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Field Guide to Loners
May 16, 2007 9:28 AM   Subscribe

Contrary to popular belief, not all loners have a pathological fear of social contact "Loners often hear from well-meaning peers that they need to be more social, but the implication that they're merely black-and-white opposites of their bubbly peers misses the point."
posted by 2shay (89 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
Obligatory link to Caring For Your Introvert.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:34 AM on May 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'm a loner by choice. I like watching movies without people talking so I spend a lot of time with my movies at home.
posted by doctorschlock at 9:35 AM on May 16, 2007


Contrary to popular belief, not all loners have a pathological fear of social contact

Great, another group I no longer fit into.
posted by grobstein at 9:39 AM on May 16, 2007 [14 favorites]


You know, every once in a while it's nice to remind loners they're not alone.
Hey everybody. See you later.
CCM of ISHI
posted by carsonb at 9:40 AM on May 16, 2007


Everybody is a loner on the internet.
posted by T.D. Strange at 9:42 AM on May 16, 2007


Wait, there's a popular belief that loners have a pathological fear of social contact? I though the popular belief was that we just don't like talking about the weather, sports and our dogs.
posted by DU at 9:45 AM on May 16, 2007 [5 favorites]


You try calling in sick to your boss one day and tell them:
"I just want to alone............." and see how far that gets you.
posted by doctorschlock at 9:47 AM on May 16, 2007


I thought we were all just misogynists.

Actually, I fit the profile above quite well. The creative, artistic side that prefers solitude along with the draining effect of interacting socially genuinely ring a bell with me.
posted by misha at 9:48 AM on May 16, 2007


I think you mean "misanthropes"?
posted by jokeefe at 9:48 AM on May 16, 2007


Lycanthropes!
posted by doctorschlock at 9:50 AM on May 16, 2007 [2 favorites]


I for one don't fear social contact, I just hate other people.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:50 AM on May 16, 2007 [9 favorites]


I just hate people. And there seems to be so many more stupid people out there. I can't wait to be a party and have someone ask me if I saw National Bingo Night and how they are addicted to it.
posted by birdherder at 9:51 AM on May 16, 2007 [2 favorites]


Yeah, why don't you all bugger off and leave me alone?
posted by jokeefe at 9:56 AM on May 16, 2007


In the immortal words of DeNiro's character in Heat:
"I am alone, I am not lonely."

I'm quite a sociable person, but over time my Finnish side wins over and I need to have my space and quiet. Luckily this is true for my girlfriend as well.

It's a cultural thing as well. I find British people to be warm, welcoming and extroverted. My Italian friends finds British people cold, distant and introverted. I advised him not to move to Finland.

So, yeah. Nothing new here, but it's always good to hear.
posted by slimepuppy at 9:56 AM on May 16, 2007


Another extrovert-by-nature but loner-by-choice here. And I'm wondering if there's some sort of murky irony to the eHarmony add off to the side of the article.
posted by pax digita at 9:58 AM on May 16, 2007


They came, they saw and acknowledged
Some good, some bad
Opinion: Dangerous

posted by Wolfdog at 10:01 AM on May 16, 2007


just me or did that article end abruptly, it's all about how it's not what it seems, it can be good and oh, by the way, it' like obesity and smoking!!
posted by andywolf at 10:02 AM on May 16, 2007


“Hell is other people.” —Jean–Paul Sartre
posted by disgruntled at 10:08 AM on May 16, 2007 [4 favorites]


I know people who are afraid to be alone. It scares them. That's not a good thing. Solitude brings self-awareness, and awareness of your surroundings.

Plus that energy draining thing.
posted by dreamsign at 10:09 AM on May 16, 2007


Clearly what needs to happen is for all of us smart, witty, intelligent, arty non-TV-watchers to get together and socialise.
posted by chrismear at 10:10 AM on May 16, 2007 [3 favorites]


“Hell is other people.” —Jean–Paul Sartre

Yeah, but all his mates were French.

—Lister, Red Dwarf
posted by quin at 10:11 AM on May 16, 2007 [5 favorites]


alone again naturally.
posted by doctorschlock at 10:27 AM on May 16, 2007


Yeah, but all his mates were French.

—Lister, Red Dwarf


Heh, I thought the same damn thing when I saw that quote. Red Dwarf really deserves to be more popular.

At my job they want EVERYONE to be enthusiastic, bubbly, extroverted and gosh golly darnit, FUN!

It sickens me. None of those things are bad per se, but when it's a forced facade that has nothing to do with reality, then it's simply a lie. But I guess that's what happens when the place is run by a former cheerleader. Blergh.
posted by Talanvor at 10:33 AM on May 16, 2007


I thought it was "Hell is other people at breakfast." Which makes a lot of sense to me.

As further evidence of my erudite media consumption, I present a quote from Batmanuel of The Tick:
Not alone. Lone. Alone is an unfortunate predicament - lone is an aesthetic choice.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:34 AM on May 16, 2007 [2 favorites]


Not Much. (self-link)
posted by ZenMasterThis at 10:43 AM on May 16, 2007


"In our society, where extroverts make up three-quarters of the population, loners (except Henry David Thoreau) are pegged as creepy or pathetic."

Has the writer of the link read The Night Thoreau Spent In Jail? Or seen it performed? Thoreau's just a little creepy and pathetic. That's one reason why I think he was so cool. =)

This link talks about loners like we're a different species. "The loner in its natural habitat prefers to dine on pizzas and chinese food delivered to its carefully chosen domicile. They are rarely seen in the wild and many gravitate to noctural behavior, preferring to sleep through most of the day. Their mating call is above the range of normal hearing..." I half expect to start seeing National Geographic documentaries about us before long.

Elizabeth Svoboda is a meanie beanie. =P
posted by ZachsMind at 10:46 AM on May 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


So, no news here, but I'm glad for another phrase I can use from the article:

I have a "low need for affiliation".
That sounds much better.
posted by MtDewd at 10:48 AM on May 16, 2007


I'll chime in to recommend the hell out of this book.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 10:51 AM on May 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


'...goes dancing about once a month, but afterward feels a strong need to "hide and recoup."'

Funny that, I get that too, but there I was thinking that it was all about having a hungover when you're well past your twenties and you stayed up til the morning blissfully forgetful you're not so young and tireless anymore, and then when you wake up after four hours of smoke-induced apnea it hits you that you're going to pay for that lapse of memory for the next two days at least.

So cool to know next time I can just blame it on my loner side! Hey look I'm not too old and decrepit for this, I'm just an introvert and need to travel my own interior universe for the rest of the weekend, or even that wonderful universe extending from the bed to the telly and the fridge and back again! Why didn't I think of this before? Thanks, Psychology Today! You just made me feel ten years younger.
posted by pleeker at 10:54 AM on May 16, 2007


I don't get this last non-sequitor:

"Loneliness is like hunger and thirst—a signal to help your genes survive. When you're lonely, there's a stress response in your body, and it's not healthy to sustain that for a long time."

But, if one is alone but not lonely, why does this matter? Being lonely is a stressor, but being alone isn't. Isn't this just more [EXTROVERTIST]ism?
posted by bonehead at 11:02 AM on May 16, 2007


Psychology Today != a journal of psychology. It's Popular Mechanics for the self-help crowd.
posted by everichon at 11:05 AM on May 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


That said, I find these conversations interesting, because I fall within the set described.
posted by everichon at 11:06 AM on May 16, 2007


Contrary to popular belief, not all loners have a pathological fear of social contact.

Ugh. I have a friend who is convinced that the reason I try to avoid crowds and don't want to go out as often as he does (once or twice per week) is because I am "afraid of people." Drives me batshit. I am not afraid of people. I have no problem meeting new people or interacting and my social and love life are doing just fine. I just don't like being around people all the time. I need my space. I don't like crowds. Not because I'm afraid of them but because they irritate the shit out of me if I am in one for too long.

But this friend is a classic extrovert and he just cannot begin to comprehend how exhausted and irritated I get if I am denied the alone time I need.
posted by LeeJay at 11:13 AM on May 16, 2007


"The -- the other important joke for me is one that's, uh, usually attributed to Groucho Marx but I think it appears originally in Freud's Wit and its Relation to the Unconscious. And it goes like this ..... I'm paraphrasing ..... Uh ..... 'I would never wanna belong to any club that would have someone like me for a member.' " -- Woody Allen, "Annie Hall"
posted by blucevalo at 11:14 AM on May 16, 2007


Interesting that despite the negative connotations of the concept of the loner among the bubbly extroverts, and the stereotypical loner/serial killer, there is also a venerable tradition in literature - and film - of the moral, principled, strong hero loner. Nothing to do with the New York artist woman, though.
posted by kozad at 11:16 AM on May 16, 2007


I'm sure a lot of people who regularly use the web can agree - its an easy way to have interaction, but on our own terms.
posted by 2shay at 11:16 AM on May 16, 2007 [3 favorites]


Wow, I relate to this stuff. After working out of my house for most of the last two years I've decided that I shouldn't cave into my inner loner that much though. Even though people are crazy-making, I need them.

On the other hand I once went on a month-long trip overseas with five other people, though. Seriously... not a good idea. I ended up pretty much locking myself in rooms to be alone at least once a day.
posted by miss lynnster at 11:17 AM on May 16, 2007


What's really bad is when you marry somebody who doesn't Get It about your introverted orientation. BTDT, not fun or funny.
posted by pax digita at 11:23 AM on May 16, 2007


I'm actually not sure what's more difficult, an introvert marrying an extrovert or two introverts marrying. Both scenarios present unique problems, shall we say.
posted by blucevalo at 11:27 AM on May 16, 2007


I don't like being around people because it's incredibly stressful for me to keep up with any kind of 'small talk' conversation. One on one, I'm fine. In fact, I think I'm a very good conversationalist. It's just that in any kind of group, I start to check out almost immediately.

Even in my own house, if i'm having a party, I start getting an uncontrollable urge to go to my room to get away from everyone.

It's not shyness. I've done gigs in front of over 3,000 people without a second of fear. It's just that I have limited bandwidth for interpersonal interaction and I'm very easily over-whelmed. It's like I don't have access to the same mental shortcuts that other people do when talking to other people. I have to think about everything in a way that other people seem not to.
posted by empath at 11:39 AM on May 16, 2007 [7 favorites]


I get panic attacks when I'm with our without people.
Mostly with people. I've done over 200 shows in front of a live audience, but I still freak-out when I'm with people on the subway.
posted by doctorschlock at 11:53 AM on May 16, 2007


wow. empath wrote almost exactly what i would have written. (well, except I think the biggest crowd i've ever played for was only around 1,000).
posted by saulgoodman at 11:55 AM on May 16, 2007


Feeling drained by social interactions is something I certainly get. After a party I feel mentally and physically drained.
posted by aerotive at 12:03 PM on May 16, 2007


Hell is reading Jean Paul Sartre
Seems another useless article telling us what we should already know. There are introverts and then there are shy people and they differ. And then there are a few who don't avoid social mixing but have no ability to make small talk. And then of course there is my wife.
posted by Postroad at 12:05 PM on May 16, 2007 [3 favorites]


"Loneliness is like hunger and thirst—a signal to help your genes survive..."

But what if ya don't want your genes to survive? You gotta put up with 'stressors' anyway? That kinda bites, dunnit?

Back when I used to do stage stuff, getting in front of thousands of people was still impersonal because there was this illusion of a fourth wall. Even when I did ren faires where you pretend to play a role within the time period, you are interacting with complete strangers as someone other than yourself, so there's this illusion there; a mental safety net that keeps the introvert inside from freaking out.

In actual social situations like mingling at a party there is no fourth wall? No net.
posted by ZachsMind at 12:08 PM on May 16, 2007


Like most of you this article resonated with me strongly; but I couldn't go any further than the Sartre comment, in which that line from Red Dwarf started running through my head.

I am utterly pleased to see at least *two* other people who felt the same way. Perhaps we're not all as alone as we thought :)

Eric, who has the entire RD collection and is not ashamed of it pack-rattish as it may be...
posted by EricGjerde at 12:20 PM on May 16, 2007


I will say that I no longer experience being alone and being social as this either-or demarcation. And I don't know how much of this is aging or having taken Prozac or what, but I no longer experience my depression in terms of loneliness, the way I did well into my 20s.

kozad's point is well taken, though. There are socially acceptable forms of being alone or even being a loner. Thoreau is being cited as an outlier, but I think that generally authors and other creatives are forgiven their time alone. Spread that continuum out and you can include hobbyists and do-it-yourselfers. "I'm just going to spend the weekend in" is anti-social. "I've got to work on my roof" isn't.
posted by dhartung at 12:21 PM on May 16, 2007


Count me in. When it comes to small talk, I always feel like I have a finite number of words to spend. Once they're gone, that's it, no more. It's actually physically painful to try and dredge up any more, like running long past your limit.
posted by gottabefunky at 12:22 PM on May 16, 2007 [2 favorites]


Back when I used to do stage stuff, getting in front of thousands of people was still impersonal because there was this illusion of a fourth wall. Even when I did ren faires where you pretend to play a role within the time period, you are interacting with complete strangers as someone other than yourself, so there's this illusion there; a mental safety net that keeps the introvert inside from freaking out.

In actual social situations like mingling at a party there is no fourth wall? No net.


Ah, the key is to create a fourth wall. In those scenarios, I am impersonating someone far more outgoing and into chitchat than I actually am. It's a role, and in the right circumstances I can play it exceedingly well. Afterwards, I need a nap, but hey, job done.
posted by tigerbelly at 12:24 PM on May 16, 2007


I think it may be one reason I like rock climbing. It's an activity you have to do with someone else, but for all intents and purposes you're really alone more of the time.
posted by gottabefunky at 12:24 PM on May 16, 2007


This is a great post.

I'm exactly this way. I like going to parties and nightclubs, have no problem making new friends, and have a well developed social life. I've given presentations to large audiences without any anxiety. But I absolutely need a certain amount of downtime from other people, whether it's getting on with my work, doing a 5 mile run, surfing the net, or watching a movie. When I've accepted invitations to spend a week, say, camping with half a dozen friends, I was accused of being "antisocial" for wanting to get away from the rest of them for a few hours. I've also never experienced loneliness in my life. Spending a week while traveling without social contact (including the internet) didn't bother me at all.

That's why I don't feel comfortable with the introvert label, because to me it feels like being called a shut-in.
posted by Bletch at 12:26 PM on May 16, 2007


I don't hate people, I just feel better when they're not around - obligatory Barfly quote
posted by any major dude at 12:27 PM on May 16, 2007 [3 favorites]


There are too many people in this thread.
posted by JanetLand at 12:28 PM on May 16, 2007 [7 favorites]


Hey, Uther Bentrazor — I designed the cover for that book!

And I recommend it for other reasons as well. It really helped me understand my brother, for one.
posted by papercake at 1:13 PM on May 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


If it weren't for the fact I can't figure out how to make a decent amount of money from home, and have to work for a living, I'd encourage agoraphobia. I simply can't afford to be a shut-in. Simultaneously, I can't make enough money to be social cuz everything's going up accept my paycheck. Going out and doing stuff costs money I don't have. I can barely afford gas for work and back. Bar hopping has not been in my budget for like five years or more.

Being a shut-in should be more economically feasible, if not for the fact I'd have no economy at all. ...Maybe i should do an "Ask MeFi" thread: How do you become a shut-in and work from home and encourage agoraphobia. That looks like a lifestyle I'd really enjoy, hermit that I am and all.
posted by ZachsMind at 1:18 PM on May 16, 2007


The only way I can 'do' a party is to team up with one of the extroverts I know and make rounds together. They gladly supply all the necessary small talk, I chime in when it's necessary, nobody thinks I'm being a snob. Fortunately I've got a few who will do this with me - they don't understand it, exactly, but they've accepted I'm weird like that.

ZachsMind, if you ever learn the secret to that, please please please tell me.
posted by cmyk at 1:28 PM on May 16, 2007


I'm just going to sit here in the corner and listen to the rest of you blabbermouths talk.
posted by LionIndex at 1:31 PM on May 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


How many other introverts are out there lurking and not commenting?
posted by the biscuit man at 1:36 PM on May 16, 2007


No, seriously, agoraphobia is TOTALLY overrated.
posted by miss lynnster at 1:42 PM on May 16, 2007


I find that drinking a couple coffees/redbulls/whatever before a party (or date) makes me way more socialible and friendly. (Not into coke, but IMO those people are over the top annoying...) Otherwise, I'm apt to just sit there and chill, content with my own thoughts.
posted by LordSludge at 1:54 PM on May 16, 2007


No way, I totally like people less than you guys do.
posted by gsteff at 1:54 PM on May 16, 2007


The only way I can 'do' a party is to team up with one of the extroverts I know and make rounds together.

I tend to try and date girls who are extroverted for just this reason. If I'm by myself at a party, I last for about 30 minutes, and go. If I'm with someone, I feel like some of the pressure to interact is off and I can last much longer.
posted by empath at 1:58 PM on May 16, 2007


Oh, and ZachsMind: Offsite computer programming will let you do just that -- but you may have to do your own marketing, go to meetings, etc.
posted by LordSludge at 1:58 PM on May 16, 2007


We should all have a meet-up and uncomfortably stand in a circle looking at our shoes.
posted by empath at 1:58 PM on May 16, 2007 [3 favorites]


From the article: Previous MRI studies have shown that during social situations, specific areas in the brains of loners experience especially lively blood flow, indicating a sort of overstimulation, which explains why they find parties so wearying.

Okay, how the hell do they conduct an MRI in a social setting? Throw a party in the lab and make the subject interact from within the tube? Or do they just flash images of social settings and gauge the subject's reaction? (Which wouldn't be the same as being with actualy people, presumably.) I can't wrap my loner head around this.

But anyway, a good read on the subject is Party of One: The Loner's Manifesto. There are some points that I disagreed with, but for the most part it was spot-on.
posted by mudpuppie at 2:02 PM on May 16, 2007


I'm an introvert but not because I'm shy and not because groups of people stress me out. I love small and large gatherings. I love making conversation, either banal or deep. I just also happen to love being alone. I'm also busy a lot of the time, and tired when I'm not busy.
posted by effwerd at 2:06 PM on May 16, 2007


I'm reasonably introverted, but I don't feel like I fit the psycology they talk about here. I don't feel a strong need for either time alone or time with other people, aside from cases where I'm missing one for a long period of time. The issue is that, with most people, I never feel like I've really connected. Part of this is a bit of shyness on my part, I'm reluctant to intiate social activity in ways that haven't already happened. Once something becomes part of my social repertoire, as it were, there's no problem, but it can be a slow process before I feel comfortable with something new.

As a result, I have a few close friends who I am completely comfortable with, and a lot of not so close friends who I see and hang out with under certain circumstances, but for the most part, unless I have a clear reason to join them in something, I retreat and am by myself. It's not that I don't want to get to know them better, but I feel awkward about the whole proposition, and it doesn't bother me to avoid the issue.
posted by Arturus at 2:14 PM on May 16, 2007


Every guy who's ever told me "You need to spend less time on art and more time going out" has gotten the boot.

Okay, that's a lie. My answer is nearly always, "Oh. Okay," and then when it doesn't work out, I look back and want to slap myself for all the time lost.

So, basically, I'm a loner to maintain my individuality (and productivity) 'cuz I'm too much of a pushover.
posted by katillathehun at 2:23 PM on May 16, 2007


Seriously, this whole idea of needing time on one's own to recharge, or just to enjoy doing stuff on one's own, being somehow a feature typical of introverts and loners - where does that come from? who doesn't need/enjoy time on their own once in a while? Even the most extroverted and outgoing types do.

Extrovert doesn't mean pathologically dependent on other people to the point you can't enjoy yourself for a minute if you're not in someone else's company. That's a problem in itself, not the normal situation.

I don't know, but I'm with Postroad, the article does read like a bit of a mess, it doesn't really say anything new and it does mix different things (shyness, introversion, social anxiety - they can intersect but more often they don't). And the introvert/extrovert labels are so wide in the first place, they're useful as a way of describing certain tendencies, but not everyone is supposed to be either/or, so categorically. Most people are not completely and exclusively one thing or the other.
posted by pleeker at 2:50 PM on May 16, 2007


In movies the 'loners' are often times revered. Eastwood, Schwarzenegger, etc.
posted by notreally at 2:51 PM on May 16, 2007


Papercake: that's a good cover.

Personally, I counteract my introversion with alcohol. After the first decade you really start to get the hang of it.
posted by Sparx at 3:48 PM on May 16, 2007


Ha! Sparx has it.
posted by everichon at 4:12 PM on May 16, 2007


who doesn't need/enjoy time on their own once in a while? Even the most extroverted and outgoing types do.

The definition that seems best to me is that extroverts are energized by social situations and introverts are exhausted.

The article and many of these comments resonate very strongly with me except that I don't relate very much to people demanding "alone time" or being hostile toward the extroverts. This is puzzling, but I wonder if I'm just so strong-willed and have had such a consistent introverted lifestyle that I just (mostly) don't have these conflicts.

It is true that at holiday family-gatherings I've gotten in trouble with people because I've disappeared into a room for half-a-day. An incident like that deeply offended my in-laws and was, I think, the straw that broke my marriage's back. We were separated within a month. And the point is that I don't go along with extroverted social expectations. That causes conflict and problems on the backside, but on the other hand I'm rarely sitting somewhere in a crowd of people feeling resentful.

Also, I do like having an SO very much and I've never found that I needed time alone away from my SO. But maybe that's because I've not been with anyone that enforced a constant kind of interaction that I find unpleasant. What I like is to just share space with my SO, without constant interaction. Though occasional affectionate touches and stuff.

Finally, while I find social situations exhausting, I can get overstimulated and gregarious (usually to a very small subgroup) because of it. At any rate, I'm certainly no misanthrope—I really and truly love people and find them fascinating. I've rarely met anyone I didn't like. I do love people, I think, but I guess I need them in small, limited doses. And some of the people I've loved best are big-hearted extroverts—I find them life-affirming.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 4:35 PM on May 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


Limited doses is about right.

For an entertaining (if occasionally over the top) take on the subject and its more noteworthy practicioners both virtuous and evil (Timon of Athens, Fisher Ames, Rousseau, Alceste, Nixon, Coriolanus, Dian Fossey, Anatole France, Ayn Rand, Celine, Ty Cobb, Irving Berlin, Ambrose Bierce), I suggest With Charity Towards None: A Fond Look at Misanthropy, written by a hard core case.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:16 PM on May 16, 2007


Why the recommendation for the Power of One book?
(Well, yes, the cover is nice.)
Loners of the world, unite??

I don't want a manifesto, I want to be left alone.
posted by MtDewd at 5:21 PM on May 16, 2007


No mention of Avoidant Personality Disorder? For shame, since a good chunk of the article discusses that very thing - the lonely loner. It would have been nice to see that, as well as a more explicit mention of the sheer stress generated by continually processing the microexpressions and subtle choices of diction by everyone within twenty feet.

As an introvert, I get annoyed when extraverted types won't even believe that I'm shy, simply on the basis of my public speaking abilities. I usually explain that what I've done is a performance akin to a dog walking on its hind legs on Letterman - it isn't who I am, it's unnatural to me, and I can't do it for very long. Afterwards, I ache from doing something that isn't normal for me and must retreat.

Spending work hours having to do those little things so that the extraverts don't think I hate them (actually making vocalizations rather than the hand-flick and a nod of recognition that seems perfectly natural to me - off-putting to them) detracts from my already limited energies.

Maybe it is a little extreme, but even the other introverts I know seem slighted that I will only spend ninety minutes at a party, tops - and that's with a couple of glasses of wine to dull the edges. It's as if introverts have internalized all of the junk expectations from the other 75% of the population and have come to believe them.
posted by adipocere at 6:46 PM on May 16, 2007


In groups of up to five people that I know reasonably well, I can easily play the extrovert. Anything larger than that and I'm putting on my coat and heading home. It's not that I hate people, it's that it takes far more energy for me to be that extroverted.
I have this theory that natural extroverts are experts at faking, that much of their social interaction with others is superficial and shallow (not necessarily in a bad way).
An introvert in the same situation will try to do the same things but in a genuine manner, which is ultimately tiring. We take a non-serious situation and approach it seriously, thus burning ourselves out.
posted by nightchrome at 6:51 PM on May 16, 2007 [2 favorites]


Strangely, the only time that I don't mind being around large groups of people is on public transit. Provided none of the other passengers actually engage me in anyway.

It's just so easy to read when you don't know anyone around you.
posted by purephase at 8:53 PM on May 16, 2007


"An introvert in the same situation will try to do the same things but in a genuine manner, which is ultimately tiring."

Too contrary to the ways of the modern world ... where people smile because it pays more.
posted by Twang at 9:02 PM on May 16, 2007


nightchrome: I have this theory that natural extroverts are experts at faking, that much of their social interaction with others is superficial and shallow (not necessarily in a bad way).
An introvert in the same situation will try to do the same things but in a genuine manner, which is ultimately tiring. We take a non-serious situation and approach it seriously, thus burning ourselves out.


What a brilliant point. It rings well for me, I'd say.

I'm a real mixed case. Amongst introverts, I'm the extrovert. Amongs extroverts, I'm likely to get irritated. Perhaps is just that my introversion is relatively mild, so I'm happy being social with the more introverted. I am definitly more the loner, being one to keep a very small number of friends. At 50, my life style is such that it's difficult to evaluate, because I've been able to adopt an extremely reclusive life style.

Funny enough, I hate living alone, but enjoy most of the time when my partner travels for work. This works largely because I don't go out to work, so have my solitude during the days. Times were more difficult for me when I was not living alone, but was working outside the home. That can be rather hellish for me! Worked best when I had a 6-hour day, so had time after work for alone time.

Note: The word "alone" is interesting to me. Never noticed it until I learned the word in German, where it is clearly "All One". I love the expression of completeness in one's self.
posted by Goofyy at 1:20 AM on May 17, 2007


Please don't become an agoraphobic shut-in.

You people are creepy enough as it is. Cutting off your forced social contact would make me flee the web.

[DEFINITELY CREEPIST]
posted by po at 6:57 AM on May 17, 2007


Funny. All these posts, and not one self-described extrovert. Maybe they're jut not into reading about introverts? Yes, this is the Internet, an introvert-magnet, but still...I have known plenty of extroverts, that is, people who are truly energized by interaction with other people above all else. Many of these people don't really read or make art. They may watch TV now and then.
posted by kozad at 7:10 AM on May 17, 2007


specific areas in the brains of loners experience especially lively blood flow, indicating a sort of overstimulation, which explains why they find parties so wearying.

I wonder if it also explains why I literally become dizzy in intensely social situations.
posted by amro at 7:30 AM on May 17, 2007


nightchrome: I have this theory that natural extroverts are experts at faking, that much of their social interaction with others is superficial and shallow (not necessarily in a bad way).
An introvert in the same situation will try to do the same things but in a genuine manner, which is ultimately tiring. We take a non-serious situation and approach it seriously, thus burning ourselves out.

What a brilliant point. It rings well for me, I'd say.


Yep. That about sums it up for me. Or, as my mother-in-law once put it, "I don't really want to talk, I just want to mingle."
posted by saulgoodman at 7:54 AM on May 17, 2007


My wife (a pure extrovert) thinks the whole introvert/extrovert thing is made up. She thinks my need for time alone is because I hate her or an excuse not to put myself in the middle of social situations. For her TV, movies, books and games are things you do while waiting to go hang out with people. Did I mention that I may have married in haste?
posted by UseyurBrain at 2:02 PM on May 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


I have this theory that natural extroverts are experts at faking, that much of their social interaction with others is superficial and shallow (not necessarily in a bad way).

I don't think that's always the case. I think a lot of it has to do with the particular kind of memory that you have, and what you find 'interesting'. Some people are good at names and faces, and interpersonal relationships. They keep track of who slighted who at which party, who is dating who, who has a kid, when their birthdays are, etc.

For them, I think, small talk comes easily, because all the needed information comes readily to mind and they actually care about it and find it interesting.

I think introverts, in general, are more predisposed to remembering 'trivia' for lack of a better word-- technical skills, history, facts, statistics, politicial discussions, pop culture, music. Engage them in a discussion about their hobbies, and they light up like a christmas tree. Start talking to them about their family, or your family, or anything 'personal', and you can watch their eyes glazing over.

It's not that they don't care about you, it's just that what you find interesting about yourself isn't particularly interesting to them. And it goes both ways-- ask them about their personal lives, and an introvert starts to clam up because they'll generally think they're being boring, and they'd much rather talk about something 'cool'.

So, to sum up-- if you're an introvert talknig to an extrovert, ask them about their family/love life. If you're an extrovert talking to an introvert, ask them about movies or music or tv shows.
posted by empath at 2:24 PM on May 17, 2007 [6 favorites]


It's not that they don't care about you, it's just that what you find interesting about yourself isn't particularly interesting to them. And it goes both ways-- ask them about their personal lives, and an introvert starts to clam up because they'll generally think they're being boring, and they'd much rather talk about something ‘cool’.

I don't agree at all with this characterization. I think it conflates two distinct personality traits into “introversion”. I'm very introverted and I enjoy talking about my personal life and listening to other people talk about their personal lives.1

Introversion does not mean that someone dislikes interacting with other people on an emotional level. I'm not sure what the best way is to characterize this trait; but one example that occurs to me is the Myers-Briggs, which has separate introversion/extroversion and thinking/feeling axes.

As I said earlier, the best way I know to characterize the introversion/extroversion distinction is by whether someone is energized or exhausted by group social interactions. Beyond that, I'm unwilling to generalize.

1. Though I'm not sure that what I do is the same as what you have in mind that you think extroverts do. My mother and my sister are both extroverts, and I'm an introvert. But all three of us thrive on talking about people's feelings and inner-lives. (Actually, this is a trait shared partially by my mother's sisters and late mother, too.) I took for granted that other people's families are this way until I brought people into my family and they were surprised and usually overwhelmed by our intense conversations about this kind of stuff.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 4:29 PM on May 17, 2007


The definition that seems best to me is that extroverts are energized by social situations and introverts are exhausted.

That makes sense, but I'm just saying for a lot of people these two attitudes coexist and they go from one to the other all the time, because in the end, whether you're energized or exhausted by a social situation obviously depends so much on things like the mood you're in at that particular moment, the kind of people you're surrounded by, the place you're meeting and of course what kind of social situation it is.

Anyone can be exhausted if any of those factors aren't right for them at that time. It doesn't mean you fit into some neat category and that's who you are, end of story.

Seems to me few people are constantly and invariably energised/exhausted by any and all kind of social interaction, regardless, no matter what mood, setting, kinds of people etc. People do have different needs at different times.

You can even take the Myers-Briggs test at different times and get a different result.
posted by pleeker at 4:39 AM on May 18, 2007


Yeah, all that's true. But I just don't at all like conflating introversion with not liking to talk about personal, emotional stuff. It's not true for me and I don't think it's true for all or even most introverts. Lots of introverts engage the world in mostly an emotional and personal way and do not prefer abstracted subjects. I honestly think the two traits are independent one commonly finds both kinds of introverts in the real world.

For what it's worth, though, my Myers-Briggs scores have been pretty consistent over the years, even so much so that long-term trends are obvious. I've always scored very introverted. But my thinking/feeling scores have always been right in the middle, straddling both. I'm sometimes INFP, sometimes INTP.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 4:42 AM on May 19, 2007


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