Last year, I connected with Robert Moran on Twitter (a.k.a. @aspiejourno). I traded occasional tweets with him about journalism, grammar, and TV; he was funny, smart, and likable. Robert quickly became one of my favorite people on Twitter.
One day, Robert and I had an awkward exchange and I visited his Twitter bio to refresh my memory on what this guy's background was. Turns out Robert has autism and Asperger Syndrome. I hadn't even realized it.
In the months that followed, I read Robert's incredibly candid tweets about the challenges that autism brings. He sometimes had what he calls meltdowns, he was occasionally so blunt in his tweets that it made me gasp, he shared blog posts about his life and how autism affected his interactions with people. I read and I learned.
Robert was so incredibly engaging and personable that I wanted to understand how to best interact with him. I soon learned that he's uncomfortable being touched, so I never hugged him hello when I saw him at tweet-ups. I came to understand that autistics frequently lack a self-editing button in their brains so they can sometimes be incredibly frank, which many people perceive as rude. I also learned that Robert forms bonds very quickly, which he says scares people away.
|Robert Moran speaks with moderator Stacey Soleil at #140conf|
One of the best things about social media, in my opinion, is that you are exposed to new people, folks you may have never met were it not for the social web. New ideas, different lifestyles, unique personalities. It's all out there, if you want to see it. And, maybe, if you open your mind--and your heart--wide enough, you'll meet someone who changes you for the better. Robert is one of those people.
Congratulations on your conference speaking debut, Robert. I'm proud to know you.