The top Tweeters list reads like a “Who’s Who” of extroverts: Lady Gaga, Justin Beiber, Katy Perry, Charlie Sheen, Kim Kardashian … But under all that noisy froth, there’s a steady current building: social media for introverts.
“What, like shy people?” you might ask. Far from it.
As Susan Cain’s explains in her recent TED Talk, research shows that introverts are:
- A third to a half of the population
- Not fearful of social judgment (a key differentiator from being “shy”)
- Intellectually stimulated by quieter environments
- The best academic performers
- The most transformative leaders: Abraham Lincoln, Gandhi
- Some of the world’s greatest creative minds: Darwin, Dr. Suess
- The world’s foremost religious founders (who went off by themselves for their epiphanies)
When I saw this video, it was like the clouds parted in my brain. Then I couldn’t get it out of my head. Well, I can’t get much out of my head. That’s because I, too, am an introvert. “In my head” is where I spend many of my waking hours.
It allowed me to finally see my personality not as a liability, but as an asset. As Susan explains, that’s because the world currently fosters a culture that clearly celebrates extroverts and marginalizes introverts. It dates back to the rise of the Industrial Age. As people moved into cities, magnetism and charisma became important for establishing oneself among a community of strangers. Our role models became salesman, rather than thinkers, and that’s how it remains today. From our schools to our businesses to our governments, that’s what we are all groomed to desire and be, despite evidence pointing to the benefits of a balance of both action and contemplation.
Surprisingly, social media has helped me though.
Just a few months ago, I started my blog and joined Twitter, fully expecting to be a digital wallflower. I was even a late Facebook adopter. I thought of Twitter, blogging, and the like as this big online party buzzing with loud, menial discussions all designed to distract me from what’s important. Granted, there is that, but I was surprised to discover a whole lot more, often completely the opposite of what I expected.
In the social media space, we introverts can broadcast our otherwise-silent inner thoughts out to the world, where we can then engage with others on those ideas. Sure, we could do that in person as well, but not with such a vast and diverse array of people, where ever, whenever.
Also, as an introvert I’m not satisfied with skimming the surface of issues. Despite this, I don’t often venture deeper into subjects with friends (let alone people I’ve just met) simply because social situations tend to be more conducive to what’s comfortable and lighthearted. But in the social media sphere I’m able (and frankly relieved) to finally be able to express a wider range of emotions, creativity, musings, and quandaries–the things that, in my opinion, make life rich and meaningful.
For those of you familiar with Susan’s book QUIET: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, you might argue, “Isn’t social media just a lot of talking, even if not audibly so?” Absolutely, but I would argue that Susan isn’t saying introverts aren’t thinking when they’re not verbally conversing. Far from it. Social media just allows that internal dialogue to reach beyond one brain to many. That’s why I think it’s such a powerful new development for introverts. They can take that epic internal brainstorm and plug it into the churning collective brain of the cosmos.
Oddly enough, my husband is quite extroverted, and social media rather annoys him. For true extroverts, I wonder if there’s an underlying fear that digital communications are usurping their face-to-face comfort place? Regardless of where you fall on the spectrum, the point is that we need a balance of group share and individual rumination, and social media has helped connect the dots between the two.
So, what do you say, introverts and extroverts? How do you use social media, and how has it helped or hindered the way you communicate with others in real life? I’m curious to know. In the meantime, rest assured, I’ll be over here continuing to ponder that thought.
And, by the way, you really should watch Susan’s whole talk. It’s packed with enlightening thoughts about the importance of nurturing both personality types, particularly in our work places and class rooms: