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Daydreamer

Scatterbrained Creative
Sometimes I hear this term come up in conversations about autism, what are some examples of masking behaviour? Is it mainly subconscious, or is it intentional? Perhaps it varies per individual... Do you find yourself masking your behaviour?
 
Its where you pretend to be neurotypical. Different situations (work, social, etc.) require somewhat different behaviors so the person may consider them different masks.
 
To me, masking in the simplest sense is something done in real time reflecting, "To get along, you go along".

Examples:

Laughing at something you really don't find particularly funny. But you do anyways because most everyone else is, so you simply follow suit to blend into the group.

Or appearing to show interest over something when you really don't care about it at all.
 
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When I consciously watch other people and do what they do, or consciously decide to behave a certain way because "that's what a normal person would do" ... I would call that masking.
 
I'm not sure if it's pretending to be neurotypical, or just trying to fit into the social context.

I have learned to context switch, but it does not come naturally to me.

I never try to act neurotypical, specifically, because I don't know what that would look like.
 
I tend to think of masking as a way of acting or behaving that isn't a persons default setting.

I naturally and instinctively want to get straight to the point, but it seems as though most of the people I have interacted with (the majority of which I assume are neurotypical), prefer a softer approach, so I purposely try to ease into a subject instead.

I suspect that much of the masking behaviour I have adopted is the result of recieving negative reactions from people to my default behaviour.
 
To me, masking in the simplest sense is something done in real time reflecting, "To get along, you go along".

Examples:

Laughing at something you really don't find particularly funny. But you do anyways because most everyone else is, so you simply follow suit to blend into the group.

Or appearing to show interest over something when you really don't care about it at all.

If this is masking, then not something I really do. But also I suspect something that lots of people, NTs included, do from time to time.
 
If this is masking, then not something I really do. But also I suspect something that lots of people, NTs included, do from time to time.

It depends. Code switching is something I do, but it took some practice.

When I first became verbal, I was bullied a lot because I had no ability to code switch. I would talk like I was reading out of a book, and I'd use the same vocabulary that would be expected from a college-educated adult. I grew up in a very working-class area, so of course all the other kids thought I was putting on airs and showing how much better than them I was* :rolleyes: I eventually learned to use different vocabulary, tone, pacing, etc with younger kids vs with my peers vs with people of different backgrounds, etc. but it was a steep learning curve.

*Protip: if you're that easily threatened, then yeah, I'm better than you.

I can't "fake NT" though because I have no clue what that would mean. Would it mean pretending that I have no neurological differences, namely by tamping down the stimming and the self-talk and by trying to make eye contact? Yeah, I do that from time to time, because it makes other people feel better, but don't expect me to be able to keep it up all the time. If you mean pretending to be someone I'm not by putting on a fake persona, I don't see the value in doing that and feel my over-the-top stereotypical imitation would be insulting to NTs :D
 
Once I finally got my diagnosis at around 20, I realized that masking is exactly what I had been engaged in my whole life, and I had done so without realizing it. I would say it's acting in a way that is not true to yourself in order to fit in and seem NT. This is the main reason I wasn't diagnosed for a long time, since I tried really hard to suppress any obvious signs, it was only when things got worse and I lost control in college that everything became obvious.

I wouldn't say I was ever super good at it. Basically, I usually would just be a super emotionless robot. This allowed me to be on good terms with professionals and teachers, I would be praised for my "seriousness". But at the same time, I think the unapproachable aura I exhibited prevented anyone from actually wanting to talk or approach me casually. I agree with LearnedCoward that people also might have interpreted that as me feeling superior to everyone or something like that, although it couldn't be further from the truth. I always used strong logic and knowledge to try to deduce what correct behaviors would be in social situations, and this was somewhat effective in allowing me to understand what is adequate reactions in most situations. It was far from perfect though.

For me, masking has also guided a large percentage of major decisions I made in my life. Since I was unaware of my condition, I just assumed that there was something wrong with me or that other people also have these problems, so I spent a large amount of my time feeling pressured to do things that would be living up to what I thought was acceptable according to society (like applying to Ivy Leagues, doing a "useful" major, etc.) instead of ever trying to figure out what I wanted (which to be honest, I'm not sure there ever was anything I wanted). I know now that modeling my behavior on NTs was pretty stupid since I never was one and never will be, but at the same time, it is hard to shake off all those years of imitation and it's hard to say at this point what is my actual personality and what is my mask.
 
But at the same time, I think the unapproachable aura I exhibited prevented anyone from actually wanting to talk or approach me casually.

You know, something happened to me today that might match the experience here. My older daughter had a "walk-through" at her school to find her classes, etc (she's going into 7th grade). She met one of her male friends, & said he texted her asking if I didn't like him? I said or did nothing, so I think I was giving off the above aura. I have to wonder how much of this I had been doing my whole life, & wonder if maybe that's a reason why I never had a lot of friends or romantic interests (not that I'd know the latter were interested in me to begin with!)
 
I still don't get the masking thing. It makes no sense to me (is that being logical??) to try and be or act like something you're not. That's one reason I prefer not to hang around with those who seem fake to me, mostly women. To me, it's the same as lying. Just be yourself, never be rude, always be polite, and try to realize the other persons feelings and wellbeing is just as important as yours. Plain and simple. It seems everyone today wants the world to change to suit their needs in every situation. It ain't gonna happen. It's every persons job to adjust to the situation, not expect the world to fall at their feet and do as they please. That is ridiculous and repulsive. Of course, I realize I am a different generation than those of today, but there's too freakin much coddling going on. Good grief. (Probably a rabbit trail right there... :/ and probably not on topic? Oops )
 
If this is masking, then not something I really do. But also I suspect something that lots of people, NTs included, do from time to time.

You have to think of it in terms of motives. That NTs may do it with a genuine intent to socially fit in. Whereas I'm apt to think that many people on the spectrum do it to to avoid conflict and/or ostracism and other potential consequences NTs aren't so likely to immediately consider.

With full knowledge that in reality we can never really "fit in". There's a difference, IMO.

How much masking is enough? Whatever it takes to avoid negative consequences you've likely already experienced before. Perhaps many times in some cases. Often dependent on the company you keep, and their tolerance for your autistic traits and behaviors. Where being yourself is no guarantee against predatory personalities.
 
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Sometimes I hear this term come up in conversations about autism, what are some examples of masking behaviour? Is it mainly subconscious, or is it intentional? Perhaps it varies per individual... Do you find yourself masking your behaviour?
I mask around everyone including my parents... I have three good friends I do not mask around, and my little sister. And yeah, masking is when you pretend to be someone you're not.
It's very exhausting, but for me necessary because last year I was bullied about my Asoergers until I was afraid to come to school.
 
For me, masking would mean: suppressing my emotions, opinions, impulses and instincts in order to appear friendly and sociable. For example, if someone asks me whether I like rap, my natural instinct is to go into a long monologue as why I don't like it, but instead, I just say, it's not my kind of thing.

Or someone mentions flute. I immediately think of Jethro Tull and how much I like their albums, which ones I enjoy most, or the Hungarian musician Attila Kollar and Solaris, and his Witchcraft albums. Then I need to stop myself to remember that they aren't after the details or that the conversation was about something else and I'm going off on a tangent.

I have to monitor and watch my facial expressions, make a conscious effort to make sure that what I say is 'safe' or socially appropiate, try to anticipate how a person might react or feel. For example, when I'm told that I can't do something I want to do, or that my schedule has suddenly changed, I need to try not to let my frustration show, and I try to make the right noises or say the right thing (I'm not good at this).

I need to suppress my instinct to run or flap my hands or stim, especially when dealing with clients.

NTs also need to mask to some extent, but I experience stress, anxiety and other emotions very tensely, and I don't process incoming social information - other people's facial expressions and emotions as fast as they do, so it's much harder - a lot more work and exhausting.

I'm not very good at it. As soon as I'm stressed or something changes, the mask slips. I suppose that's why I got the diagnosis in the first place - I tried, and I failed.
 
For me, masking would mean: suppressing my emotions, opinions, impulses and instincts in order to appear friendly and sociable.

I think you hit the nail on the head - it's all about the suppression.

Just trying to figure out how people and socializing work isn't masking to me - that's just the same "learning how the world works" activity that every human has to do. Yes, NTs are better than NDs at it, but just because it's hard doesn't mean it's masking.

But when you have to actively suppress habits, thoughts, and tendencies - that's masking.
 
I have a lot of T-shirts with geeky slogans or math references on them. Because of that, people like to tell me about other geeky shirts that they have or they saw.

Someone did that to me today and I smiled and said, "Oh, that one sounds great!" After I walked away, I realized that I was doing it out of habit, and not because I was actually interested in the other shirt.

I've been responding this way for a long time because I recognize that the other person is trying to relate to me and socialize, so I should reward their efforts. So I smile and act interested and try to make the other person feel like they've connected. It usually leads to more positive interactions in the future. (Look, fellow human! I, too, can socialize!)

So, I just realized that I do this reflexively now, without thinking. I'm left wondering - is this real socializing, or is it just me getting good at faking it? To paraphrase Arthur C. Clarke, any sufficiently advanced masking is indistinguishable from socializing.

But what masking have you done so much that it's second nature to you now?
 
Masking is something I never do that much anymore. People know that I have Autism and so be it. Last time I more or less masked was when I was in college but when I said I had Autism it wasn't a big deal to anyone.
 
When someone asks how I'm doing, I automatically reply, "Good, how are you?" or something along those lines, even if I'm not doing well at all. I hate that this response has become habit, because I feel like I'm lying to people by saying I'm fine when I'm not. But its not like they want to hear that. I, too wonder if I am just socializing, or am good at masking. I never masked as a child, and for that reason I was probably considered to be odd or weird. I didn't care that people thought I was weird, though- I just went along with it. I only started "masking" around 13 years old, when my friend at church became interested in makeup and boys and other teenage things. I couldn't care less about that, but I tried to act interested because otherwise I would have no one to hang out with at church. Eventually we parted ways, but I was always cautious after that time and kept to myself.
 
I too, now do the "good how are you?" and I make an effort to do a little eye contact. I have done a lot of "fake smiling" over the years and it's second nature, much of the time. I reeeeeaaaallly limit my social time though. I am in group therapy once a week, I have one-on-one phone counselling, most weeks too, and have kids and a partner and that is really, just about more than, enough, as it is.
 
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I just have the habit of saying "I'm ok." Which is true, whether I'm great or just getting by. If by chance I'm in really bad shape I'll say so, but if I am I'll usually not even be around people to start with.
 
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