I don’t have a personal Facebook account (and as of the time of writing, I have yet to open one for this site). I miss dozens of events and parties thrown by acquaintances every year, and I’m fine with that. I prefer to travel alone, and I do so often. And it’s Friday night (well, actually, it’s already Saturday), and I’m home, in front of my computer, like I am most Friday nights.
And I wouldn’t change any of it.
But don’t get me wrong. Drop me at a party and I’ll leave knowing at least 10 people and will not completely hate it. Have me wait in line at the supermarket, and I’ll chat with the 83-year-old lady in front of me who’s having a hard time pronouncing “kumquats”. Start talking with me and in less than three minutes you’ll know:
What I Like
Adventure (well, Planned ‘Spontaneity’)
Makeup (it’s therapy)
The Mountains & Outdoors
What I Don’t Like
Checking My Mail
Fake Small Talk
So it’s definitely not shyness. It’s just mere introversion. I prefer to stay in my head and don’t necessarily crave being the center of attention, talking to strangers, or partying. But I also don’t dread it, plus I actually enjoy meeting (interesting) people. And when duty calls, I’m social if needed. (I may just need to retreat in silence for a few hours after my attempt at socializing.)
It Wasn’t Always This Way
Funny thing is…when I was a kid, I was quite social. I was actually fearless. (Then again, most kids are fearless since they have yet to find out how much falling, failing, and feeling can hurt.) But, even for a kid, I acted wise beyond my years. I would be surrounded by friends and was never one to be tied to a specific ‘click’ or a group―I’d rather be everyone’s friend. If you were to look up the term ‘social butterfly’, my picture would appear next to it.
I flapped my butterfly wings up and down right until the end of my college days, when only two weeks after passing the last test needed to complete my degree, I moved far away from home and into a big city. At first, I didn’t notice any difference in my social behavior, but little by little, it became obvious that introversion had set in.
I started wondering how on Earth during my college years, I wasted two to three hours every single Friday night waiting in line to enter a popular bar to see the same exact people I would see during the day at school. Do you know what I could’ve done with all of that time?! Knowing myself, probably not much, but still, almost anything would’ve been more productive than waiting in line for nearly three hours to feel like a sardine inside an Irish-pub-shaped can.
Some may call that shift a ‘sign of depression’, and while I’m sure I had my sad days during that period of big-city adjustment, I think the experience also gave me the opportunity to get to know myself and my preferences. You grow up in a stage that’s almost all built for yourself, limiting your choices to the classmates in your classroom, the neighbors down the street, and the places mom and dad took you. And so, when I finally realized that I always felt exhausted right after a social gathering, and that most times I even wondered why I went to it in the first place (particularly when there’s always Friday movie night with myself and a bowl of low-cal popcorn), I reached the conclusion: I am a social introvert.
Then it was that time I decided to travel around the world with a backpack and a bit of saved money. Many friends back at home and even along the way would ask me how a young woman like myself handled the loneliness of solo travel. Almost every time I said “what loneliness?” First off, for every short stay at a cheap motel I would book, I would stay for twice the length of time in shared rooms at hostels. So I was rarely ever alone! But boy, nothing made me happier than when the bunk beds came in with curtains.
You see … I don’t suffer from loneliness when I’m by myself. I actually feel the loneliest when I’m in large crowds or with people I don’t consider ‘real’ friends.
So What’s It Like to Be a Social Introvert?
I can only speak for myself, though those who―like me―claim to be social introverts tend to agree with most of what I say. But still, take this with a grain of salt.
For the most part, being a social introvert feels like we’re right in the middle―not massively exuberant like extroverts come across to us, and not incredibly timid like full introverts seem like. One thing’s for sure, though: extroverts seem to be always having way more fun than us social introverts. Part of me wishes I would feel more comfortable when surrounded by groups of people, or didn’t feel the need to decompress every time I returned from a social gathering. But I also wouldn’t change who I am and how I view the world.
Being a social introvert helps me understand the world and myself better. I take the time to sit in my thoughts, plan, and execute. I feel extremely self-aware, but I also connect at a very deep level with the world, and especially with nature. I definitely lack that certain charm of an extrovert, but what I lack in charm, I make up in understanding.
Extroverts are primarily concerned with things outside the self―their external environment―while introverts would rather focus on their own thoughts and feelings, often in search for creativity. I, however, can relate partially with both those statements, in that I am both concerned with things outside and inside myself, but its more like absorbing the outside world and internalizing it. As a result, I feel like I live a much richer life.
Psychology-focused media outlets have coined the term ‘ambivert’ to describe people with a mix of both extroversion and introversion, but much like the word ‘moist’, ‘ambivert’ just doesn’t sound right. Maybe I’m wrong, but while they’re meant to describe the same type of personality, I feel like ‘social introvert’ defines me better, mostly because it fully acknowledges my introversion by name (after all, I’m more of an introvert than an extrovert), but highlights that I don’t have a problem being social. In fact, when it’s the right company or the right circumstances, I actually enjoy it!
So no, social introverts don’t have more fun (well, at least I feel like I don’t), but that’s because we define fun differently. And I very much prefer my ‘fun’ than yours, my dear extroverts!
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