I recently saw a post by The Opinionated Woman titled The World Is Built for Extroverts. My comment was that the COVID world is build for introverts, and I thought I’d elaborate on that a bit.
To start off, let’s consider what introverts and extroverts are. Introversion and extroversion lie on a spectrum, with most people falling somewhere in the middle. One of the main differences is what energizes people. Extroverts are energized by social contact, while for introverts, social contact consumes energy, and alone time is needed to recharge.
Introverts are sometimes shy, but not necessarily. Both introverts and extroverts can experience social anxiety disorder. Introverts aren’t immune from needing social support; they just need a different balance. Small talk is often tiring for introverts.
I agree with The Opinionated Woman that Western society generally expects extroversion. Extroversion isn’t actually that much more common than introversion, though. Data from Pew Research Center in 2014 showed 12% highly extroverted, 5% highly introverted, and everyone else swimming along somewhere in the middle.
Then COVID came along. Many people were working from home, and there were very limited, if any, social gatherings. There was no small talk when out and about, and very little having to deal with people. All of a sudden, the kind of social contact that was an energizer for extroverts and an energy sink for introverts just wasn’t happening anymore. The extrovert-oriented world got flipped upside down, and we’ve been living in an introvert-oriented world for the last year.
Obviously, there have been challenges for introverts too; autonomy has been restricted, virtual communication may not feel as substantial as in-person, and introverts can be lonely just like extroverts can. Still, I think the introverts have probably had an easier time of things.
I’m an introvert, and depression has pushed me to the extreme edge of introversion (think a hermit with moss growing on top). While COVID has been unpleasant in terms of general stress of the world and greater difficulty accessing goods and services, I like the excuse to not talk to people. I also like that wearing a mask hides my flat affect (lack of facial expressiveness), so I don’t have to even think about trying to force my uncooperative face into a semi-pleasant expression. If the infection ended but the social distancing continued, that would be just fine in my world. I’ll continue being a hermit regardless.
I do feel bad for the extroverts of the world, though. I can’t even imagine being plunked in an anti-pandemic that involved small talk every waking hour of the day. I’d need to find a very large rock to crawl under.
I wonder what the world will be like post-pandemic. Will we go back to the world made for extroverts? Or have we introverts made enough inroads that we’ll hang on to at least some vestiges of introvert world?
Where do you fall on the introvert–extrovert spectrum, and do you think that’s made a difference in your pandemic life?
The Coping Toolkit page has a broad collection of resources to support mental health and well-being.