Introverted on the Internet

I am an introvert. That’s an established fact. Being around people drains my energy so I require time to myself to recharge back to socially functional levels.

There have been a few high profile essays by other introverts in the near past. Of particular note is Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. There is one point, however, that strikes me differently than others. Many of them seem able, even thrive, on extended interactions with other people over the internet. Being face to face drains their energy but through the magic of the glowing rectangle they are able to carry on. But for me, I drain through digital interaction just as much as through analog interaction. The internet doesn’t seem to afford me protection against needing to isolate myself for periods of time.

It may be that individuals’ extroversion/introversion components of their personalities differ based on the medium of communication. Just as there are people who are introverted in person while extroverted online, there are people who are extroverted in person but introverted online. Personality types change over the course of time so it makes sense that they would change based on the conditions of interaction too. As for myself, I’m introverted both in meatspace and in cyberspace.

Part of that differentiation from many other introverts is that I don’t much care for the asymmetric communication of the internet. Baring real-time video chat, communication on the internet consists of crafting a statement or response and sending out into the void, either at an individual or a larger group, and then waiting. And waiting. And waiting. The communication is not much of a conversation, just a collection of statements that surround a particular topic. And of course my mind goes right to work crafting whatever responses it wants to, disregarding the likelihood of any of them. Even more insidiously it’ll tell me all sorts of horrible reasons when responses don’t come.

I need my downtime, and at the same time the most valuable contact I can have occurs in the physical realm, in real time, where my presence demands direct attention and is harder to ignore by being drawn away by any number of distractions. I may not want much attention, but I do feel that what little attention I do desire ought not to be diluted by distractions. The incessant busyness of the modern world makes these things difficult.

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