I hate Buzzfeed, because I keep getting suckered into looking at their “articles”, which inevitably have some title that makes it sound relevant to my life, but they’re terrible and almost never applicable. In an unrelated matter, the title of this post is a lie.
Example of Buzzfeed’s Please Stop Thinking You Contribute to Society, gif-laden attempts at listicling, I give you this little gem. I know people who consider themselves introverts who identify with a strange majority of these Things, and some of them maybe don’t hit me as hard because I get a lot of my alone time, but others are just like “Are you sure that’s not just social anxiety and being shy?” Because being an introvert doesn’t make you socially awkward and uncomfortable with people, and it doesn’t make you hate interacting. It can make it harder to sustain interaction over long periods, and large groups can drain us faster, but being introverted isn’t what makes someone hate groups and the people who comprise them. Those groups misunderstanding and placing a lot of expectation and pressure on an introvert to be more like them can result in an introvert hating people, but it’s not introversion itself that is to blame.
Looking at something like “pretending to text during awkward alone moments at parties”, I don’t see introversion here. I see discomfort from social anxiety. As an introvert, I can say there are times I really enjoy being at a party and feeling totally isolated. It’s like a magic bubble, where people and conversations swirl all around me, but none of them require my energy to maintain. I can just drift and watch. Feeling awkward when alone at a party is feeling like there’s some expectation of you to participate, and if you don’t participate, by golly you’d better have a good reason for it! That’s not a symptom of introversion, that’s a symptom of social anxiety.
So too with “shopping alone”‘s added text, “Because shopping with friends is SO stressful. (They make you more inclined to buy things you don’t need; you’re always worried about who’s bored and who’s having fun; you have to try on everything in front of them.)” Fixating on who’s bored and who’s having fun, or the pressure to buy and try things on is not a symptom of introversion. Feeling drained, exhausted, and withdrawn while shopping with friends because it contributes to feeling overexposed is more symptomatic of introversion, and you may feel more susceptible to your anxieties, but that anxiety comes from something that isn’t, itself, introversion.
Now, things like “when you can email or IM a company for customer service instead of calling”, “recharging after a long stretch of socializing”, “writing (because it’s so much easier for you to process your thoughts by writing them down than by speaking them)”, and “cherishing your small group of close friends, as opposed to trying to maintain a huge circle of acquaintances”, these are things that run pretty universally throughout the introvert community (we don’t get together often if it requires leaving the house), and I can much more easily say they’re the result of the introversion, and not more likely some other problem.
For some introverts, it can feel like they really do hate people and socializing (and they’re all thinking silent, but very angry thoughts at me for saying they don’t), and being in public, or at parties, or out shopping is a genuine source of anxiety, because they know the people involved will only want to make them interact in ways that cause them to lose the most energy and take them furthest from their comfort zones, but the anxiety isn’t the introversion. The anxiety is the reaction you have to the way others treat you through their lack of understanding or care for things you can’t really control. Do I therefore think the people who experience these moments aren’t true introverts? No, of course not, because you can be an introvert and still have high social anxiety, or be an introvert who is also very shy, or be an introvert with heaps of OCD, but proclaiming to the world that feeling socially awkward and worried about what people are thinking of you is part of being an introvert is like claiming that touching a light switch exactly thirty-two times every time you leave or enter a room is part of it as well, just because you’re an introvert who happens to have OCD. If you feel these things, you may b an introvert who happens to suffer from social anxiety.
There are enough bite-sized articles disseminating misinformation about introversion as it is — since apparently it’s single-handedly responsible for all deep thought in the universe*–; don’t help it along by confusing social anxiety/shyness with being an introvert. They can go hand in hand, but one is not the other, and they aren’t a package deal. The terms introvert and extrovert really only refer to how you get your energy, or how you recharge when drained. Extroverts recharge by being in group settings, and pull from those around them. Introverts recharge by being alone, or with very little interaction from others. So, while that list may have some things introverts (and, honestly, pretty much everyone else on the planet) like, some of the specifics assume traits that are completely inconsistent with the actual meaning of Introvert.
Here’s a thing for your short attention span, Internet.
If you want some less-than-bite-sized articles that actually do address introversion intelligently, and positively, here are a few I’ve found. If you only read one article about introversion today (this blog doesn’t count), make it the first link; you won’t be sorry (assuming you want an understanding of what introversion and extroversion actually mean, and not some validation that you’re a deep, intelligent person, with thoughts far beyond the comprehension of more shallow, “extroverted” commoners, because if that’s what you’re looking for you, you can just walk off the tallest cliff right now).
The Introvert Fetish – Cyborgology
Are Introverts Smarter Than Extroverts? – Huffington Post
Oh, and this guy’s a dick. Introverts are In! – Bob Goldman, Townhall Finance
*”Do you have a penchant for philosophical conversations and a love of thought-provoking books and movies? If so, you’re a textbook introvert.” — Carolyn Gregoire