Introverts vs. Extraverts
Qu: How many introverts does it take to change a lightbulb?
Ans: None. Having the lights on just makes more people come and visit.
Introverts get creative energy from time alone whereas extraverts get energy from time spent with others.
Susan Cain’s [pictured] excellent TED talk on introverts has been downloaded almost three million times. She argues that although introverts make up approximately 33-50% of the population, modern society discriminates strongly in favour of extraverts. Fifty years ago, our classrooms had individual desks, all in rows, and you worked by yourself. Now our classrooms are arranged around circular tables and you work in groups.
Currently, our work-places and schools make it easier for extraverts to excel because they are set up to focus on team work and discussion, with little time for silence or reflection. Our society values the extraverts, and the introverts have felt sidelined.
Twitter: A Parallel World
I have always loved to read, and would devour books in my childhood years. ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ is one of my all-time favourite books. There was something enchanting about the idea that you could walk through the back of a wardrobe into a magical parallel world.
For the last two years I have been housebound with an autoimmune neurological illness which limits my mobility and my concentration levels. It has been very isolating. Last year, out of desperation for some social contact, I entered the world of Twitter – and felt like I had fallen through the back of the wardrobe.
Like Narnia, it wasn’t so much a virtual world, but one that ran parallel to our own, with slight differences:
- Famous people were talking without being mediated through magazine or television interviews.
- People who had never met eachother were greeting each other as friends
- And most surprising of all, this was the world where the introverts rule.
This was a strange, parallel world in which extraverts, rather than hogging the conversation, would idle by every now and again, pronounce an aphorism or two and wander off without actually interacting with anyone.
My friends who were quiet and withdrawn in ‘real life’, on Twitter were chattering away or SHOUTING REALLY LOUDLY. It was bizarre.
I decided to investigate further. I discovered (from my admittedly modest survey among mine and Vicky Beeching’s followers) that roughly 75% of Twitter users were introverts, and 25% of Twitter users extraverts. Introverts outnumber extraverts on Twitter by 3:1.
Not only that, but the introverts tended to be those who most frequently interacted on Twitter, those who initiated the most Twitter conversations and those most likely to have a blog where they revealed their thoughts more fully.
On Twitter, people who were extraverts in ‘real life’ behaved like introverts, and those who were introverts in ‘real life’ behaved like extraverts.
Twitter and the shadow
It made me think of Carl Jung. He talks about each of us having a ‘shadow’: those parts of our personality that we keep hidden from the world and sometimes hidden from ourselves.
We humans are very contradictory. Think of your own character traits. If you are typically a very responsible person, for example, there will still be the odd occasion where you behave in a childish or irresponsible way. It is not your normal way of being, it is your ‘shadow’.
Normally you repress your shadow, but occasionally it pops up and makes itself known, perhaps in a situation of stress or when your inhibitions are lowered.
- someone who’s usually very gentle may turn violent when drunk;
- someone who is meticulously organised in their work life may have a chaotic and messy house;
- a man who is very macho may love dressing up as the pantomime dame;
- an anti-abortionist who is against the taking of life could nevertheless plot to kill a doctor who carries out abortions;
- the prudent accountant may suddenly blow all their savings on a sports car during a midlife crisis.
These out-of-character behaviours are a manifestation of our shadow. It made me wonder whether Twitter, the place where introverts behave like extraverts and vice versa is where we reveal our shadow. Could Twitter be a manifestation of society’s ‘shadow’ side, our collective subconscious?
What if Twitter wasn’t a mirror to the world but the world turned inside-out? What if, rather than being a copy of the real world, Twitter was a parallel yet opposite dimension?
I am starting to think that Twitter is not a reflection but a reversal; a converse universe; the ‘yin’ to the real world’s ‘yang’.
Susan Cain has pointed out that society has long favoured the strengths of extraverts, but this could be changing.
Fellow extraverts, be warned: the social media revolution has come and the introverts are taking over the world.
Over to you:
- Are you an extravert or an introvert?
- Are you the same online? What are the differences in how you interact?
- Do you think Twitter is more of a reflection or reversal of real life?
Tanya Marlow is a self-confessed extravert, though she is keen to state that some of her best friends are introverts. She was formerly in Christian ministry for a decade and was Associate Director and lecturer for a university-level Bible training course. Now she reads Bible stories to her toddler as she learns what it means to be a mum who is housebound with an autoimmune illness. She blogs at Thorns and Gold, on the Bible, Suffering, and the messy edges of life. Follow Tanya on Twitter or like her Facebook page.