On Introverting Badly, and Why No One Should Care (plus some links)

When you’re writer–or even just someone with basic awareness of their social surroundings–it’s difficult to avoid references to personality typing. A given scroll through the recommended pins for my pinterest board will reveal several infographics about the various Enneagram,  Myers-Briggs,  and Big 5 categories that a person might fall into (the last is, in my opinion, the most likely to be accurate, not that it matters much at the moment). Now, I accept that personality typing is not and never should be an exact science, but the topic intrigues me enough that I’ve learned more about the ingredients of personality than I probably ever needed to.

One pair of opposites that comes up a lot is the introversion/extroversion gradient, and where it’s mentioned, a flurry of what I can only describe as “introvert apologia” is never far away.

Now, I am without a doubt an introverted person. Typically, my idea of a great night involves me, my cat, and a Jane the Virgin marathon on Netflix (although I should add that not all nights are typical ones). My amazing fiance was gone all last weekend, and so I sat at home listening to nothing but some new podcasts and the rain on the roof and it was the best weekend ever. I do not regret being this way, and I am in total agreement with the basic premise of every “misconceptions about introverts” post, that is, that there’s nothing wrong with being one.

However, I have some points of contention with how introversion and extroversion are discussed and how these constantly repeated truisms are becoming accepted as gospel. So I thought I would share some of my own observations just to add some perspective to the topic (not to pick fights with anyone).

First of all, introversion and extroversion are matters of degree, not type. Even though most psychology texts essentially state this, the public interpretation seems to tend towards polarization. For instance, take the x000 “how to care for your introvert” things I see bandied about pinterest and Facebook. “Respect boundaries” “avoid passing judgement” “don’t interrupt” “don’t spring things on the person at the last minute.” Excellent advice, all, but mostly indistinguishable from basic courtesy. I’m willing concede that having these guidelines violated might be especially troubling to an introverted personality, but am I really supposed to deduce that an average extrovert loves being interrupted, enjoys having important information dumped on them at the last conceivable second, and sits around itching for someone to disrespect their boundaries?  Introverts, extroverts, and the many, many people who fall somewhere in the middle are all, you know, people, and are not that fundamentally different from one another. We’re discussing variations in the human personality, not two different species.

The other point that I want to address is that, while there is nothing wrong or even unusual about being an introvert, to put it baldly, there is nothing special either. For myself, I do not believe that being an introvert makes me any smarter, any kinder, any more responsible, or any more loyal than I would be if I was more of an extrovert. These are all separate qualities independent of my preferred Friday night activities. Some of the things that seem to come up over and over again in descriptions of introverted personalities are “liking one-on-one interaction” and “having few but close friends,” and neither of these are especially true of me. One- on-one conversations are actually the most tiring type of socialization for me, because I have to carry the burden for a full half of the conversation rather than distributing it evenly among, say, three to five people. And, although I certainly have some great friends, I still think that “gets along with almost everyone but doesn’t really have a  BFF” is a better description of me than “having few but close friends.”

Happily, as far as I’m concerned, none of this matters. The vast majority of people have both extroverted and introverted qualities, and neither extreme represents some sort of elite secret society with stiff standards for admission. Act as you see fit (with the standard legal and ethical qualifiers).

In absence of a snappy conclusion that isn’t a retread of what I’ve already written, I’m going to switch gears and turn to my fall back topic: Things that I Find Interesting that You Should Check Out.

I’ve discovered a great new podcast (shocking, I know):  The Strange Matters Podcast . It covers anything that qualifies as a strange matter (unsolved crime, theoretical science, claims of the paranormal) and does it in a very informative and entertaining way. Don’t worry, I’m a strong skeptic about anything paranormal, but I’m still curious enough to enjoy hearing about it. They cover a wide variety of interesting cases and I can’t believe it took me this long to stumble across them.

Recently, HBO aired a documentary called Mommy Dead and Dearest. The story is as morbid as it sounds, and it’s well worth watching.  The Brain Candy Podcast (another good one!)  discussed the documentary in a recent episode. Before watching, though, I suggest reading this article about the case first. It deals with a likely case of Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy, and it is one of the most fascinating and disturbing things I have ever read.

That’s all I have for now. Best wishes to everyone!