I hate that I have to use that term, because it’s a loaded one that people think they get but mostly don’t.
In reality, the only difference between introverts and extraverts is that extraverts feed off other people and introverts take responsibility for their own energy to do stuff and have to go home to recharge. Whoa, nobody ever put it like that, did they? Because it’s always biased against the introvert, as if they’re broken or something. But you could totally look at it as if extraverts were psychic leeches. And I find that a lot of the time, they are. They can be exhausting, clingy, and tend to lack any sense of boundaries whatsoever. That might sound a bit extreme but all I’m doing is reversing the kind of language that’s acceptable when talking about introverts. I’m not trying to bash them. Not much, anyway.
The reason I’m thinking about this is that I’ve been stupid busy lately and am a bit exhausted. And the last thing I’d do is try to be the life of the party in this state. I become quieter. I focus on rebuilding my energy by getting enough rest and exercise. And that’s it.
I’m not exactly labelling myself an introvert. On the spectrum I’m close to the middle and have moments of both. Which is why I think I’m in a better position to overanalyze it. But the societal bias towards extravert=more social and therefore automatically better, is probably the most asinine thing ever invented. I think even Nuts & Gum is a better idea than the extravert bias.
Susan Cain has done a lot of research on the subject and wrote a pretty cool book about it, which is where a lot of these newer attitudes are coming from. What people don’t get is that the difference is purely cognitive, not social. There are extraverts with social anxiety and there are introverts who can be the life of the party when it suits.
Research points out that “introverts” process more information about their surroundings than “extraverts.” So when someone, like me sometimes, seems like they’re not interested or have nothing to say because they’re not gushing over a comment or babbling, it’s actually because we’re processing a lot more information than the extravert and are very interested. So while the extravert is taking in smaller amounts of information and exaggerating it, the introvert is sometimes scaling down their reaction to complex information and emotions, as is mentioned in the article I linked to.
This also pertains, in my uneducated, unprofessional opinion, to better judgment. And even that doesn’t get you anywhere socially, besides helping you avoid getting burned and having people waste your time. Personally, I get quite a detailed picture of a person when I meet them. I don’t see as much of a need to “get to know someone.” If I get a good vibe, I’m interested and want to talk to them. Bad vibe = go away. Now. And whenever I’m pressured into NOT listening to my good judgment, I pay for it. But it’s hard because it makes you seem like an ass. It’s not a knee-jerk reaction either–plenty of times I’ll have an initial weird feeling but a minute later pick up on details that change my opinion. And the frustrating part is that an extravert would miss those details and make a decision to exclude that person socially. I’m often in the uncomfortable position of watching close friends involve themselves with sketchy people because they thought having the kind of judgment I use is “mean.” So I shut up and let them do what they will and just hope I can avoid that person. Then months later, I hear about how that sketchy person had screwed over the friend. It’s happened so much throughout my life that I’m tempted to not bother advising people I care about anymore, because mostly they don’t get it and just think I’m being a weird asocial and overly-aggressive guard dog. To be honest, “I told you so” is not satisfying in these cases.
What psychological rant of mine would be complete without a psychoanalysis angle?
We’re in an extravert-dominated society, yet statistically 51 percent are introverts and 49 percent are extraverts, with equal distribution across gender. So the current situation doesn’t add up. It does make sense if you take into account this: as Zizek mentions, while in the early 20th century the goal of psychoanalysis was to open up a space to enjoy, due to repression and so forth, now the problem is that people are unable to not enjoy. A lot of introverts are faking it, perhaps. And I think faking extraversion for an introvert would lead them to doing stupid things, like drug use and generally unhealthy habits. It might partly explain a lot of those cortisol and alcohol bellies out there. Thanks to the overblown superego of our society, introverts may feel unable to follow their instinct and judgment and do what’s best for them.
Introverts may be quieter and fail to entertain crowds with clownish behaviour, but they get shit done and tend to see beyond the superficial apsects of any given situation. So I don’t know. Maybe it’s time to grow up and rethink these issues. And realize that there are plenty of boring extraverts and plenty of lively introverts. You can’t define these terms as a matter of social aptitude.