Tag Archives: introversion

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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ARGLE BLARGLE

 

Comic is from cyanide & happiness by Kris Wilson

 

I’m going to tell you about something that I find REALLY frustrating. And annoying. And sometimes outright offensive, depending on how people are reacting to it. Something that at this point I despair of ever changing, but still find myself wishing that it would.

So let me put it simply here.

Introversion and social anxiety are two different things.

Seriously. Despite the comics, the way people talk, the widespread misinformation, these things are separate. Sometimes they coexist, sometimes they don’t. Apparently it comes as a surprise to some people, but it’s actually totally possible to be both extroverted and shy/socially anxious. Really. It happens. More than you might think.

Now, you might be wondering why this is such a big deal. Why do I care so much that so many people equate the two? It’s not hurting me, right?

Well… wrong.

Here, let me put forward a little scenario; one that I think actually happens often enough to be a thing.

We have a person. Let’s call them Morgan. Morgan has severe social anxiety and so rarely ventures out of the house. Morgan is very lonely and sad and does not like being this way. Since Morgan finds socializing so very difficult, Morgan figures they are an introvert. I mean, comics like the one shown above explain introversion that way, so that must be what it is, right?

Eventually Morgan gets help and overcomes their social anxiety. As it turns out, Morgan is an extrovert! Morgan now goes out and socializes on a regular basis, gets lots of energy from being around people, and is much happier than they were before. From Morgan’s perspective, they used to be introverted but fixed that and turned themselves into an extrovert.

So now Morgan thinks they know what it is to be an introvert. Morgan knows some introverted people and maybe even has introverted friends. Morgan remembers what it was like when they were so anxious, and believes that all their introverted friends must be going through the same thing.

Morgan responds by deciding that they just need to “get out of their shell!” Drag them to enough (exhausting) social events, show them that it isn’t scary, help them be more outgoing, and they’ll be cured! Morgan feels so nice doing this, thinking they’re doing a good deed for those poor, introverted souls.

Here’s the thing. Morgan is being harmful. I have experience with both introversion and social anxiety and I can definitely tell you – they are NOT the same thing. NOT THE SAME THING. Ok? Really not.

Social anxiety is very unpleasant. It makes interactions ever so fraught; people can be really quite scary. Introversion, on the other hand, is actually rather pleasant. Or rather, it’s neutral, it just means that I take pleasure and gain energy from things that extroverts would generally find more draining. Now that my anxiety is more under control, it’s easier for me to go do social things. As in, less scary. However, it’s still draining. I still recharge with alone time, and I still have a dramatic preference for one-on-one interaction. I happen to like being an introvert and do not want to change.

When someone thinks that my introversion must be anxiety and want to “fix” me, they are harming me. If I am denied much-needed alone time, I am harmed. If I am forced into a group when I would rather just talk to one person, I am harmed. If I am made to interact after all my spoons are gone and I really need to be done, I am harmed. Whoever does those things to me, harms me.

Which means that this pervasive idea that introversion is the same thing as social anxiety is harmful. It’s harmful to me, and it’s harmful to others who are like me. Please, don’t participate in spreading this misinformation. It does no one any good.

 

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