. However, learning social skills on a computer or mobile device is one thing, but putting those techniques into action at real life events is another. Don’t fall victim to the rut that can come from spending all of your time online. Get out and become involved in community engagement opportunities geared to those with autism and other developmental disabilities. These types of community events can help give you the confidence you need to put your skills to work and make real life friendships away from the computer.
Overcoming a Screen Obsession
People of all ages have found that it is easy to become obsessed with their mobile devices. Our phones, tablets, and laptop computers can open up a whole new world, especially when we are still working on learning social skills and don’t have many friendships in real life. Autism is what is known as a social-communication disorder, so screens of any type can make a difficult challenge even worse. The best solution is to find alternatives to screen time, such as working on conversations and communicating with others. Practicing with family members, trusted friends, and members of the All Friends Network can give you the confidence you need to take your skills to real life events. The only way you are going to make true friendships is to get away from the screen.
One way to get yourself away from the obsession with a mobile device is to change the way that you think about it. Don’t see the device as your connection to the real world, see yourself and your growing communication skills as the true connection. Your device should be a resource, a great way to see and learn about new things, play games, listen to music, and chat with friends that you also know in real life. While devices can be great tools for learning social skills, it is essential to understand their benefits and also respect the boundaries that we should impose on ourselves and the amount of time that we use them in a day. Discuss the things that you see on your device with family members and friends. This is a great way to practice communications skills and get to the point where you can build lifelong friendships outside of your family.
Safety Skills for Internet Communications
All Friends Network was designed to create a safe space for individuals with autism, cerebral palsy, and other developmental disabilities to communicate with others and build lifelong friendships. However, there are lots of other places online where people like to communicate, including social media, game rooms, and chat apps. Social media bills itself as a place where anyone can make hundreds or thousands of friends quickly and easily, which may seem attractive to someone who never really had much in the way of real friends. However, online friends are not the same as people that you meet at real life events. You never really know who you are talking to in these open forums, as you might be speaking with a 50-year-old man who is pretending to be a 20-something young woman.
It is essential to learn some basic safety skills for communicating on the internet. While the All Friends Network and AFN Live-LINK app are limited to members as a matter of safety and security for the membership at large, social media and other apps do not limit participants. You could possibly make a real life friend through a social network or other resources, but the more you can use your mobile device to practice communication and learning social skills, the easier it will be to build lifelong friendships away from the internet. Watch out for predators, use the block feature to ignore people who are rude or disrespectful, and remember that anything you post is “out there” for the world to read.
If you would like to join the All Friends Network and participate in real life events with our network of autistic and developmentally disabled members, fill out the sign-up form on our website to be notified in advance when new events are planned. We can assist you in joining the network, downloading and signing up for the app, and participating in our other community engagement opportunities.