On Introverts and Extroverts

"In an extroverted society, the difference between an introvert and an extrovert is that an introvert is often unconsciously deemed guilty until proven innocent."
-Criss Jami
A topic that comes up often in today's society is that of introverts and extroverts. While this is discussed often, I get the sense that people still don't what understand what the differences are. Each term has been given a stereotype, similar to ADD, dyslexia, and OCD. People look at one very broad generalization of whatever it may be, and use it as another label. "People with ADD are hyper and easily distracted." "People with dyslexia have trouble reading." "People with OCD need everything to be organized just right." While the stereotypes are there for a reason, they are still just stereotypes, and don't show a true understanding of the issue. I have ADD, and while the label is true in a sense, it isn't entirely accurate. So today, we'll be looking at the labels of introverts and extroverts, and what it is that they're saying. Again, remember that the mind is a complex topic. I don't have a degree in psychology or anything like that. This is based off of logic and what I know of the subject.

The labels themselves are rather simple. Extroverts are outgoing, while introverts are more reserved. However, depending on who you talk to, one side or another may seem to be a bit... bedazzled. For example, in our internet culture, introversion has been glorified. Extroverts are often seen as, or at least portrayed as, intrusive and obnoxious. On the other hand, extroversion is promoted by extroverts just as much. Introverts are seen as reclusive, unable to emerge from their holes to talk to anyone. In a way, we have drawn up battle lines and are prepared to go to war to defend our ways of life.
The extroverts seek to preserve true human contact. To get us out of our shells so we can interact with real human beings instead of simply staring at a screen. The extroverts understand that humans are social creatures, and that we need eachother in order to live.
On the other hand, introverts understand that life isn't all fun and games. It's important to slow down and think things through. Humans need time to rest, to think, to learn. In order to develop our minds, we must learn to use them properly. We can't be dependent on other people, because sometimes, other people won't be around. We need to be able to take care of ourselves.
Considering the fact that I'm writing a blog, online, called Overthinking Nerdiness, I think it's fairly obvious which category I fall into. And indeed, I can bash extroverts with the best of them. Those slow-witted party goers never know what hit them. ...Or do they?

This is where our understanding of the topic tends to end. We think through our own side, without regard to the people on the other side. Fortunately, our society hasn't broken out into war over extroversion and introversion just yet. But I do see subconscious prejudice against one side or another. The tone in which one person will say, "Oh, he's an introvert." The condescension in the phrase, "He's very... outgoing." It has so infected the way we think that often, we don't even notice it. What we need to remember is that people are still people, and thus, a label is rarely, if ever, an effective method of description. In an effort to show this, I would like to go over what the difference is, when you look at the subtlety of the topic.

Introversion and extroversion have more to do with how a person feels than with how they act. How a person feels will certainly affect how they act, but in a less direct way, since a person can act against their feelings. Also keep in mind that the way things play out may not always be exactly like you'd expect. For example: as an introvert, I am not a naturally "popular" person. However, I do enjoy being on a stage. Performance is fun for me, and I like being the center of attention. This is not contradictory to my introverted nature, because I don't see a stage and an audience as being interactive. For me, a stage is perfectly comfortable. Even interactions upon a stage are merely a show, and therefore, nowhere near as draining as actual interactions. Because of this, I have, at times, been what some have referred to as "popular." I was in Drama Club in high school, and even played the part of Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol. As a result, I was fairly well known. I sang the part of Jean ValJean in a Les Miserables flashmob, and after singing John 3:16 in Greek at AWANA Camp, my little brother grew annoyed as people began referring to him as "Jared's brother." Indeed, I have had people come up to me as I was sitting alone and express wonder that I wasn't in a crowd of people, mentioning that they've never seen me not talking to someone, and can't imagine that I'm an introvert. But remember that introversion affects how I feel, not how I act. Performance may be in the spotlight, but since I don't register it as true interaction, it doesn't affect me in the same way.
Keep in mind as well that humans are indeed social creatures. I need human interaction just like anybody else, and I do get lonely. But for me, human interaction is draining. So rather than starting up a conversation with just anyone, I very rarely seek out interaction, and reserve those times for the few people that I believe will enjoy my company as much as I enjoy theirs. It will take energy, but it's worth it to spend that energy. When people approach me, I enjoy their company, as long as it's a real conversation rather than just small talk, and as long as it isn't a crowd that will take my energy quickly. Introverts will often sit by themselves not because they want to be alone, but because they want someone who, A, is worth spending energy on (i.e., very little small talk), and B, will enjoy their company. This means that an introvert will wait for you, because they would rather be lonely than spend energy on someone who doesn't want them around.

I am not an extrovert, and therefore, I have not experienced the ways in which the stereotypes are inaccurate. However, based on my extroverted friends, and based on what I know of the failures in the introverted stereotype, I can see areas where it would be problematic to make assumptions. For example, not all extroverts may be comfortable on a stage. And just like introverts need people, extroverts also need time to themselves. Extroverts may not mind small talk, but that doesn't mean that they don't need or care about deeper and more meaningful conversation.

I know extroverts who often act like introverts. I know introverts who often act like extroverts. What we need to keep in mind is that, while introvert and extrovert are parts of our personalities and help make us who we are, they don't control us. Introversion and extroversion are aspects of a person's personality, and nobody should be judged by that, even subconsciously, and even with a positive judgement. Those words are simply tools that we use to help us understand the nature of a fellow person. They are not a complete description, and each person has their own personality.
"There's a difference between preferring books to parties and preferring sixteen cats to seeing the light of day."
-Lauren Morrill

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