Not Necessarily an Introvert's Paradise

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

I wasn't expecting to write about the waning impact of the pandemic on our social lives two days in a row, but here we are: NBC's Maggie Mulqueen, who strikes me as well-meaning, but extroverted, writes about those whom she believes aren't exactly looking forward to the resumption of more typical societal routines:

Image by R.R. Abrot, via Unsplash, license.
Nudging reluctant people who've grown accustomed to, and even prefer, living in quarantine [sic] back into society requires understanding. Respecting a wide array of lifestyles is one way to show our support. Simple changes such as asking, "How was your weekend?" rather than, "What did you do this weekend?" can elicit a broader range of responses and signal acceptance of something other than meeting pro forma societal expectations. Similarly, encouraging people to prioritize low-risk/high-yield activities -- dinner out with one other person, say -- as a way to resume meaningful social engagements can be helpful.
This introvert doesn't mind the occasional nudge, but hates pressure, and was accustomed to helping those who needed it know the difference when it was appropriate, back before the Covid hit the fan.

Perhaps there is hope that more people will try to understand differing styles of socializing, as the author offers, but I can also see lots of well-meaning nudges that will feel like pressure coming from some quarters. I would respectfully ask the gentle readers of Ms. Mulqueen's column to be patient, but also to resist the urge to bend over backwards. (And I am glad to be aware that I may need to brace myself for bouts of overexuberant good will...)

I won't pretend to speak for all or even most introverts, but I feel a need to throw my own two cents out there: The social isolation caused by whatever local combination of -- (a) necessary precautionary measures and (b) rights-violating government orders -- was not necessarily a paradise even for introverts.

Set aside the obvious example of zero solitude I discussed early in the pandemic when the schools were closed: It is a common and mostly incorrect stereotype about introverts that we don't enjoy socializing or being around people. I and, as best as I can tell, many or most introverts want more solitude than the average bear, want to socialize on our own terms, and often differ from most regarding when and how often we want to socialize. Think of a cat who loves a good belly rub -- when he's in the right mood -- and people like me make much more sense.

I can hear the next question: So the pandemic was great once the kids went back to school, right Gus? No. As I gradually realized (and Cal Newport often points out), a change of venue often greatly aids concentration and creativity. That was mostly down the drain for me since I favor coffee shops and other places with the dull roar of crowds going on. (Think of a cat (again) lounging on a bookshelf in lofty semi-detachment while a family is gathered below.) It's almost as if I need to want to walk away from people in order to fully enjoy or take advantage of solitude.

And, like anyone else, I miss things like meeting fellow Arsenal fans in the pub to watch the Gunners and the block parties our small neighborhood would throw.

There is as much to learn about ourselves as there is about others from this chapter of history.

I guess I would end by reassuring folks like Maggie Mulqueen that they were fine before the pandemic, even if folks like me needed to get away from them from time to time. Please don't walk on eggshells around me! You were fine the way you were most of the time.

It's mostly me, and not you, and I miss you more than you might think!

-- CAV

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