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August 27, 2013

The Internet's love affair with introverts

(Continued)

— You speak at a volume perceivable by humans.

So maybe I am, secretly, an extrovert. Or an ambivert, which is a mix of the two personality types. This makes me a little sad, since the cachet of the introvert seems to have skyrocketed recently: A great piece on firstpost.com by Sandip Roy, "The Introvert Strikes Back," posits that "the tables are turning . . . The Introverts Rights Revolution . . . might well be upon us." Books like "Quiet: The Power of the Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking" and articles like "Why Introverts Can Make Excellent Executives" imply that introversion is marketable. And, anecdotally, sighing over your "old lady ways" and "social awkwardness" has become a bit of a humblebrag — as if you can't wait to get the check, go home and work on your novel while your silly friends fritter away their youth at some gross bar.

So why the cultural apotheosis of the lone wolf? Why has she captured both our admiration (with her supposed profundity) and our sympathy (with her supposed fear of social gatherings)? Why does she get to climb the Parnassus of nerd-cool, one commendatory listicle at a time, while friendly, tail-waggy extroverts are left in the dust?

It's the Internet's fault, writes Amy Grey in the Sydney Morning Herald. The online balance of power between introverts and extroverts is totally skewed. Grey says that "the Internet has become an introvert's playground," allowing them to "perform to a captive and sympathetic audience." Online, they control the terms of their social engagement. They can unplug at any time. And yet they still enjoy the benefits of communicating with others, of feeling heard and valued. And then the poor, conforming regular extroverts, who just want to get along with the group, adopt the new norms, the ones lionizing introspection and alone time, and soon enough our nation's bars and restaurants will be empty, with everyone busy at home being "introverted."

Of course, the scientific definition of introversion is different from the Internet's definition. The introvert label doesn't mean you are scared of others — that's shyness — or that you contain mental and emotional depths incomprehensible to the trifling masses. It merely describes a person who prefers interacting in smaller social groups and occasionally wishes to be left alone. How trendy.

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