I could probably be considered introverted. After a long day, I’d usually rather chill at home than spend time with a group of friends chatting it up.
I think introversion is something that has long been misunderstood, and recent studies appear to have confirmed this. Right now, from what science can tell about introversion, is that it has to do with certain levels of a chemical in the brain. Whether it’s dopamine or serotonin, I’m not sure. However, people tend to feel lonely and depressed when levels of this chemical are low enough. Production of sufficient levels of this chemical are usually triggered by social interaction.
Introverts, however, receive adequate levels of this chemical, and can be in danger of the stress involved with unusually high levels of this chemical.
For a long time, extroverted individuals have assumed that introverts are either unhappy or that there is something wrong with them. Often, they’d take it upon themselves to attempt to “cure” an introverted individual by dragging them into social situations that they aren’t comfortable with. I think that many of us are familiar with the tendency of people to react to someone who thinks or acts differently by saying something like, “What? Our way of thinking or acting isn’t good enough for them? Why can’t they be just the same as the rest of us?”
Because of this kind of thing, when studies about the true nature of introversion have been conducted and their results were published, one could imagine that introverts would react by jumping up in the air and saying “Woohoo! Perhaps finally people will respect our desire for peace and quiet!”
However, most people don’t read scientific journals and dense research papers. In fact, unless there is an indication that the paper in question would support an assumption that a person already had, that person isn’t likely to bother reading it. From what I can tell, most people don’t like cognitive dissonance, and that’s usually triggered when someone finds out that they were wrong about something. How many people out there continue to believe that hot sauce causes ulcers? While we live in an age where so many people fancy themselves intellectuals, most don’t seem as interested in self-improvement or education as they are in burying their faces in their cell phones.
It’s been assumed that introverted people are somehow miserable. It’s easy to see how a person can come to think so when they see one in a rowdy bar or a crowded rock concert and they just want to get out of there. But the reality is, different things make introverted people happy. They’d prefer to go home after a long day’s work and turn on the radio, while the idea of a social situation where participants continually dare one another into increasingly unwise behavior with alcohol involved would probably make them sick.
Introverted people have fewer friendships, but those friendships are typically of much higher quality. This is something that I think I can identify with. When it comes to friendships, quality is better than quantity. It’s better to make the right friends than make a lot of them. Besides, it’s been an idea that friendship carries with it a notion of obligation. Sometimes, a friend may try to dictate how a person spends their time. An extroverted person may jump at every opportunity to go along with a crowd of people, but because introverted people quickly get tired of social gatherings, they’d be very unlikely to do so.
I think it’s a positive thing that a distinction is being made between introversion and shyness. Shyness can be described as a social phobia, while introversion can be more aptly described as a preference for a certain level of social interaction.
One thing that I think people need to get about introversion is that introverts aren’t unhappy, and that attempts to “rescue” them by placing them into scenarios that they don’t want to be in may actually cause more harm than good. One thing I sometimes hear is “lighten up”, as though not going to concerts or parties somehow means that I’m avoiding having a good time. Not everybody enjoys the same activities. In spite of this, some try to make themselves social superheroes that take it upon themselves to try to solve other people’s problems, even if, in some cases, they don’t actually understand the matter very well.
Here’s a few things I do enjoy:
- Going on long walks, either alone or with one other person,
- Arriving in the dorm after the day’s classes,
- Studying (I have the textbooks, and I’d prefer to have better grades).
And on those last couple points, yes, I’m a college student. That being the case, I think it’s very important how I budget my time, especially considering that not everyone succeeds in my choice of major. My main purpose in college is not to make friends, but if I do, it would be a nice bonus. However, it would probably be fewer friends than most, and perhaps there’s some people I’d prefer not to keep company with. There seems to be this notion that being picky about one’s friends is somehow a bad thing. Such a person is typically seen as “judgmental”, a term that seems to be perceived in a negative light, as though exercising proper judgment is somehow a bad thing. I think most people can understand the negative consequences of picking the wrong friends, and because of this, people can benefit from taking measures to prevent this from happening.
Another thing about introversion is that introverts are sometimes thought of as rude. Whether a person is rude depends on the individual, and I think that an extroverted person has the same capacity for impoliteness. I think that a lot of small-talk doesn’t really accomplish much, and that people mostly only really engage in it due to a notion that they somehow have to.
I remember hearing someone say that 99.9% of people like answering questions about themselves, and that 1 in 10,000 don’t. Assuming those are the only two possibilities, that person’s math is off by a power of 10, but I think what he was trying to imply was that very few people are truly introverted. As I see it, if people require constant social interaction to keep a chemical in their brain at a certain level, then extroversion can be loosely classified as a dependency or an addiction. If that’s the case, then introversion can be seen as a kind of freedom.
Freedom to study, freedom to meditate, freedom to go on hikes, freedom to think about ways to improve one’s self, without having the burden of bringing a certain chemical in one’s brain up to a certain level. Friendships would then become deeper and more meaningful. Intimacy would be more gratifying and fulfilling, with a much stronger connection that is desperately sought-after by those who climb on and off the sexual merry-go-round. More time can be put into personal pursuits, which can result in a purposeful career.
No, I’m not the kind of guy who desperately clings to whatever friends he can get. My friends are chosen with care. People typically have a very hard time maintaining strong, deep, meaningful personal relationships with a large number of people. Many perceive social life as being a contest to achieve just that. With this mentality, people often take on more than they can deal with. This mentality also enables them to view as “losers” those who decide not to participate in such a game.
I also think more people need to understand that introversion doesn’t mean hating people. It may seem that way to some people because introverted people are pickier about who they spend their time with. There are plenty of insecure people out there, and one way that they indicate themselves is by getting upset when other people don’t want to hang out with them. Not only does someone not have to hang out with them, they also don’t have to provide a reason for deciding not to do so.
Do I struggle with introversion? I think I struggle more with people who don’t respect that I don’t want to do the same things that they do. People seem to love going along with the crowd. But what the crowd does might not be for me.