Introversion and Socialization

So I’m an introvert. I actually suspect my introversion and autism are linked, through sensory processing difficulties. Not that they’re the same thing, by any means, but they do impact each other. Humans are noisy and smelly and tend to move around and do things, which means there’s a lot of sensory input to keep up with. More people means more sensory input, which increases the risk of sensory overload. So I’m careful with my socialization.

Beyond that, I really am an introvert. However, I also like to socialize. I’ve gotten the impression that there is this idea (at least in the US) that introverts must all be asocial and want to avoid people at all costs. People also claim or believe that introverts are “just shy” and will turn into happy extroverts if we can just be brought “out of our shell.” This is particularly frustrating for me, but since I’ve written about that before I will not try to get into it again.

No, this comes from someone recently asking me to explain how I can be an introvert and still like to socialize, as apparently this was a totally unfamiliar concept to them.

The usual way of explaining introversion (when people aren’t insisting that it’s shyness or anxiety or asocialness or whatever) is that being around people saps our energy, as opposed to extroverts who gain energy by being around people. This is, at least in my case, more or less true. I have a finite amount of social energy, so I have to be careful where I spend it. Once it’s gone, that’s it. I can’t socialize anymore, and I have to wait for the energy to recharge. If I drain myself too much, it can take a week or more before I have enough energy to socialize again. So I’m careful. I budget my social time.

But I do have friends. I like hanging out with people. I really enjoy crafting with people who I like to be around. I enjoy rituals with my grove, and I enjoy the LARPs that I’ve taken to doing. The big thing is – when I decide that I would like to socialize with you, I am saying that I like you enough to spend some of my limited social budget on you.

Another point I want to make is that sometimes I see extroverts talking as though the extrovert style of socializing is somehow the “right” way to socialize. I once saw an extrovert defending introverts and saying how introverts can socialize too, by saying that we could go to a party and do the social butterfly dance just like extroverts, we just end up tired at the end. And honestly, I kinda thought that extrovert was part of the problem. Maybe I don’t want to go to parties. Maybe I don’t want to do the social butterfly dance. Hell, maybe I can’t do the social butterfly dance because it involves intricate social cues that I seriously cannot keep up with. Not only is it ok to be an introvert, but it is ok to socialize like an introvert. No matter what extroverts might say. So I mostly try to do my socializing one-on-one (as I’m sure I’ve mentioned many many times on this blog). Extroverts don’t always like to socialize this way. I’ve known plenty of extroverts in my life who were utterly baffled by the idea that I might get more out of one-on-one interaction than in a loud, chaotic group. However, their lack of understanding does not make it any less true.

But really my point is that I can TOTALLY be introverted and also be social. Maybe less frequently social, maybe a different kind of social, but STILL SOCIAL. IT STILL COUNTS.

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “Introversion and Socialization

  1. Possum

    If this is invasive I apologize. I, too, am an introvert but I’ve always lived alone. What’s it like to be an introvert and live with a partner? Is hanging out with a partner somehow different from other forms of socializing?

    • Ooh, that’s an interesting question.

      For starters, we are both introverts. Extroverts can be both fun and useful to have in one’s life, but I really don’t think I could live with one. We also spend much our time together, well, not exactly ignoring each other, but not interacting. We’ll be in the same room and enjoy each other’s company, but I’ll be doing my thing and he’ll be doing his thing.

      As for how it’s different from other forms of socialization – for me, yes, it’s totally different. Nee is far, far less draining than anyone else I’ve ever known. When I am out and socializing, I have my social face on, am processing at top speed, I have my defenses up for sensory difficulties, etc. With Nee, all that is off. No social face, I process at my own comfortable speed, I don’t need to have defenses up. In fact, I would cite this as why Nee is so much less draining for me than anyone else – with him, I can be exactly myself and he won’t judge me or get frustrated at me or demand I be more normal (which even totally lovely people will do because they have trouble with how slow I can be or my lack of facial expressions or lack of eye contact).

  2. Great little essay, Andraya. Throughout my youth people would indeed claim (and I myself believe, until experience disproved it) the conventional idea that “introverts are ‘just shy’ and will turn into happy extroverts if we can just be brought ‘out of our shell.’ ”