A while ago, I noticed an internet trend that seemed kind of funny to me at the time. There seemed to be a lot of people uploading videos on youtube in which they sat in front of their webcam and talked about being introverted. They would talk about how extroverted people don’t really understand introverted people, they complain that they’re stereotyped as being shy and/or antisocial, they talk about how incorrect those perceptions are, and they usually at some point comment that the internet has really helped them to open up and communicate with other people. (In most cases, these are people who upload a lot of videos to youtube and have a fairly large following) I also have seen quite a few online articles that made more or less the same points. The reason that I was amused was that there didn’t seem to be a good reason for this trend. It seems funny that people in our society are so quick to believe that they’re in an oppressed minority that common personality traits are now considered to be minority groups. But then I started noticing other types of online articles with titles such as ‘Careers for Introverts’ and ‘Jobs for Shy People’ and ‘Good Jobs for People Who Don’t Like People’. (I’m not sure why people who write about the job market seem to be particularly interested in making this distinction, but that’s where I’ve seen it most) It’s as if the writers of these articles actually think that personality is a bigger factor in career choices than job skills, or maybe that one’s personality determines what job skills that person has. Of course, personality plays a role in determining what kind of job a person can do best, but introversion/extroversion is only one of a wide variety of factors that matter. And those ideas of personality aren’t restricted to people who write online articles. In my experience it is true that most particularly outgoing people don’t really connect with people who aren’t naturally friendly. Some people do make false assumptions about others who have different personalities, and so maybe there is some need for introverted people to clear up some misunderstandings.

According to the Big Five system of personality categorization, (which, unlike the Myers-Briggs system, measures people along spectrums instead of dividing them into categories) I am just about as introverted as a person can be. Most people who know me would probably agree with that. My family would probably laugh and say that unless I lied on the questionnaire, it is clearly flawed, because I don’t know how to shut up. Incidentally, that’s one of the things that the Internet Introvert Awareness Advocates (yes, I just now made up that term) always make sure to clarify; introverted people don’t always keep their mouths shut, they just are only talkative in certain situations. I usually am quiet in social situations, but there are certain topics which, once I get started on them, will keep me talking until someone finds the duct tape and sticks my mouth shut. (Okay, nobody has ever done that to me before, but I’m sure some people have thought about it) But those are fairly isolated incidents which usually surprise anyone who doesn’t know me very well. For the most part, I don’t have much to say except in one-to-one conversations with someone I already know, and on the internet. Classmates are often surprised when, after friending me on facebook, they discover that I actually do have a sense of humor (and a weird one at that) and strong opinions about quite a lot of things.

Unlike most Internet Introvert Awareness Advocates, though, I don’t do things like posting frequent youtube videos of myself sitting in front of a webcam and talking about my opinions or life in general. I have, over the course of two or three years, posted quite a few youtube videos, (43, to be exact) but they aren’t webcam vlogs; the few that actually show me are either scripted skits or documentaries of gingerbread house construction. When it comes to internet communication, I am much more comfortable with blogging, so that I can voice my thoughts and opinions without letting anyone else actually see my face or hear my voice. It’s a lovely system and much less awkward than stuff like talking to people, either by internet video or in person.

This is what free time looks like in my world.

That’s pretty much what it means to be an introvert. It doesn’t mean that I don’t like people, don’t like communicating with people, or don’t have things to say to people. It just means that I’m not really in my comfort zone in social situations, even if it’s just a casual conversation. Extroverted people are in their natural habitat with other people; they like to talk because it feels natural and they like to do everything with friends because they don’t like solitude. Introverted people are in their natural habitat alone. I can and do enjoy spending time with other people, but it’s because I like those specific people, not because I like being with people in general. I also enjoy spending time alone, and it’s in those situations where I am most in control of my brain and can decide for myself what the topic of my thoughts should be.

This is what social interaction looks like in my world.