I’m Neurodivergent, and I Would Rather Talk To You Online

Jesse Meadows
5 min readSep 29, 2020
Digital illustration of hands with pink nails on fuschia and yellow keyboard.
Art by Jesse Meadows

I spent a lot of time in chatrooms as a kid. As soon as we got a computer in the mid-90’s, I was obsessed with it. There were whole entire worlds in that box, and I could sit at the screen for hours exploring them. Typing what I wanted to say felt easier than speaking — a messy process ripe with accidents and missed opportunities for me.

I never felt like I could express what I wanted to with my mouth, because I got too overwhelmed by emotion and action. Everything happened all at once and as soon as I caught up, it was over, and I hadn’t said what I wanted to.

But online, things were different. Messages were permanent — I could study them, think about them, and formulate the response I wanted. As I grew up, I started expressing my feelings almost exclusively in poetry and journaling.

When I had to have a difficult conversation with someone, I wrote them a letter. Writing was a thing I could understand and master; speech was chaos, and in-person chats often felt like holding on for dear life and hoping to God I was saying what I wanted to say.

For years in my 20’s, I travelled or lived far away from people I loved, and would keep in touch with all of them via text. I had constantly open lines of communication with partners and friends on my phone. I fell in love over text. It was like these people were there in my life; I told them everything in real-time. They knew my thoughts and inner world better than the people I lived with.

Many neurotypicals dismiss texting as an inferior method of communication, but for those of us who live behind a social mask in order to navigate the world, messaging can be far deeper and richer than our face-to-face interactions. I was only ever able to handle social interaction with the help of alcohol and substances, which caused 15 years of damage to my life.

Since I returned home, got sober, and started the journey of healing and understanding my neurodivergent brain, I’ve turned back to the online communities I loved as a kid. I am once again an Extremely Online person, and all my friends live in my phone.

I’ve found communities of people who love the things I love, who relate to my experiences, and also enjoy speaking almost exclusively…

Jesse Meadows

writer + digital artist doing critical adhd studies + re-politicizing mental health | they/them

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