Why Can't Introverts Be Introverts?
September 17, 2019 9:19 AM   Subscribe

The happiest introverts are extroverts "If you are an introvert, force yourself to be an extrovert. You'll be happier." "According to all measures of well-being, participants reported greater well-being after the extroversion week, and decreases in well-being after the introversion week. Interestingly, faux extroverts reported no discomfort or ill effects."

Of course we all should be happy happy bubbling people who always want to be around other people.

Link to study
posted by kathrynm (93 comments total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
 
As a talkative, exuberant, socially engaged person who is fundamentally introverted, I too could (and do) maintain that kind of behavior for a week with sustained deliberate effort, as long as I can hide, take naps, and retreat at regular intervals. If I try to keep it up too long, reality gets really complicated.

I'm married to an extravert and there are times when I just have to go for a walk because I can't bear it any more.
posted by Peach at 9:23 AM on September 17 [58 favorites]


Hey folks, come look! They found a new stick to hit us with!
posted by thatwhichfalls at 9:24 AM on September 17 [167 favorites]


If you are an extrovert, force yourself to leave me the hell alone. I'll also be happier and it'll be a lot less work.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:25 AM on September 17 [122 favorites]


I tried doing this in my early 20s. It was called "heavy drinking."
posted by noxperpetua at 9:25 AM on September 17 [103 favorites]


obligatory mention that one of my brothers has me labeled as an extrovert (which I am compared to him) and the other is convinced that most of my "problems" come from being too introverted (which I am compared to him).

But am I happy?
posted by philip-random at 9:26 AM on September 17 [3 favorites]


As an introvert by all measures, I inexplicably chose careers which required extroversion in practice: onstage performance and teaching high school (itself a kind of performance). I always liked to think my life choices were basically therapeutic.
posted by kozad at 9:27 AM on September 17 [13 favorites]


I really thought that my "energy" was a thing to be hoarded and sheltered for most of my life. It turns out that all the worry about my energy and not giving myself permission to bow out of things I was honestly too tired for took WAY MORE energy. So now I'm basically what they describe.

Anyway, I spend plenty of time by myself too. I get why the title of the article might sound like an attack, but I don't think it has to be. It was important for my own growth that I learned how to guilt/shame-free turn down things mostly. The pressure to be there and perform was my main hinderance. I do a lot of walks and find really interesting things to look at or observe. It's a mix of introverted quiet reflection and extroverted I usually have at least one minor social interaction. This weekend it was having a quiet lunch at a diner when I ended up helping a woman's son learn more about being a copywriter.

edit: Our society has a lot of built-in expectations around introvert and extrovert. Yeah, how built to extroverts our society is can bug the shit out of me too, for the record. I had just built my life totally one way before realizing there were some other options not catering solely to my anxiety. I consider myself extremely introverted naturally but that's more a state of quiet being vs. engaging with someone. I can be an introvert in a crowded library if I'm being ignored.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 9:28 AM on September 17 [13 favorites]


Finally, the participants were told to go forth, and to be as talkative, assertive, and spontaneous as they could stand. Later, the same group was told to be deliberate, quiet, and reserved, or vice versa.

It's all well and good to be assertive and spontaneous and so on but I don't think that's what it means to be an "extravert". The paper doesn't define these terms either as far as I read. I know that the original meaning as defined by Jung (if I'm remembering correctly) is someone who gets energy from other people as opposed to having their energy drained by other people - your behavior has nothing to do with it. If you're writing a scientific paper you can't just take a word that means something and use it to mean something else without defining it.
posted by bleep at 9:28 AM on September 17 [42 favorites]


Also, Lyubomirsky said, effects of "faking" extroversion could surface after a longer study period.

Definitely this. I can fake extroversion fairly well and for a limited time, but commensurate with that is an increase in my need to be left the fuck alone. That need cannot be denied or repressed for any length of time, and the longer it is, the snippier I get about it.
posted by Capt. Renault at 9:31 AM on September 17 [42 favorites]


I'm going to my first work conference in years at the end of the month. It's going to be exhausting.

Plus I often hear the best way to make connections at conferences is by schmoozing at drinks and parties after. Yay.

I'm in for the drinking part, though.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:33 AM on September 17 [2 favorites]


Anyway I don't think putting people into buckets of any kind is very scientific. We're all a big boiling soup. Sometimes I get energy from others and sometimes I feel incredibly drained, it depends on the situation, the other people and if I like them, whatever my hormones are doing that day and how tired I am and how frustrated by whatever food is available.
posted by bleep at 9:34 AM on September 17 [28 favorites]


As I've had cause to remark here before, I really dislike talk of "introverts" and "extraverts": these are not personality types. Rather, introversion and extraversion are personality traits. The reporting in this piece isn't great, but I'm not convinced that the study design is ideal, either. I don't know how you can possibly get good data over such a short period, given that it's fundamentally impossible to blind this kind of study.
posted by howfar at 9:43 AM on September 17 [19 favorites]


This was the second time in three weeks that he had missed an evening at the Community Centre: a rash act, since you could be certain that the number of your attendances at the Centre was carefully checked. In principle a Party member had no spare time, and was never alone except in bed. It was assumed that when he was not working, eating, or sleeping he would be taking part in some kind of communal recreation: to do anything that suggested a taste for solitude, even to go for a walk by yourself, was always slightly dangerous. There was a word for it in Newspeak: ownlife, it was called, meaning individualism and eccentricity.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 9:43 AM on September 17 [41 favorites]


Except the part where people think you're extroverted and they take your true introversion as an insult when you're suddenly not always on or hanging out with them all the time.
posted by Young Kullervo at 9:46 AM on September 17 [11 favorites]


Oh my fucking god being an introvert is not the same thing as shyness or social anxiety or being "reserved" or any other of a number of personality traits and/or anxiety disorders!!!!

Introversion simply means that you need time alone to recharge. That's it. That's all it fucking means.

I'm an introvert. I like being social! I am fun! I talk to people! I laugh! And at a certain point, my brain shuts down and I have to go home.

Fucking Christ! These people! Will they ever leave us alone!
posted by Automocar at 9:48 AM on September 17 [145 favorites]


After a couple of drinks I love everyone and want to be everyone's best friend. Then when I sober up I'm not only hungover but I have a bunch of people to apologize to and hide from. It's no good.
posted by Pastor of Muppets at 9:48 AM on September 17 [17 favorites]


I'm an extrovert. I am energized by people, for the most part, and I like to problem-solve with other people. I am often happy when alone, and need that time. If I know someone is an introvert, I will be careful to respect their needs. One of my best friends is an introvert, so I'm the one who will approach people to get information. Hanging out with an extrovert can be handy.

Extroverts can be shy and have social anxiety. I see a lot of junk-psych articles that pit extroverts and introverts against one another and strongly value one trait; it's stupid, inaccurate, unhelpful. Assertion and impulsivity are not linked to extro- or intro-version. As part of the study, subjects were directed to talk to people on trains. Jerk move. Some activities of extroversion can be successful; networking for job success, being outgoing is useful in sales. I'd like to see extroverts taught to use and value activities of introversion, like the ability to be alone.
posted by theora55 at 9:50 AM on September 17 [18 favorites]


As a socially awkward extrovert in a highly introverted field (writing), I just want to underscore the difference between being slightly shy and anxious in social situations (which I am) and actually being introverted. I thought I was an introvert for years. Turns out, I love being around people and in the middle of things (though this may be an artificially inflated desire, given how much time I spent working in a house alone) but I'm just self-conscious as all hell.
posted by thivaia at 9:51 AM on September 17 [14 favorites]


On preview, what theora55 said.
posted by thivaia at 9:52 AM on September 17 [1 favorite]


YOU ARE NOT LIKE US SO YOU ARE BROKEN

Yeah, thanks, that's a message that isn't out in the world enough. Fucking assholes.
posted by tobascodagama at 9:53 AM on September 17 [32 favorites]


Was genuinely expecting a Slate URL
posted by thelonius at 9:54 AM on September 17 [4 favorites]


Hemulens. Bah!
posted by bonehead at 10:02 AM on September 17 [4 favorites]


I’ll tell you when I’m happy and acting extroverted isn't it. Nor is the drained feeling afterwards.
posted by tommasz at 10:04 AM on September 17 [1 favorite]


I have been feeling for a while introversion is somewhat self-fulfilling. Once you convince yourself you have a social battery, then it becomes routine to self-assess it and incrementally decrease it until your social battery becomes "stay home alone forever" or otherwise incorporate a temporary flag on your person to a permanent identify post. Coupled with the kind of defensiveness that often gets paired with introversion, as if "extroverts" were out there to hassle and inconvenience them with "draining" social interaction. Overall it just seems like the labels do more harm than good, especially once they start leaking into identity,
posted by GoblinHoney at 10:10 AM on September 17 [22 favorites]


In library school, one of my teachers conducted a brief exercise, asking the class to vote on if certain students were introverts or extroverts. Invariably, the most introverted students (myself, for instance) were identified as extroverts, because, as he pointed out, the perception was more a measure of how comfortable we were participating in class. He went on to say that the real, practical difference between introverts and extroverts was that extroverts are capable of making snap decisions, which may be bad or brilliant, but they get the job done in the moment; while introverts have to go home and think on something before coming up with a workable-to-brilliant solution.

And as class went on it proved very true. It was the extroverts among us who got all the projects started, while the introverts developed them and often mutated them so much that little remained of the initial extrovert idea (without which, of course, absolutely nothing would have gotten done).
posted by Devoidoid at 10:14 AM on September 17 [6 favorites]


As an introvert by all measures, I inexplicably chose careers which required extroversion in practice: onstage performance and teaching high school (itself a kind of performance). I always liked to think my life choices were basically therapeutic.

I think this is more common than people think; for example I surprised myself by getting over my fear of public speaking pretty quickly when I had to. But the reason is because when I'm on stage, I'm in control; I have rehearsed and I have planned the "conversation" (with some wiggle room) such that there should not be a lot of awkward silence. There is also a definite end point.

You can't do that for regular conversations so they wear me out. Also a lot of people are into stuff I find boring (sports, etc.) and so I tend to drift off mentally and have to work hard to stay focused. When I'm running a class or lecture, that's not an issue.
posted by emjaybee at 10:15 AM on September 17 [15 favorites]


The test they set up has all sorts of problems, not the least of which is that the participants were people who chose to do something like this, which already suggests a sort of extravert oriented desire or interest because it involves added social commitment/interaction that some would opt to avoid.

On the plus side, the most compelling finding they point to, by their own measure, is that well-being decreases substantially when people try and act more introverted than usual, which does seem to make sense to me, both because introversion is seen as less socially desirable and because many extroverts seem to have a much more difficult time with introversion than many introverts do with extroversion as the latter is a social or work norm that is difficult to avoid in all instances.

Their measures for what constitutes introversion and extroversion, as mentioned above, seem shallow at best and because social norms favor extroversion the set up seems flawed for being more likely to find limited increase in social interactions feeling positive for some who potentially didn't or hadn't thought themselves able to initiate conversation, thus giving a feeling of accomplishment which certainly can add to one's feeling of self worth.

The age cohort they used though suggests the possibility that one's sense of self might be more in flux than with an older cohort who had a more set understanding of self. Social pressure towards extroversion is in many ways stronger in young adults as well for it being a time when the desire to manage peer group impressions or fit in favorably might be at its peak, making introversion feel like it has more of a cost to it than may be the case later in life.

I don't have much problem in accepting that many introverts might feel a improved sense of well-being if they found they could act in ways they hadn't felt comfortable trying before or that, in a more general sense, social interaction can boost feelings of self esteem when they go well and there isn't much pressure to really do anything about it that isn't under your control. It's often social pressure to perform that is the bigger problem.
posted by gusottertrout at 10:15 AM on September 17 [10 favorites]


Psychologists favor "extrovert" to the more commonly used "extrovert,"

What?
posted by queensissy at 10:27 AM on September 17 [12 favorites]


After a week of pretending to be an extrovert (going to a conference), I generally need a week off to decompress/recharge. Conferences are often fun and stimulating, but boy can they be a drain on the soul. If I'm not in a good headspace, it can be a miserable slog.

OTOH, I've spent weeks alone on vacation, solitary long distance bike trips, happy as a free bird.
posted by bonehead at 10:32 AM on September 17 [8 favorites]


I am an introvert who:

-frequently reads poetry (mine) to audiences (often people I don't know)
-teaches college classes
-runs a cash register
-has performed a one-man show where the entire point of the show was that you didn't get the script beforehand--you walked out on stage and got handed a binder. (each actor can only perform the play once.) (in my case, i did this with my mother-in-law in the audience.)

The thing is, I'm able to do these things because I'm an introvert. Interacting with people requires me to construct and perform a persona that enjoys doing these things. And that extra layer of remove is, I think, what makes me good at them. I'm good at being vulnerable on stage/in writing/in front of a classroom because I hold the cards. I have chosen the time and place and manner and degree of my vulnerability. What I'm saying, I guess, is that I get a kick out of extroversion, sure, but I relate to it in the way that a Roman Stoic relates to death.
posted by what does it eat, light? at 10:43 AM on September 17 [22 favorites]


This study is confusing introversion with shyness. Shy people are "deliberate, quiet, and reserved". Introverts need time on our own to recharge our batteries.
posted by tallmiddleagedgeek at 10:47 AM on September 17 [12 favorites]


as someone who requires a disproportionate amount of time away from all of (loud shouty pushy shovey) humanity to cope with brief interludes with humanity, the energy required to force myself to be extroverted is accomplished only by an intense meth addiction and i'm not fucking going back there my fronds
posted by poffin boffin at 11:08 AM on September 17 [25 favorites]


queeensissy, I'm glad someone else saw that, too. I had to read it several times to convince myself it was a proof reading error. Also, I was tempted to comment "And you can totally see why!"
posted by hwestiii at 11:36 AM on September 17 [6 favorites]


Christ, this again? Can't we just let people be who they are without this introvert/extrovert labeling?

Some days, I'm excited and happy to be around people, other days I just want to be quiet and read in the bathtub. BOTH ARE FINE. Jesus.
posted by MissySedai at 11:38 AM on September 17 [13 favorites]


This study is stupid. As many people in this thread have pointed out, introversion means one needs alone time to be re-energized, versus getting energy from contact with other people. I enjoy being social, but it is work. Doing more of it does not make it less work! Shyness, on the other hand, can be improved by being forced into situations- mine improved after working as a barista years ago. That is not introversion though, and people need to stop conflating the two.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:56 AM on September 17 [5 favorites]


in the old days when you could just arrange Introvert vs Extrovert fights in pits for money we didn't have to bother with silly articles or studies
posted by prize bull octorok at 11:58 AM on September 17 [21 favorites]


The energy I spent when younger on 'being social' aargh!. I'm much happier now knowing that I don't group, play, congregate, lead or follow. I don't know how many times I've had to lie to get jobs - everyone here wants 'team players' but when you're on the inside it's always like rats in a barrel - extroverts don't seem to play well together. I work alone now, a great improvement.

Lyubomirsky seems to be some kind of happiness guru. All the more reason for deep suspicion of this study IMO. And having a mean age of 19 seems mean-ingless.
posted by unearthed at 11:59 AM on September 17 [4 favorites]


I'm very good at cosplaying as an extrovert at conventions and tour events and other social occasions.

Then I go home and don't see anyone but my wife and cats for three weeks because I'm actually an introvert.
posted by jscalzi at 12:17 PM on September 17 [21 favorites]


Right. This again. Tried it, doesn't work. What happens is that instead of feeling exhausted after a larger-than-normal period of socializing, it makes me feel exhausted and guilty for feeling exhausted. "Experts and common knowledge and everyone say this should have made me feel better. It didn't even go poorly. Why do I feel terrible? I must be broken."

Thanks, psychologists, for telling us how our minds work. You obviously know better than the people who have to live in them.
posted by skymt at 12:21 PM on September 17 [6 favorites]


in the old days when you could just arrange Introvert vs Extrovert fights in pits for money we didn't have to bother with silly articles or studies

Yeah but Vince is an extrovert so the introverts always got cast as the heel.
posted by Caduceus at 12:23 PM on September 17 [5 favorites]


On reflection, the most exasperating thing about this article is that someone who claims to be studying introversion apparently believes that there might be a person of substantially introverted character somewhere on Earth who simply hasn't thought of pretending to be more extroverted than they naturally are.
posted by skymt at 1:00 PM on September 17 [19 favorites]


Christ, this again? Can't we just let people be who they are without this introvert/extrovert labeling?
Some days, I'm excited and happy to be around people, other days I just want to be quiet and read in the bathtub. BOTH ARE FINE. Jesus.


Bivert? Nonbivert? Vertfluid? On the vert spectrum?
posted by Hal Mumkin at 1:01 PM on September 17 [6 favorites]


Of course, in the real introvert vs. extrovert pit fights we introverts always win.

Extroverts like being in the spotlight of the pit. We introverts know that we get to go home once it's over, so we end it.
posted by jclarkin at 1:05 PM on September 17 [13 favorites]


I like being fake-extroverted, as long as it is on my terms; for instance, I'll throw a party and mingle and such, but about two hours in I'll go hide in my bedroom for half an hour reading to recharge, then I'll come out for another two hours. Or I'll lead a series of big meetings all morning, then go sit alone outside writing comments on MetaFilter for a while before I go back into the fray. What I'm doing right now, actually.
posted by davejay at 1:12 PM on September 17 [5 favorites]


Being a performer is not at all indicative of being an extrovert... performing is fine. I'm on stage, and the audience is out there, and that's all quite manageable.

It's the cast party and post-show schmoozing and the going out after rehearsals and all that other social stuff that's exhausting.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 1:14 PM on September 17 [10 favorites]


So I skipped to the end of the study to see the conclusion, and, yeah a bit unsettling (emphasis below is mine):
Context of the Research
This project was motivated by a desire to develop effective well-being interventions. We observed that many existing well-being interventions are based on known correlates of well-being(e.g., happier people are more grateful). However, no interventions to our knowledge were based on one of the strongest predictors of well-being—namely, extraversion.
Well-being interventions, hmm, Newspeak indeed.
posted by jeremias at 1:16 PM on September 17 [8 favorites]


On reflection, the most exasperating thing about this article is that someone who claims to be studying introversion apparently believes that there might be a person of substantially introverted character somewhere on Earth who simply hasn't thought of pretending to be more extroverted than they naturally are.

Dealing with such assumptions feeds my introversion like nothing else, and I consider the introvert/extrovert dichotomy to be too reductionist to be meaningful.
posted by metagnathous at 1:21 PM on September 17 [1 favorite]


Bivert? Nonbivert? Vertfluid? On the vert spectrum?

Ambivert.
posted by Faint of Butt at 1:21 PM on September 17 [7 favorites]


Next they should do a study where they tell people, "For the next 7 days, make time for quiet reflection. Give yourself time away from other people's needs and expectations. Spend time on things that personally interest you or make you happy even if others you know don't share those interests. Encourage yourself to feel relaxed and confident about doing things alone. Don't choose not to do a thing just because you can't find someone else to do it with. Think deeply and at length. Be aware of your own needs and feelings and prioritize your own happiness."

And then the next week the instructions would be, "Avoid spending time alone. Focus on activities you can do with others even if they aren't the things you most want to do. Be aware of others' needs and expectations at all times and prioritize good group dynamics over your individual desires. Spend more time on interaction than reflection. Pay more attention to the people around you than to your own ideas or feelings."

Then maybe someone will write an article about the results titled "Research suggests the happiest extroverts may be introverts."
posted by Redstart at 1:25 PM on September 17 [31 favorites]


I'm very good at cosplaying as an extrovert at conventions and tour events and other social occasions.

Then I go home and don't see anyone but my wife and cats for three weeks because


this sounds suspiciously like some writers I know.
posted by philip-random at 1:39 PM on September 17 [1 favorite]


Once you convince yourself you have a social battery, then it becomes routine to self-assess it and incrementally decrease it until your social battery

Maybe this varies by individual, because this is not me at all. My natural tendency is to just ignore illness/discomfort/fatigue and work or have fun through it until I (sometimes literally) collapse. Occasionally paying attention to how I feel mentally and physically keeps that from happening. Pushing through and hanging out when I'm 'drained' just leaves me feeling cranky and hating everyone for their perfectly reasonable behavior, like existing and expressing their thoughts.

I'm not even that strongly introverted: I like being around friends and family and enjoy it for a time. Coincidentally, a week is about how long I can both sustain and enjoy being 'on' from sun-up to sun-down, at least among people that I know and love (and like to be around). After that I need a day alone at home.

I'll go hide in my bedroom for half an hour

My uncle does this at all family gatherings. I have friends who tell me I can "go take a nap in the spare bedroom" when we've been hanging out at their place and need some downtime. It's amazing. They are the best people.
posted by ghost phoneme at 1:47 PM on September 17 [10 favorites]


I can flip on the engaged, humorous, gregarious mode when necessary. The battery lasts for a few hours but the recharge takes forever...
posted by jim in austin at 1:50 PM on September 17 [2 favorites]


Have they tried forcing extroverts to be introverts?
posted by nubs at 1:59 PM on September 17 [6 favorites]


Have they tried forcing extroverts to be introverts?

Have you ever seen a self-help article entitled "I'm an extrovert. Is there any hope I can learn to STFU and listen?"
posted by JackFlash at 2:11 PM on September 17 [42 favorites]


I'm sort of introverted. I kind of agree with the article, on a personal level. If I don't force myself sometimes, I spiral ever more inwardly, which can lead to some destructive lows. So I force myself from time to time. To—usually—great effects.

The experience of "putting myself out there" is often great. It's the thinking and worrying about it in the lead-up to doing it that's not so good.
posted by SoberHighland at 2:15 PM on September 17 [5 favorites]


…solitary long distance bike trips, happy as a free bird.

I have nothing to add to this long running conflating of a personality trait with disability, but I would add that my 65+ days spent last year biking alone across the U.S. was perhaps the most contented I've ever been in my life.  It was divine.
posted by los pantalones del muerte at 2:15 PM on September 17 [8 favorites]


obligatory mention that one of my brothers has me labeled as an extrovert (which I am compared to him) and the other is convinced that most of my "problems" come from being too introverted (which I am compared to him).

I hope that at least means your morning porridge is just the right temperature!
posted by I'm always feeling, Blue at 2:34 PM on September 17 [7 favorites]


I find social interactions are easier to handle with generous helpings of dry wit and biting sarcasm

I realized I was mainly an introvert because I was taking social interaction so sincerely, instead of as an opportunity to make other people as uncomfortable as they make me
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 3:15 PM on September 17 [5 favorites]


this sounds suspiciously like some writers I know.

I don't think that's a coincidence; jscalzi is an author (who has a deadline, you can't make a big show off getting off social media and then come hang out on Metafilter).
posted by Merus at 3:34 PM on September 17 [4 favorites]


I do think there’s a class of self-described “introverts” who cannot get through the day without trying to get attention for “not wanting attention.” We’ve all seen the social media memes — cartoons about how extroverts need to properly care for introverts by reading their minds, infographics about how introverts certainly can’t be expected to intuit the feelings of others, quiz results wherein “only 1% of people are introverted enough to score over 1% on this TRUE INTROVERT QUIZ!”

Obviously, if you’re clamoring for other people to focus on your “introversion” this much, you just might get more of your “energy” from other people than you think.

All this is to say that I’m wondering if similar such, um, unilateral-verts might have self-selected for such an experiment.
posted by armeowda at 3:50 PM on September 17 [4 favorites]


Bivert? Nonbivert? Vertfluid? On the vert spectrum?

Ambivert.


Cat. I am definitely a cat. When I want to hang out, I will be very forthright about it and express my pleasure at the interactions. When I don't, I'll go hide and bite and scratch anyone who tries to drag me out.

Yep. Cat.

I do think there’s a class of self-described “introverts” who cannot get through the day without trying to get attention for “not wanting attention.”

Those people drive me mad. I don't need the ever-so-precious "instructions for the care and feeding of introverts". We get it, you're special and fragile and require perfect handling and constant validation of your introvertness. STFU and go to the library or something.
posted by MissySedai at 4:06 PM on September 17 [12 favorites]


I quit my job two weeks ago and started a new one yesterday and it's meant a ton of team lunches and good-byes to old coworkers and meeting new coworkers and I just come home fucking exhausted every day. I went for a half-hour walk at lunch time today and it felt so great to just be in my own head for a few minutes.
posted by octothorpe at 4:07 PM on September 17 [9 favorites]


Perhaps “happiness” is the wrong metric, and one biased towards extroverts because, in the common usage of the word, it correlates with extroversion. If they looked for something more like the Greek word eudaimonia; a sort of deep, not particularly bouncy contentment with one's place in the universe, would the results have been the same?

On a tangent, is “the pursuit of happiness” and the assumptions that phrase is freighted with, the root of everything that's wrong with modern society?
posted by acb at 4:12 PM on September 17 [1 favorite]


The least happy of all are the introverts who are also pedants about spelling and know the proper spelling of "extravert".
posted by biogeo at 4:21 PM on September 17 [6 favorites]


that the real, practical difference between introverts and extroverts was that extroverts are capable of making snap decisions, which may be bad or brilliant, but they get the job done in the moment; while introverts have to go home and think on something before coming up with a workable-to-brilliant solution.

I mean, personal anecdata, but I don't see how this is in any way connected to any kind of personal intrinsic character elements. My entire career is basically making snap decisions and then dealing with the results ("Welp, put the speakers here because that's the only place they fit." "We lost half our power? Take this 100' extension cord and run it down the hallway and into the bathroom, I saw an outlet there." "The bass guitar needs more 300 Hz, whoops maybe 250.") If I don't think of a solution to get whatever job done in like 5 minutes then I've run out of time to do anything about it, and I'm fucked.

And I'm introverted enough that even typing this comment makes me want to go someplace quiet and alone.
posted by soundguy99 at 4:31 PM on September 17 [7 favorites]


I'm definitely an introvert with an extro(a)vert job. I deal with kids and parents every damn day. I'm only working part time right now because I couldn't deal with the physical pain full time caused. But there was a ton of mental pain as well. Don't get me wrong, I love my job. But when I come home, I just want to take out my tablet and color or work on my blog or curl up with a good book in the peace and quiet. I don't do much social media, mainly just promoting my website. I have two very introverted cats and we get along very well.

The article bugged me, which is why I put it on the blue.
posted by kathrynm at 4:55 PM on September 17 [4 favorites]


I don’t know, but I suspect my introversion has a lot to do with my empathy settings dialed too high.

When I’m in a group, it feels like I’m constantly gauging and reflecting the emotions, intentions, and internal states of everyone in the group, and echoing each little ripple in my own internal dialogue. This becomes exhausting, and getting away from people is the only way I can power down that part of my mind.

When I’m alone, I get to decompress, and process what I actually feel, as opposed to a hyperactive empathy dragging me through everyone else’s psychic wake.
posted by darkstar at 4:56 PM on September 17 [22 favorites]


On the right timeline this FPP reads "The least annoying extroverts are introverts. 'If you are an extrovert, force yourself to be an introvert. You'll be less annoying.'"
posted by Lyme Drop at 6:00 PM on September 17 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure why, but I've always had positive associations with introversion and negative ones with extroversion. It feels like people see introverts as thoughtful and intellectual, while extroverts are seen as annoying and vapid. I'm extroverted, and do wish I could be more introverted. In my life, I can get alone time pretty often when I want to, but I can't really force myself on other people to get social interaction.
posted by chernoffhoeffding at 6:46 PM on September 17 [1 favorite]


A culture that values extroversion will recognize folks who exhibit that behavior. Since we're social creatures that recognition will be rewarding. I suppose that ultimately every social environment has its own rewards & punishments.

I think one of the interesting things about the immigrant experience is the way in which you get to approach & apply knowledge about social value & cost. Some folks seem to consider that to be an opportunistic stance, & I think that's also an interesting view. But it's a view that seems to always lag behind the moment; perhaps kind of like introverts do.
posted by dmh at 7:16 PM on September 17


Introvert/Extrovert dichotomy is so boring. I don't even care which one you think I am. Why would I label myself like that anyhow? Now I have to conform with that label. Just be yourself. Maybe find a more nuanced way to understand yourself?
posted by some loser at 7:22 PM on September 17 [2 favorites]


Hello from the most outgoing of all introverts! INFJ here. Meyers- Briggs anyone? So much pigeonholing going on.
posted by ascrabblecat at 7:38 PM on September 17 [2 favorites]


I don't care about the definitions or the dichotomy. What I care about, what makes me unhappy, is this idea that "enjoying quiet time by myself" and "having below-average social needs" is some kind of disease to be cured. I'm happy this way.
posted by gloriouslyincandescent at 7:38 PM on September 17 [14 favorites]


I'm most definitely an introvert: even on the days my kids are around, I demand some solitude and, most importantly, some lack of interruption which both my boys have a major problem with honoring.

I used to be, however, a very shy, reserved introvert. Then I read Gavin De Becker's book about fear and in the 1st or 2nd chapter, he said that charm is a skill you can learn. He said being charming isn't something innate in personality, it's something learned. And I was, like, huh, my ex-husband is really charming, maybe I should learn from him, emulate him.

After 11 years as an Army officer's spouse and 13 years of teaching middle school (where relationships are everything), I can tell you the first thing that anyone who meets me says: she's so charming, friendly and lovely!

And it's not easy. I love my life, my job, I'm really happy.

But sometimes, after parent-teacher conference nights, I have to stay home and just sleep.
posted by blessedlyndie at 7:55 PM on September 17 [10 favorites]


biogeo:The least happy of all are the introverts who are also pedants about spelling and know the proper spelling of "extravert".

some loser: Introvert/Extrovert dichotomy is so boring. I don't even care which one you think I am. Why would I label myself like that anyhow? Now I have to conform with that label. Just be yourself. Maybe find a more nuanced way to understand yourself?

So here’s what I never understood about The Muppet Show. Why didn’t anyone ever ask fucking Statler and Waldorf to go somewhere else and commiserate quietly about how arch and above it all they are while everyone else discusses how the real social narratives around these categories impact people who trend more towards the reserved side of the spectrum?
posted by Caduceus at 8:00 PM on September 17 [7 favorites]


If needing time alone to recharge makes you an introvert, then I've never met an extrovert in my life. Are there really people who never need any alone time?
posted by airmail at 8:29 PM on September 17 [6 favorites]


Imma just repost something here again that I posted in 2011. Forgive me, but I think it might be closer to the truth than this silly study.
Naw, I figured it all out. (Heh, yeah, right.)

If one assumes the Sims needs bar as the measure of social/physical requirements, this is what I just figured out about myself. For explaining purposes, I usually rate dead center on introvert/extrovert tests, and I'm usually pretty good at talking to just about anybody.

The secret is that there are two different bars. One's labeled "Alone Time" and the other one is "People Time."

The People Time bar can go up or down when you're with other people. Some people are draining for various reasons and with various speeds. I love my relatives, but I really have to watch what I say around them. I also get little back from them in the way of new ideas. I'm happy to hang out with them and I love them, but they slowly drain the bar. Then there are people who are genuinely jerks, and just a little bit of interaction with them drains the bar right quickly. Then there are friends, who are insightful and fun. You can admit things to them, bounce ideas off of them, hear funny stories from their lives. They recharge the bar. Too many negative interactions leaves me feeling crappy about the world, but then an evening full of buddies leaves me walking in the clouds.

The Alone Time bar has little to do with other people, except in that if someone else is around, the bar drains slowly. I was on a work trip with some truly fond friends a few weeks ago, and despite the fact that they were interesting people who always recharge my People Time bar, my Alone Time bar was at the bottom of the scale. No matter how awesome and funny and smart they were (and they were), nothing else could get in, 'cause my Alone Time bar was bottoming out. And I think some people's Alone Time bars drain faster than others, which makes them an official Introvert.

But people don't have to be bad people to drain the People Time bar. They can be nothing at all like you, they can be just new people that it takes effort to draw out, they can be good friends who just happen to be having a bad time of things. They'll drain your bar. But given enough positive interactions otherwise, you can make up for it.

I liked it, though, as soon as I started thinking of it as two completely separate qualities that both just happened to involve other people in some way. My People Time bar can be full to exploding, but if I haven't had a bunch of quiet hours reading or watching old Doctor Who episodes, I'm still not going to feel totally okay.
posted by lauranesson at 8:37 PM on September 17 [15 favorites]


Why can't an introvert be more like an extrovert?
Extroverts are so honest, so thoroughly square;
Eternally noble, historic'ly fair;
Who, when you win, will always give your back a pat.
Well, why can't an introvert be like that?

Why can't an introvert be more like an extrovert?
Extroverts are so decent, such regular chaps.
Ready to help you through any mishaps.
Ready to buck you up whenever you are glum.
Why can't an introvert be a chum?
posted by a humble nudibranch at 10:05 PM on September 17 [7 favorites]


I like lauranesson's people time and alone time bar. Because it can be customized to how quickly you are worn out and how quickly you can be recharged. I love being around people and friends, but after a certain point I just need to not be. Being focused outwards for a sustained period of time feels like I'm just dissolving. But I can also get power-ups, like realizing a shared opinion, reminiscing about a past escapade.

I also like darkstar's notion of introverts being ultra-empaths, or at the very least, that there is a difference between super-attentive socializing and regular socializing. It was a revelation that people could go out to a friend's house, out to a dinner or whatever, even when they are low energy or feeling a little down. They just don't say as much. Only spoke when spoken to. They are there, but not in a high-energy state of attentiveness/responsiveness. Whereas when I'm out and about I feel obligated to expend a lot of effort. Engage people actively and pay attention to other people's mood or enjoyment. When I'm tired or grumpy, the thought of going out feels like an absurd idea. Friends and acquaintances often think I'm a dyed-in-the-wool extrovert, but that's because they only see me when I'm able to make a sustained effort.
posted by spamandkimchi at 1:51 AM on September 18 [2 favorites]


"Be" doesn't stop. So, no, not possible in a healthy life.
posted by filtergik at 3:16 AM on September 18


Oh look, play therapy for grown-ups!

I'm trying to make myself feel better about this article by remembering that (introvert != neurodiverse) && (writing an article and getting it published online != journalism)
posted by Cardinal Fang at 3:47 AM on September 18 [4 favorites]


I wonder if to some extent the "Mindfulness" movement is about convincing extroverts or forced-extroverts to act more like introverts for a short time.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 4:32 AM on September 18 [8 favorites]


I've spent weeks alone on vacation, solitary long distance bike trips, happy as a free bird.

My most recent ex (not yet then an ex) invited herself to my annual week-long solo camping bookfest-in-a-hammock this year. She sent a text saying "I KNOW you need your time alone, BUT..."

No. There's no 'but'. Cancel everything starting with 'but'.

So yeah. She's now my most recent ex.
posted by Capt. Renault at 7:52 AM on September 18 [3 favorites]


If needing time alone to recharge makes you an introvert, then I've never met an extrovert in my life. Are there really people who never need any alone time?

yeah, if needing regular time alone classifies one as an introvert, then I'm resolutely on the team. Or (as I perhaps too dryly observed in response to jscalsi's comment above), maybe I'm a writer (artist?) -- whatever you call someone who really MUST spend time alone most days with one's creative work/play in order to feel
remotely sane at the end of those days.

Are all writers introverts then? Or are the extroverts the ones who get their best work done in crowded cafes and the like?
posted by philip-random at 8:16 AM on September 18 [1 favorite]


So I'm pretty skeptical of stuff like Myers-Briggs, but at one point I had to get certified to administer the test for work and did a bunch of training, which included their ideas of introvert/extravert, derived ultimately from Jung. We had a fantastic instructor who had strong academic credentials and a long history as a therapist of various types.

She emphasized throughout the training sessions that as certified admins, we should never use language like "the test says you are an introvert", but instead "you have a strong introvert preference, so you may need to work harder to exercise your extravert side." One is a label that implies some sort of destiny and encourages people to think they have to stay in the introvert zone or that it's an excuse for avoiding certain interactions; the other is information that people can use to know themselves and eventually stretch outside their comfort zone. As people have implied above, to function in society you are going to have to talk to people, go to social events now and then, help people with technical or other problems, whatever. And by midlife a lot of people (like me) have gone from being very shy and almost 100% inwardly-focused to coming across to others as possibly even extraverted in some situations. The way you do that is by exercising those mental muscles, which can be really really hard. I know that shy <> introverted, but they often correlate, so an example might be: You are not the kind of person who would ever say something to a person in an elevator or line, because you fear rejection, are thinking about math, or don't care about common social topics (sports, weather, etc.). But you start to put your phone away in these situations and observe what others are doing. One day you see a guy wearing a t-shirt of a band or video game you like, and you say "Cool shirt" or "I love that band". That's it. Rinse, repeat.

Also I 100% agree that being completely inside your own head and focused on the internal world can be really unhealthy, and that as I've tried to move towards the center, I've gotten much happier. I still need to recharge and have a lot of me-time, but I can handle going through a non-self-checkout and responding to or even initiating a short chat with the checkout person. YMMV, but I think most I/E alignment and presentation is environmentally derived at a young age and that anyone can learn different behaviors and internal attitude shifts over time.
posted by freecellwizard at 9:19 AM on September 18 [6 favorites]


My solution to this is to not want happiness.
posted by srboisvert at 11:08 AM on September 18 [7 favorites]


Are there really people who never need any alone time?

YES. One of my best friends is ridiculously unhappy with alone time, and it's not because of anything other than absolutely LOVING being around other people. My brother is on the borderline of that; he doesn't like being alone but he knows it's good for him occasionally.
posted by cooker girl at 2:38 PM on September 18 [4 favorites]


So here’s what I never understood about The Muppet Show. Why didn’t anyone ever ask fucking Statler and Waldorf to go somewhere else and commiserate quietly about how arch and above it all they are while everyone else discusses how the real social narratives around these categories impact people who trend more towards the reserved side of the spectrum?

You can't move for people discussing how introverted they are and how put upon they are by extroverts. It is a conversation that is entirely played out, and frequently, as alluded to above, tips into people arguing for their limitations, that their introversion means they don't have social needs. It is easier and more socially acceptable than ever to be introverted, to have time alone without social interaction. Netflix alone has done wonders for introverts.

The conversation you're asking for is not an honest one.
posted by Merus at 4:53 PM on September 18


What's the label for people who feel alone all of the time, even when surrounded by others? Who wish for human contact but have so many boundaries and walls built that the interactions feel invasive, but oh man do I crave them? We definitely need to stop doing this to each other.
posted by lextex at 5:32 PM on September 18 [3 favorites]


Oh, and also...I just wanted to give a big Meta mention to the massive group of the population who don't have a millisecond to spend worrying about this because they need to survive.
posted by lextex at 5:40 PM on September 18 [4 favorites]


On reflection, the most exasperating thing about this article is that someone who claims to be studying introversion apparently believes that there might be a person of substantially introverted character somewhere on Earth who simply hasn't thought of pretending to be more extroverted than they naturally are.

Hi, that person somewhere on Earth is me. It wouldn't occur to me to try pretending because... because why would it occur to me to pretend to be something other than I am, in any respect, including this one? That just sounds amazingly stressful. And hard to do well enough to convince anyone. And if you do convince them, then... do you have to keep pretending forever, or...? It's anxiety-provoking just thinking about it. So I've never even considered it as a viable strategy.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 5:02 AM on September 19


What's the label for people who feel alone all of the time, even when surrounded by others?

That might be what's known as Existential Isolation - "Existential isolation is a unique form of interpersonal isolation, related to, but distinct from loneliness and social isolation. Feeling existentially isolated is the subjective sense one is alone in one's experience, and that others cannot understand one's perspective."
Nasty, isn't it?
posted by thatwhichfalls at 8:07 AM on September 19 [2 favorites]


The conversation you're asking for is not an honest one.

Are you kidding me? Your two contributions to this thread are to scold John Scalzi and this? In a thread about a poorly designed, borderline dishonest study about how easy and good for them it is for introverts to act like extroverts?

You don’t have to be in this thread suffering this conversation! If you don’t want to hear/read about introverts’ experiences with the world, GO DO SOMETHING ELSE INSTEAD!
posted by Caduceus at 12:16 PM on September 19 [10 favorites]


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