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Introverts Unite, or at least consider it quietly over a cup of tea - Accretions

Fata Morgana
2006-03-20 14:10
Introverts Unite, or at least consider it quietly over a cup of tea
Public
identity, news, online, psychology, research
I've been told often enough throughout my life that I need to "get out there" more -- be more assertive, be more aggressive, be more social, or just plain talk more (dammit!). However, when it comes to teaching, presenting, hosting a party, or interacting in other social situations, I can do just fine, and I even enjoy public speaking (as evinced by my years teaching planetarium shows at Holt Planetarium and dance lessons for UCBD). But being "out there," especially for long periods of time, and especially in unstructured social situations such as parties, sure does wear me out. I've never been a partier: I often get to know more of the books on my party host's bookcase than strangers at the party. In high-school psychology I realized I was just introverted, and throughout my life I've learned to "cope" with my "impairment." Well, a couple of years ago, an introverted writer decided to speak out. Nothing's wrong with being introverted, he said, and there's a lot that's right. And further, introverts are rather inconvenienced by the smalltalk and sociality that is expected of them. "Remember, someone you know, respect, and interact with every day is an introvert, and you are probably driving this person nuts." And from a later interview: "Extroverts should understand that if someone is being quiet it doesn't mean they're having a bad time; it doesn't mean they're depressed; it doesn't mean they're lonely or need psychiatric help or medication. A lot of the battle is making the extrovert world more aware."

In the article and follow-up interview, the author stated that we live in a world that favors extroverts. I would agree completely for the physical world. (I've been lucky in that pretty much all the people I've been close to have been introverts. As an aside, a high-school classmate of dag29580863's once said that he'd only ever heard D say three words in all of high school. D, in his usual inimitable style, retorted, "Make that six.") But I would argue that the virtual world can be as well suited to introverts as extroverts. Online I can take my time responding, walk away, or sequester myself completely (... at least with most of my friends). It lets me stay connected to friends, but on terms I am more comfortable with -- less intense and more ambient, like the occasional connection one has when working independently but with someone else in the same room.

Are you introverted too? Do you also like the affordances of online communication? Does it also help you extroverts out there feel more connected?
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Jeff
lbchewie
2006-03-22 04:51 (UTC)
(no subject)
On online communications -

I find them far more comfortable than face-to-face interactions. One of the reasons is that in normal conversations, it's extremely difficult for me to think of a response on the fly to normal chatter. Now, if I'm being asked a question about a subject I'm very familiar, I can field them effectively, but even simple questions such as "How was your day?" can be rather difficult to answer to an inquisitive extravert, with their probing gazes wondering that there must be far more you're not telling them.

The online medium better suits my speed of thought. There's no pressure for an instantaneous response. There's no pressure even to have a full conversation. Having the freedom to merely say, "Hello" and then to carry on with something else is sometimes sufficient and highly satisfying.

If it weren't for online communications, I wouldn't have met some of the most influential people in my life. My network of virtual friends probably rivals that of even the most ambitious of extraverts' physical networks. What I enjoy about being an introvert, and the online medium, is that I feel like I have a close personal relationship with people from all different backgrounds, locations, and schedules. People are often astounded to log onto my computer and see that I have a Buddy List of nearly 200 people, and that I'll have 40 IM windows grouped on the desktop simulataneously, if my computer's been on for a few days.

What I love about the current technology is that virtual friends can easily become real friends. Combinations of Internet, phone, and travel have greatly expanded my life experience, and in particular, I greatly enjoy social organisations that maintain websites to plan events, but then assemble in the real world.

Interestingly enough, as my social network increases, I have less patience for the Internet. I would rather pick up the phone and call someone than have conversations lasting several hours. You might say the Internet has helped allievate many of the challenges and insecurities that some introverts face, and allow my extraverted side to breathe. As it becomes expressed more, I find it's much easier for me to interact in an extraverted mode - virtually or in person - though it's a slow transition and I'm not sure how far it will go. Sometimes I love downtime to recharge, but I'm also energised by the presence of others a lot of the time. I lie about on the 40%-ile on the Extraversion axis (according to the NEO-PIR).

I'm conflicted, much of the time, because I haven't discovered a pattern or balance in desiring to satisfy introverted or extraverted tendencies. This confuses a lot of people, and it's not to be confused with bipolar disorder. Sometimes I'll go to a party with the ambition to be social, and then decide, once I'm there, that I'm bored to death. The only pattern I can think of is that I'm very easily reinforced by positive social energy. If somebody pays me a lot of attention, I open up. If I'm off on the fringes of the group, I withdraw. It's likely the degree of my extraverted behaviour is a function on how much attention I seek from others. However, that doesn't explain the conflict of having a very challenging day and desiring to reach out to people, but remain apathetic and silent to the world.

However - one affordance the Internet communication has: long conversations tend to be substantive and deep. The boring chitchat is filtered out and often dismissed off the radar. It's a wonderful selection process, which has given me the opportunity to meet a wonderful group of people: introverts and extraverts alike.

(I've heard from a few extraverts - those who enjoy the Internet - that it's very refreshing to have in-depth conversations in the virtual world, since they are very atypical of those they encounter in their daily lives. I guess that's something that most Internet-lovers have in common.)
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