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I Love My Son More than Facebook

For those of you who know me, you most likely know my son, Robert, has Aspergers. He’s a teenager, and as he’s grown he has faced many new challenges. One of Robert’s biggest battles has been against technology addiction. Addiction to technology, primarily computer use and video games, has been an ongoing struggle for Robert. This isn’t a new problem. We’ve been battling his addiction for years.

Like other forms of addiction, the reason why this is so harmful to him is because it has not only taken over his life, but it motivates every action within it. Like every addiction, our entire family is affected by his struggle. This is more than just a strong interest, as many people with Aspergers have intense interests in one subject. This is life dominating to the point of where it is harming Robert. Ash and I both work on computers. As a writer and filmmaker, computers are essential to have in our household. Unlike Robert, we are capable of ensuring they do not take over our life. While we would like to just remove all the computers from our home, it won’t allow Robert to deal with his problems and we cannot, due to our careers.

Robert’s addiction is harmful because he won’t take care of his basic daily functions as a result of technology usage. He will limit his food intake (as an already underweight person, this is extremely dangerous to him), avoid going to the bathroom, not shower or change his clothes, threaten not to take his medication if he is denied access, and do other self-harming things. His addiction is harmful to his health because it limits his ability to do ADLs (activities of daily living) essential to sustaining human life. Since we’ve been battling this addiction for so long, we have tried everything. We’ve tried time limits and reward systems. We’ve tried punishments. We’ve tried letting him have free reign and restricting him. Nothing works. Robert is always angry, sometimes violent, and we’ve been at our wit’s end with how to deal with it.

Since Robert is getting older, it’s gotten to the point where we’ve had to tell him if he wants access he has to earn his own computer. We’ve offered to help him learn about employment opportunities, saving money and the like. His standpoint is that such a request of him is impossible, so therefore we should just give him access. Robert believes there is no problem. He believes he can have access without problems, but every time he gets even a minute of access, he becomes impossible to deal with and unbearable to be around.

Right now, Robert needs to work on Robert. He is incapable of dealing with emotions, so he has refused to take responsibility for any of his actions. We want to spend time finding him a way to learn to take responsibility. Robert is brilliant. He is capable of having a job he enjoys and he is capable of being self-sufficient. I’m sure of that. Maybe he won’t live on his own, but he can have an independent life, and right now, he needs to work on attaining that.

My fear is that if we all die, Robert won’t have the skills to care for himself or anyone to help him navigate life. When we die, no one will be paying for a computer or access, so what kind of meltdown will he have if he cannot deal with life without those things? If we were poor, would we be bad for not giving him access? I don’t think so. Technology is an aide for many, but it is not a necessity, at least not with how he is using it.

Eventually, we’d love to work with Robert to learn how to use technology responsibly and perhaps even find a career with it, but for now, it is too much for him. It is too much for us. This is the best thing for him, to protect him and to teach him the responsibility he will need to ensure he can use technology properly, one day.

What Robert is having trouble processing is how others can have access, but he cannot. He assured me everyone in the world was on Facebook and that none of us can live without it. I assured him that his mother and I were fully capable of functioning without Facebook. We agreed to terms. I agreed I wouldn’t use Facebook anymore, for an entire year, to show him there is more to life than the internet and social networks. In exchange, he must spend the time working on him and the issues that are plaguing his self-esteem. There was one exception. I am allowed to go on to post on my film pages. I can post about film on my profile, since social media is so essential to my work. In exchange, he has agreed to not dominate every conversation with talk of the internet and video games.

I know this will be a challenge for both of us, but I love my son more than Facebook. This is what is best for him and our family. Ash and I want more than anything for him to be happy, healthy and functional at whatever level is possible for him to attain. If staying off Facebook means he sees that there is more to life than the internet, and allows him to better focus on working on the things he’s struggling with, the things that are blocking his way towards any form of personal independence, then it is worth it, to me.

You can stay in touch with me, through Twitter:

I don’t use Twitter as much, but I will be checking it occasionally.

I am also on Trillian, so I am available through yahoo messenger and AIM. You can also email me (through my contact form) or if you know my email, directly.

My family appreciates all the love and support you can give us, during this next year, and I look forward to updating you all on our progress through this blog.

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Dominick is a director/filmmaker, activist, writer, advocate, FTM transman from the Midwest who lives in New York. Follow his film career and join his weekly Twitter chat on film and disability by following #FilmDis. He received his BFA in Film Production in 2014.