• Chris Wingate

Autism and the Internet: Content Creation

It's a subtle thing, but one of the most significant developments for autistic people in recent years is the rise of the internet.


In many ways, the internet has democratized the ability to produce things and be recognized for what you produce. This is certainly not a change that is exclusive to autistic people--many people have made their careers purely through the internet--but autistic people in particular have been significant beneficiaries of this new, lowered bar for entry. Many autistic people are very creative, and many of us also enjoy showing off our work to others. In this way, the internet has been very important: it gives us a venue where we are better able to express ourselves and our work.


One prominent example can be found in Jelle's Marble Runs, a long-time Youtube channel run by Jelle Bakker, an autistic man from the Netherlands, and his brother. Jelle always had an affinity for marbles and when he grew up, he began to make marble videos on Youtube like this one:

Over time, Jelle gained an audience for these often intricate and well-made marble runs, and he then began to branch out into marble racing content done on handmade tracks built into a sand hill near his home. In 2016, he did his first official Marble Olympics and from there has been able to progressively expand, improve, and hone his craft. Today, what began as Jelle's personal hobby as an autistic person is such a significant event that it has a Wikipedia page, received sponsorship from comedian John Oliver in 2020, and has seen mainstream media attention during the COVID-19 pandemic as an alternative to in-person sports.


None of this, of course, would be possible without the internet. While Jelle has many talents, it is unlikely that he would have been able to take his hobby to the level that it exists at today without the "disconnect" in personal interaction that the internet provides. On the internet, Jelle and autistic people generally are free--for the most part--of the judgement and awkwardness that define many of our interactions. We can be more authentic to ourselves, instead of having to present ourselves a certain way, and receive more recognition for doing the things we enjoy. This is just one of the many ways the internet has been a benefit for autistic people.


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