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.
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.
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.
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.