Society & Social Justice

The COVID World Is Built for Introverts

The COVID world is built for introverts - cartoon of a germ with a stay at home mask

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, and virtual communication may not feel as substantial as in-person. 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?

COVID-19/mental health coping toolkit from Mental Health @ Home

The COVID-19/Mental Health Coping Toolkit page has a wide range of resources to support better mental health and wellbeing.

Visit the MH@H Resource Pages hub to see other themed pages from Mental Health @ Home.

63 thoughts on “The COVID World Is Built for Introverts”

  1. Where do you fall on the introvert–extrovert spectrum, and do you think that’s made a difference in your pandemic life?

    I’m like you – an extreme introvert. It was a lot easier on me to have restricted access to other people than it was for the majority of people I know. The extroverts I know went a bit stir crazy actually.

    To my dismay however I’ve discovered that getting into the ‘hands off social contact’ mode was a lot easier than bouncing back to ‘normal’ (it’s a slow process granted, but it’s getting there). I’m stressed out by the things I was prior to Covid – too many people, crowds, bad drivers; but I’m more stressed out than I was before. I’ve come to embrace my inner hermit with gusto and I suspect I’ll have a hard time letting that attitude go.

    1. I’m also very introverted (INFJ), but with the length COVID has drawn out…the complete lack of socialization has left me feeling so lonely and void, it’s been very hard. I did move states right before COVID though. I moved into my home beginning March 2020, lockdown end of March 2020. No friends whatsoever. It was easy at first and I enjoyed it…no people, yay! Then it got harder and harder until breaking point. Even though I like lots of “me time”…I wish it would end finally!

  2. I agree with this, although I think it is relative. Even as someone extremely, introverted, shy, socially anxious and on the autism spectrum, I have still struggled with a lack of social contact at times, particularly in the first lockdown when places of worship were shut. I obviously need some social contact.

  3. I’m not especially extroverted so I haven’t minded pandemic life so much but I do miss the social interaction with my closer friends and family. It’s an interesting perspective you raise. I hate the masks though – I’d rather see peoples faces. It feels like doomsday all the time with everyone wearing them. I had an idea that we should draw a big smile on everyones masks. At least that would lift the mood somewhat!

  4. I am an introvert.

    As much as being on my own has been enjoyable by staying in than work, or shopping its made my life more stressful than before. Not by a lot of different factors, some which have been made worse by restrictions.
    But if it wasn’t for my support bubble, where I did need to be in the same room as them for a while, then I don’t know where I would have been.

      1. I was already chatting with them long before then, but then at that point as things got difficult, my face must have shown it, when they asked, not once, but for a second time, are you really ok?

  5. I am an extrovert, but to be honest, I’ve liked the more introverted way during covid, I do want things to open up, but sometimes its nice to have my own space, peace and quiet too. xoxo

  6. I wish I were extroverted, but anxiety and being easily annoyed by certain personality traits keeps me introverted. I feel like extroverts have more opportunities to learn more from their peers and see different perspectives. I’m a bit jealous.

    1. Yeah, there are definitely benefits to extroversion. Back when I was working, I found that nursing was good for tapping into a more extroverted part of me, but in controlled amounts.

  7. I’m an extroverted introvert. I can be an extrovert when I need to be, but my default is extreme introvert. I can switch between them when I need to (like for work, where I need to be extroverted). I need some social interaction but not a lot…. I find it exhausting tbh

    My life has not changed that much since the pandemic started. I was a homebody prior to the pandemic, and I don’t have enough friends to make Zoom calls. Things are pretty much the same as they were pre-pandemic Times.

    1. I found that extroverting at work was easier than in social situations, I think because there was more of a clear purpose and structure to it.

  8. I’m an extreme introvert: on the Meyers-Briggs, I was, like, 95% introvert. I think I chose the extrovert answer for one question.

    Oh yes! I’ve loved the changes! The coronavirus hasn’t really affected my life much at all (except inasmuch as I’ve been watching everyone else become miserable, and I feel bad for everyone, obviously); but in my own world here, not much has changed. But unfortunately, lately, whenever I pass people on the sidewalk, they still want to say hello. Ugh. I hate to be unsociable (or whatever the word is: asocial? unsocial? Definitely NOT antisocial… hmm…) but I hate feeling people’s energy. Lately it really feels like a return to how things used to be! [I’m making faces at the thought.] But I can’t relate to the huge changes since I never went out in crowds or to huge social gatherings to begin with. I truly pity people whose lives were turned upside-down by the changes, even though I can’t relate. It’s been hard as a sympathetic person to watch others struggle with it all.

    1. Asocial is the word.

      One thing that did make a difference was the normal fish frying situation. Hopefully that will be back to normal by next year.

      1. Gasp! Oh yeah, the fish fries!! Oh my goodness, you have a great memory!! Good catch!! Yeah, here’s hoping!! I love a good fish fry!!

  9. We were gardening yesterday and the neighbors came out. We just told New T how uninspiring small talk is for us and how much hiding we have to do. We have social me’s and used to be able to command a room, speak in front of a thousand people, etc. Now, though, we need to be alone to recharge. And we would prefer to be alone 5-8 hours per day. We have been alone 0 hours per day for 13.5 months. So we are out of balance!

  10. I am both, at the same time if often seems. I absorb energy from other people and it makes me happy and energetic but it can also send me spirling into a panic or anxiety attack. I like being around people but I can’t deal with crowds. I need alone time like air to breathe. I’ve lived in social isolation for nigh on 8 years now so the Covid thing changed very little in my life. When I lived a normal life I often had trouble with small talk and now, given half the chance I will chew a strangers head off with my babbling. If being a Libra means always trying to achieve balance, then that’s me to the extreme, I only go in two directions – and they are always opposites.

  11. Luckily for me am an Ambivert so I took a little hit and adjusted. I still connect and attend social events online, but tune off easily too when I feel like. It’s seemingly going to be a ‘new normal’ for a while to come

  12. Before the pandemic, I wouldn’t have known how to classify myself on the extrovert-introvert spectrum because I didn’t think I was strongly in one direction or another.

    During the pandemic, I learned that I was the type of extrovert who couldn’t find the energy for basic hygiene (think several days in a row without changing clothes or showering, days when I really couldn’t remember if I brushed my teeth or brushed my hair) if I wasn’t going to see people. I had to cut my hair short because it was so tangled and damaged from failure to brush it properly.

    There are social interactions I deeply miss from pre-pandemic (parties, religious services, family/group dinners, board game nights, dancing, karaoke, choir, heart-to-heart conversations with friends, lively interesting discussions, bowling, baseball games, theatre). There are also interactions from pre- and during pandemic that I don’t miss at all (small talk, friendships based on convenience, Zoom birthday parties). There are friendships of convenience that I don’t feel a need to renew post-pandemic. My birthday this year falls at a time when vaccination rates, the predicted lifting of COVID restrictions, and weather would likely allow for a large in-person party, and yet, I don’t think I want one.

    TL;DR: I am an extrovert and did not cope well with coronavirus, but I’m also a bit choosy about what post-pandemic interactions I want and I don’t want just anything.

    1. I suspect that for most people COVID has triggered a reflection on socializing. that just didn’t happen before because it just sort of was what it was.

  13. I am also quite strongly introverted, don’t know if it qualifies as extreme or not because there are also other things that come into the picture and I think my mental illnesses also make me more introverted than I would be otherwise.
    I’m often laughing now that the introverts have taken revenge on the extrovert-dominated world. From my own little perspective, I don’t mind it at all. It’s just fine with me, I have less random social interactions with people so less social anxiety in general, and less brain exhaustion and less outbursts of Maggie rage (Maggie’s my overactive inner critic for those who don’t know) following social interactions. I generally feel like Covid’s negative impact on my life has been minimal, which I’m extremely grateful for and I appreciate that I’m very lucky, in fact, I could mention more positive things that have happened in my life indirectly due to the pandemic other than less peopling.
    At the same time though, I regularly see people who struggle with it so much. And from what I notice, it’s not really just extroverts struggling, but introverts as well, and even socially anxious or agoraphobic people who feel their fears have exacerbated ever since the emergence of Covid, or they simply very strongly feel the lack of social contact or social support. I sometimes wonder why this isn’t the case with me, maybe the fact that I actually live with my family on a daily basis so it’s not like I’m completely cut off from people now. On the other hand thoughh some of the people I see struggling also live with someone, and then there are people like you who only live with guinea pigs and don’t mind the situation. But I’m also curious more broadly, what, if not introversion/extroversion, decides about whether one feels so negatively affected by Covid in the social sphere or not, and whether there’s one factor responsible for this or more like a combination of things. It’s quite interesting. In any case, I really feel for people who are struggling, it must be a very hopeless feeling at times.

    1. That’s an interesting question. I think almost all of us have some social needs, and perhaps it depends on how we’re able to meet those needs. If they can be met virtually or by the people one lives with, COVID is probably a lot easier than people who need non-family social interaction and virtually just isn’t enough.

  14. I agree that the world, esp. the working world of Corporate America, was made for extroverts. I am 46, but have struggled (and continue to sometimes struggle in person) my entire career with this reality (and turned to caffeine and alcohol to allow me to function). I love the parameters of pandemic life–my life has not really changed at all, from pre- to pandemic, so…that tells me that I am def introverted and def like being alone/not seeking or expecting solace outside of solitude. I don’t necessarily feel less guilty about how I am, but I feel less apt to try to force myself to be extroverted. I don’t mind making excuses for my wanting to be alone pretty much 100% of my time (except for my boo and my dogs), but I have never not felt guilty about this desire (except during the pandemic!)… GREAT post–thank you!

  15. The Covid world may well have been built for introverts. I’ve performed better on Zoom meetings because I have been free of social anxiety, and the people in my Zoom meetings who used to meet with me in real life before the pandemic have come to respect me more since we switched to Zoom. In fact, I’m uneasy about returning to real-live meetings, because I anticipate that my social anxiety will return and I won’t be “all there” enough to make a valid contribution.

        1. I thought the article underestimated the role of the anti-maskers in how there might be judgment around masks. And the no-mask thing is very new in a few places while the virus is still raging almost out of control in others, so I’m not convinced that unmasking will end up being a big issue.

          1. Hopefully not. It’s possible the author was speaking of their own social anxiety and projecting it onto a mass level.

  16. True… for introverts and instrospectives, as it is the time to unleash the long awaited creativity within, a simplicity to be happy inside instead of the daily rush, the stress of coping with outside.

  17. True, I think. Not sure about which one I am. I think I’m introvert but family and friends might say otherwise. Obviously I’m quite open and friendly with them and I adore their company. But I’m also happy in my own space too. In short, the pandemic’s been no different for me.

  18. I don’t have a large social circle, and yes, I think that’s made our smaller Covid world easier to take. It’s not the people I miss, it’s the traveling 🙂

  19. Another top notch post and topic Ashley as l am planning on writing on this soon also 🙂

    I have loved the pandemic and the social aspectation of negative impact for extroverts – in fact l remember back in April of last year laughing at the fact that extroverts would really suffer with this ………. mm, that kicked me in the ass as history has shown this blog. Suze was more extroverted than l thought and she went bat shit crazy for sociality …. mm.

    I am not extremely introverted but l am not extremely extroverted either, l am ambiverted or as l used to joke selectively social. I don’t like lots of people or big crowds – l don’t mind walking around inside of people crowds, but l just don’t like talking to lots of people at once.

    How is the world going to be? Well it’ll never be the same, but and yet and yet and but the extroverts will carry on as normal with minor adaptions. For some they never stopped being who they were.

    I enjoyed the quiet … still do. As l sit here and type of an evening, about the same time most nights, writing comments nearly 11pm. Outside is very quiet, it starts to get quieter from about 8pm, it is peaceful like this/that until around 8am when it gets busier again. Occasionally you hear a car driving past and on the odder occasions a person walking past ..

    The world went quieter, but you know, the world didn’t really change that much for me in so far as my sociality .. l’ll not deny it changed me though, the pandemic and the journeys l undertook forced me to change, but l am still selectively social.

  20. Totally – covid didn’t really change us. I think introverts were able to survive more efficiently – being on the spectrum [in fact there we go, that’s the language l mostly use haha ] my Aspergers wasn’t phased by the quiet. I can always find comfort being me …… you can find comfort being you, you are able to cope, like l am with who we are – we don’t despise our own company.

    As l like to say a lot ‘being social is overrated’ – do you know it’s funny, but that design sold a lot of time in stickers and pin badges these last twelve months hahaha!!

    Excellent – suck on that extroverts!!

  21. When someone is called an introvert, there always seems to be a negative connotation, while extroverts are considered the fun ones. I look at it this way: Extroverts thrive on their social interactions to stay recharged and exercise their mental capacities, while introverts get their energy from having distance and do not need external forces to give affirmations.

    For myself, it’s not that I want to be alone all the time, it’s just that it doesn’t bother me when I am. So this past year has only been slightly different, but I do look forward to seeing the people that I care about soon.

  22. Life has become a lot less complex for introverts. No faking smiles or having to talk to people, no complications or office politics, but as life goes on even the COVID couldn’t stop or diminish the workplace productivity . The workplaces has found alternatives to keep on functioning.

Leave a Reply