Social Media & Introverts: A Love-Hate Relationship

When I first considered writing this blog post, I did a quick Google search for “introverts and social media”. As an undeniable introvert, I was curious to get a feel for how other introverts felt about social media to determine if this topic would be good fodder for a blog post. The first result that popped up? An article entitled “Why Introverts Love Social Media”. And the second result? A blog entitled “The Problem with Social Media as an Introvert”.  An obvious contradiction, manifested right in the first two results of a Google search.

This contradiction threw me off at first glance. In typical introvert manner though, I reflected on the implications of this for a few minutes before reaching the conclusion that this very contradiction is actually a completely accurate representation of how introverts feel about social media: it’s a love-hate relationship. Some introverts love it, others hate it, and some could not be more indifferent about it. For some of the very reasons that social media has made socializing easy and accessible for introverts, it’s also led to a slew of detrimental effects which clash with the fundamental characteristics of introversion. In this blog post, I delve into the implications of social media use on the lives of introverts, both the positive and the negative.

First things first: Who, exactly, are introverts?

If you’ve ever taken the Myers-Briggs or the Big Five Personality test, you’re probably pretty familiar with the terms “extravert” and “introvert”. These terms, which were actually coined by famous psychologist Carl Jung, refer to whether or not a person has a stronger tendency to interact with one’s exterior environment or to be more interested in one’s own internal thoughts. Extraverts, as the prefix suggests, obtain gratification externally through their interactions with other people. In general, extraverts feel energized from socializing with other people and enjoy things like large social gatherings and working in groups. They are typically more outgoing, talkative, and energetic in social situations. Introverts, on the other hand, are much more reserved and reflective. They tend to be deep thinkers who enjoy solitude and often stray from large social situations. Introverts display a strong tendency to think before acting, and thus are more conscious of their actions yet less natural in many social situations. Being in a social situation depletes an introvert’s energy, but spending time in solitude helps restore that mental energy. Many people mistakenly equate introverts with shy people, but introversion is not a fear of social situations but rather just a preference against them.

cat social media

Why introverts love social media

Social media allows us to run our social lives – without actually having to, well, socialize. For this reason alone, social media has been a blessing for introverts. Even when introverts are recharging their social batteries and enjoying some solitude, which is an inherently non-social activity, they can still be maintaining perfectly active social lives through social media. Then can see what’s going on with friends, have conversations, make plans, or add friends – all on their own terms and in the comfort and privacy of their own homes.

social media pic

Interactions on social media are much less intimidating than in-person interactions. In society today, it’s so much easier to simply send someone a friend request on Facebook than it is to approach someone you’ve never spoken to, introduce yourself, and have a conversation. Similarly, it’s much easier to speak with someone online through SMS than to keep a conversation going. With SMS, you can actually sit and think about what you’re going to say, and believe me when I say that introverts love that ability. Plus, you can just log off or stop answering when conversation dies down, rather than dealing with the awkwardness of trying to excuse yourself from a conversation in real life.

Social media is like a personal PR tool which gives introverts control over how they market themselves to others. By their nature, introverts don’t openly share much about their lives, and typically close off their social circles to people outside of a few key relationships. For these reasons, it’s very easy for people to typecast the introverts they know as anything from the lone wolf to the quiet kid to the standoffish jerk. And that’s exactly where social media becomes so valuable. Social media gives introverts complete control over how they portray themselves to others, allowing them to market themselves as they please through what they post on their online profiles. Because of this, many introverts are becoming “online extraverts” and are utilizing social media to show their personalities to the world.

Why introverts hate social media

Social media leads to introverts having to be “always on” – you can never really escape social media. Social media has become such a central component to our lives. We instinctively and incessantly do things like check our phones every five minutes, distract ourselves with Facebook and Twitter when we’re on the web, or seek out things to post to Instagram or snap to others. This reality poses a fundamental issue for introverts, who seek to enjoy solitude and time away from social situations but instead find themselves unable to escape the pervasiveness of social media. It’s almost impossible to go on the Internet to watch Netflix or shop on Amazon without feeling that urge to check Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, and it’s amazing just how many messages you’ll have to get around to answering if you stopped answering your phone for just one day (if not a few hours). Social media plays such a prominent role in our lives that introverts can no longer escape it.

Social media increases our FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). Because introverts need to spend some time in solitude in order to replenish their mental energy, they won’t always be participating in the social gatherings of their peers. It can then become frustrating, if not confidence-damaging, for introverts to log onto social media sites and see pictures and posts of the very events they chose to sit out. Throughout the semester, we’ve spoken frequently about how social media is the “highlight reel” of one’s life. This concept is especially detrimental for introverts, who are prone to comparing their time spent in solitude to the highlights of their peers.cats

Introverts don’t always have things to post on social media. As I just mentioned in my previous point, introverts have far from a perfect attendance record when it comes to various social gatherings. Because they spend more time in solitude and less time on social media-worthy activities, introverts are inherently going to have fewer things to share on social media. This reality then gets compounded by the fact that introverts are very prone to overthinking. Introverts are more likely to consider the ramifications and anticipated response of what they post on social media, so don’t expect introverts to freely post to social media just for the sake of posting something. Sure, this overthinking has the positive effect of preventing introverts from pulling a Justine Sacco, but it definitely constricts the amount of content that introverts will share on social media.

-Pat Carnevale

12 comments

  1. As a fairly major introvert myself, I can easily relate to this notion, but I wouldn’t go so far as to call my relationship with social media a love-hate one, but rather I think of it as a love-indifference relationship. I really do love being able to communicate with people via social because the barrier makes it a little easier for me to articulate what I’m saying without being under the pressure of eyes being on me, and while yes it does often require me to be on social media more often than not, I really feel like I get quite a bit out of it in my life. Because I’m constantly updated, I usually am getting the most recent news, seeing the newest viral videos, etc. In turn, this vast accumulation of information has actually enabled me to work on breaking out of my shell and become less of an introvert. Great post!

  2. Hello Pat, really good post! Thanks for representing introverts to talk about their relationship with social media. As a typical introvert, social media absolutely offers me an opportunity to socialize with people without any pressure from face-to-face conversations. Sometimes I feel that I can concentrate more to absorb and organize information on social media since I easily become nervous and sometimes embarrassed when being involved into some real-life scenarios. On the other hand, I also feel that my peaceful life is sort of out of control with social media’s intervention. Plenty of information overwhelms me and compared to those extroverts’ colorful lives, sometimes I’m filled with frustration and self-doubt. Now I’ve shut down a few social media accounts and only keep using several important ones remained. I restrict the time spending on social media per day in order to retake over my life of peace which extremely makes sense to introvert people.
    Go further with this topic: I also think that people, both extroverts and introverts in nature, get great benefits when they reach out of their comfort zones. Even extroverts may feel pressured and uncomfortable when handling unfamiliar or rare situations in their lives. Social media eases people’s discomfort in these circumstances and contributes to positive outcomes.

  3. Before I comment on this post, I just want to give the disclaimer than I do not consider myself and introvert and therefore, all of my opinions of completely from an outsider perspective. I think that social media can be seen as a useful tool for introverts, to a certain extent. I agree that it is a form of socialization for them, without having to actually be around people and physically socialize. I agree that it is less intimidating and therefore, they are still able to communicate with others and have “relationships” without suffering from the typical social anxiety that they would otherwise be enduring. However, I do not think that these things are necessarily healthy. I think that it also gives them an easy-out to not have to try and communicate in person and therefore, causing detrimental affects to their socializing skills. Social media definitely allows us all (not just introverts) to manage how we present ourselves to other and once again, I do not think that this is necessarily a healthy thing. It forces us to try and live up to these unrealistic expectations of how people are perceived and we try and become people we are not. I think that there are definitely good and bad aspects of it, and it all depends how the forum of social media is used. Nice job!

  4. Nice post! It’s an interesting perspective to look at how social media affects people who are more reserved. I do think that social media can be less intimidating than face-to-face conversation, but I know that sometimes I prefer meeting someone IRL. As someone who is quieter, I like when I can see how someone reacts to what I say and be able to pick up on smaller cues to guide the conversation. Introverts may be more observant, which can lead to over-thinking tone via text or Facebook message.

    As someone who is more introverted, I like the ability to see what is going on in the world from the comfort of my own space. FOMO is definitely a consequence of being so interconnected. Oftentimes, I see a snapchat story and feel like I missed out, but then again my introverted side probably wouldn’t be having such a blast at a loud and dark party. For both introverts and extroverts, it’s important to use social media to play up your strengths. If you are introverted and intimidated by socializing face-to-face, use Facebook to connect with old friends or distant family members. If you are more extroverted, use social media to schedule a party where you can see everyone in a setting you prefer.

  5. This is a great post Pat. I also consider myself an introvert and believe that social media allows introverts to express themselves in ways they may not be able to in person. Thorough this class, I have found that social media (Twitter, blog posts) has helped me open up more, as I wouldn’t have shared some of these things otherwise. At the same time, social media can cut people off from real interactions with others, with more communication happening online. Introverts tend to overthink what they say in the first place and social media intensifies that. You brought up an interesting point that introverts tend to post less on social media because they are more careful about what they say. The constant stimulation from always being connected doesn’t allow introverts to get a true break to rejuvenate themselves when they need it and time alone since they are still in contact with people through devices. There can be pressure to stay connected and respond in a timely manner, even when they don’t feel like it. I agree that FOMO can be more difficult for introverts since they tend to prefer time alone, while others thrive on social interactions. I also think that these concerns apply to everyone, regardless of whether they are more introverted or extroverted, with all desiring both time to themselves and interactions with others.

  6. I definitely lean more towards the introvert side and I agree with everything you’ve mentioned here. It’s way easier to carry on a conversation with someone “on my own time” instead of in a crowded bar. I also know that I’m better in smaller groups, and with social media I can pick and choose the posts I engage with and the people I’m connecting with.

    As someone who never left my home state, it’s useful to have some “intel” on former classmates in the likely event that I run into them in person. Instead of having the awkward small talk in order to quickly be brought up to speed, social media makes it easier for me to jump right into a casual conversation. Just makes the conversation flow a little smoother.

  7. Very thoughtful post. My wife is an introvert, and I can definitely see the love-hate relationship that you describe playing out in the way she uses it as well.

  8. Thanks for sharing, Pat. According to Myers-Briggs’ personality test, I identify as INTJ. Your blog succinctly sums up my experience with Social Media. I have never considered my relationship with social media as a love-hate relationship. I am not “always on” Facebook but when I’m online I sometimes succumb to FOMO. Overall, I do have a positive outlook of social media because it allows me to connect with people who are geographically disconnected from me. @samanthamancini You mentioned “I think that [social media] also gives them an easy-out to not have to try and communicate in person and therefore, causing detrimental affects to their socializing skills.” I must disagree with your assessment. Extroversion doesn’t necessarily translate to improve social skills building. There are many studies that show how over dependence on social media negatively prevents people (both extroverts and introverts) in developing interpersonal and social skills. To this end, it is not uncommon to see extroverts on dates, at a bar, having dinner or at social gathering and still be buried in their phones. Some may make the case they are multi-tasking but they point is that they aren’t devoting 100% to interpersonal skills building.

  9. Brilliantly framed post, and probably something both introverts and extraverts can relate to. I personally believe in the theory of ambiverts (See: http://www.wsj.com/articles/not-an-introvert-not-an-extrovert-you-may-be-an-ambivert-1438013534). I think that social media, by design, is an introverted activity that even self-described extraverts find the necessity for. In a way, it tips the social scale in favor of those with introverted tendencies, because those people often have a surplus of ideas that go unshared in conventional social situations. Social media appeals to our desire to manage our lives outside of social situations.

  10. You put social media perfectly when you referenced PR tools. It is a direct extension of how someone chooses to, in essence, market themselves on their channels. Super interesting to look at how the behavior of an individual affects their use age of the mediums. Great post!

  11. Great post. The cost benefit analysis for introverts is interesting, and I can see their ability to ‘escape’ is diminishing due to Social Media.

  12. Very good idea to define introversion at the beginning of the post, and you did an excellent job with it. As someone who is on the introverted side of the spectrum, I’ve definitely had the love-hate relationship with SM. There are days where I really need to recharge on my own and I find myself still reflexively checking facebook and it’s distressing. Really cool topic, it sparked a great conversation in the comments section!

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