Tag Archives: Introvert

Some Binary Skepticism

I’ll continue two things today: the longest streak of posts I’ve written on this blog to date (a trend I hope continues), and another unrelated topic to my previous posts (which can’t go on forever, can it?). This topic isn’t too deep and it isn’t too controversial, but it’s been on my mind. It’s nice to take a break from pressing issues.

A number of memes have made their way onto my monitor in the past few weeks about extroversion and introversion. I remembered reading a blog post years ago on the topic, and managed to find it. I highly recommend it.

While I usually hear the term “binary” used by radical inhumanists who deny our sexual reproductive nature, I think the binary of introversion and extroversion really does deserve some scrutiny. Back in middle and high school, I considered myself an introvert. I was quiet, shy, and didn’t have too many friends. But even back then, I noticed that something strange would happen as I’d spend time with people I knew well: My personality would change.

It took many years to think about the ramifications of that fact, but it seems pretty obvious now. There’s really no such thing as an introvert or an extrovert. One particular meme I’ve come across presents the two as getting “energy” from different sources; the introvert from time alone and the extrovert from time spent with others. The implication is that “energy” would be drained by spending time with others (for the introvert) or spending time alone (for the extrovert). But “energy” is ambiguous. And I can’t think of anyone who could spend every waking moment in conversation with other people or totally isolated for years on end. At some point, we need time to ourselves, and at other points, we need time with others. The ratios may be different, but they probably change over time and with different circumstances.

As the blog mentioned early says, people who claim to be extroverts are happier and have more productive, full lives. You can spend your time concerned with placing yourself into (what seem to be) arbitrary categories, but that’s a waste. Better to spend time on simply acting in the way you’d like to act. If you want the benefits of being an extrovert – just act that way.

It seems at first like this is asking too much. I suspect several friends of mine would think so. But I have some genuine personal experience that lets me know it’s possible. Even today, it takes work for me to make small talk and even leave my home sometimes. But I do the work anyway, and reap the rewards for it. I rarely enjoy going to big events, but I go anyway.

I put the suggestions in that post to work, and predictable results followed: Despite my personality being about what it was over a decade ago, I now lead teams, give presentations, and speak in front of groups all without any problems. I still dread it sometimes, and as I said, it still takes work to pull it off – more than it might for others. But I do it anyway. None of this is to boast, but to say it can be done. And now that I know it, I find the terms “introvert” and “extrovert” to be without any good use. While real binaries exist (like the sexual binary), there’s no need to invent new ones and then force oneself into them permanently.