Introverts are adept at claiming a busy schedule, getting called into (fake) meetings, and otherwise side-stepping interaction with other humans—even humans they like. But with no such socially acceptable lubricants available during the pandemic, introverts feel they have nowhere to hide.
The difference between introverts and extroverts is simple. It’s all about how you recharge your batteries. Example: If you genuinely look forward to meeting up with your friends on the weekend, you’re probably an extrovert. If you genuinely like everyone with whom you’re supposed to meet up on Saturday but still secretly hope it gets canceled, you’re probably an introvert. Of course, most of us are some combination of the two. However, since our world’s social and business infrastructure is built to favor extroverts, you might think the COVID-19 lockdown would be paradise for introverts. You might be wrong.
A mentally healthy therapist is probably around 50/50, introvert/extrovert. It’s common for writers to be 80+% introvert, but it’s unlikely event planners are. Even though I’m a writer, most people are shocked to learn that I am a bona-fide introvert. That’s because I’m a very friendly introvert. I can strike up a conversation with just about anyone. I make eye contact. I smile. I like people and am in no way anti-social. But after socializing, I need quiescence and personal space, and I need a lot of it.
‘Socializing’ for me means going to the grocery store or meeting up with one friend for dinner. After such events, I’m ready to be home alone with my cats in my house where I’m safe. I ignore technology, pick up a book, or do some writing. With few exceptions, I don’t like to talk on the phone; it feels like an invasion of my safe space. And that’s why this lockdown has been so stressful for introverts like me: suddenly, there’s a metric ton of social pressure to reach out! Schedule Zoom meetings! Call up that old friend! Do something creative and post in online! I’m now side-stepping groups of people on my once quiet walking paths. Suddenly, the places I went to get away from socializing have become party central.
Most of the time, it’s ok that I don’t video chat and make phone calls and stay hyper-active on social media, because I have controlled opportunities to connect IRL. Now, it feels selfish and indulgent to just be quiet at home. Now, it feels like I’m abandoning friends and hurting people I love, just by being quiet.
It’s true that I’m one of the lucky ones; I get to stay home. There are many introverts who still have to go to work every day, and that’s more draining than a true extrovert will ever fully comprehend. But it’s fascinating to note that even during a global pandemic lockdown, introverts still bear the brunt of living in a highly extroverted world—even a virtual one.