advocacy – active support of an idea or cause etc.; especially the act of pleading or arguing for something
I think it’s safe to say that most of us fit into this definition, whether we have children with Autism, having Autism ourselves or just know someone with Autism. We hit Twitter and Facebook in an effort to find out more, share stories, advice and general chit chat… and we give a voice to the disorder that is Autism.
Somewhere in our efforts, we begin to focus on the numbers and start to get off track a little. It’s not something we all do but it is something that’s easy to do and I see it often.
Counting your Friends and Followers
It’s very easy to succumb to the allure of the high follower count or Facebook fan count on their fan pages. It becomes an addiction for some people where they just need that number to get higher and higher, as if it adds to their credibility or just makes them feel more important.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again… I’d gladly put up 1000 of my followers against many other people’s 10,000 followers any day because the people that follow me do so because they have an interest in what I’m advocating.
I don’t employ any “team follow” strategies or employ any schemes from “get more fans” pages… I simply be myself, share my story and post an interesting link that I find here or there.
Getting thousands of followers or fans is great because it means greater advocating power but not if those people really have no interest in you or what you’re saying. Don’t go for the fast numbers.
It’s not about you
It saddens me when I see people begin to think of themselves as the victim, or even worse, egotistical when really they’re simply another advocate like the rest of us.
Granted, some are extremely wise, some are very knowledgeable and certainly some very much deserve extra attention but there’s a very good chance that those people are simply doing what the rest of us do… advocating.
No one person is above the cause for which they advocate and no one person should advocate for the purpose of praise, pity or pride. Do it because it’s your passion. Do it because it’s for the good of all people.
Advocating is not war
If advocating meant going to war for something, they would just call it going to war instead of giving it a nice term like advocating. As the definition says however, arguing is fine. It’s almost a foreign concept with the anonymity of the internet but arguing and healthy debate can be very informative and even therapeutic.
But some people take it way to far. Random attacks on people that aren’t even involved in the subject for which you’re advocating is not ok. Attacking other advocates because their specific opinions do not match your own is not ok. Declaring war on the uninformed, the naive or those that are not like minded is simply not ok.
Inform these people, debate with these people… they make take extra work on your part but making enemies is really not a good way to get a message across, especially if those people are advocating for the same thing as you.
Talk to a person, not the world
I think, and this is just me personally, that if you talk to one person and inspire them, move them, touch them or just otherwise get their attention, you’ve done your job as an advocate. If you can speak to one person as an advocate and feel that what you’re doing has real purpose… then all those numbers, all that pride and praise.. all of it will come on it’s own.
You can’t hope to speak to the world if you can’t speak to a person any more than you can hope to run before you learn to walk.
Advocacy is a very personal experience as well as a passionate one and if your goal is to share that with the world, then you had better focus on the person. Focusing on the world will dilute your attention, it will dilute your message and it will take away so much from the value of what you share.
The real beauty and value in what Ghandi, The Dalai Lama and others like them have to say is that it touches us as individuals, as though they are speaking directly to us. They’re not messages to the world for the world to do something. It’s a message to you and I on how we are or who we should strive to be.
Focus on the person. If your message is the right message, the world will hear it.
6 Responses to Autism Advocacy – making sure we don’t lose ourselves along the way