The words introvert and extrovert are bandied around the Internet often these days but they remain much misunderstood concepts. If you identify as an introvert the chances are you're probably not one, writes Anne Treasure.
There is no such thing as a pure introvert or extrovert. Such a person would be in the lunatic asylum.
23 Signs You’re Secretly an Introvert. 12 Tips to Better Care for an Introvert. 10 Myths About Introverts. The listification of the internet seems to have coincided with a mass self-diagnosis of a hitherto unidentified personality trait.
Tips such as “never embarrass an introvert in public” and “give them their privacy” may give a clue to why so many of us are now identifying with introversion.
Chances are you have read one of these “how to train your introvert” articles and nodded along. “Yes,” you’ve thought, “I do screen my calls! And I do have a constantly running inner monologue! Listen, I can hear it right now!”
These are just two of the 23 signs of introversion, according to a Huffington Post article.
Carl Jung coined ‘introversion’ and ‘extroversion’ in 1918, and they have been appropriated and redefined ever since. Jung initially used the terms to describe a flow of ‘libidinal energy’ either inwards or outwards. Meyers-Briggs later adopted ‘introvert’ and ‘extrovert’ as descriptors in their personality test, and turned them into explicit labels. Now instead of understanding introversion as a fluid state, it is used as shorthand for identity.
You are unlikely to be an introvert, by Jung’s or even Meyers-Briggs’ standards. A lot of us are merely responding to the new ultra-connected social and spatial structure of modern life by staging a retreat, of sorts. When you are available to others at every minute of the day, contactable via multiple platforms and constantly notified of every update, a few hours alone does start to sound desirable. Basic economic theory - as the availability of solitude decreases, demand increases.
Introversion is not shyness. Introversion is not ‘screening your calls’ (that’s just sensible). It is not necessarily characterised by being quiet and reserved. Not feeling comfortable speaking up at a meeting, or wanting to approach people at a party does not make you an introvert.
Introversion is the upper level at which you find yourself depleted by social interaction, and it works on a continuum with extroversion.
New forms of interaction are leading to people adopt the affectations of introversion in order to portray themselves as interesting or alluring. The impersonal intimacy of social media provides the opportunity to form an online identity that serves as a proxy for our actual selves. The imperative for exposure leads us to cultivate an image using what some have called a social media “fan dance”, exposing just enough flesh (metaphorical or otherwise) to gain attention.
The label “introvert” suggests a higher degree of restraint - that the introvert is at a remove from the digital mass exhibitionism that the rest of us are involved in. So when you share that “87 Adorable Introvert Traits as Enacted by Puppies” listicle on Twitter, Facebook and Google+ accompanied by “this is SO me”, consider how introspective that drive to exhibit your introversion really is.
Anne Treasure is a recent survivor of the book industry.