We’re closing in on the halfway mark for 2018 and it seems like the year is speeding by. I’ve written a few times about my theme for the year, “essential,” including my most recent post recapping my essential wardrobe challenge. I’ve been thinking a lot about what I really need and want in my life, as well as what brings me joy. I’ve come to understand that I’m more easily overwhelmed than a lot of other people I know. I used to berate myself for this fact, but I have moved more to a place of self-compassion and a willingness to honor my own needs. We all have different personalities and constitutions and that’s as it should be. When we increase our awareness of who we are and work with our personality traits instead of against them, we often fare better in life.
The tagline for this blog is “striving for happiness, peace, and fulfillment… in a chaotic world.” I added that last part because I often feel highly stressed out by the fast pace and “always connected” state of being that’s so common in today’s society. This way of life doesn’t work well for me and I’ve become far happier since I’ve learned to accept this fact and live my life accordingly. However, I’m still struggling with the concept of moderation, especially when it comes to technology and connection.
Introversion vs. Extroversion
People have varying needs for connection and some of us are extroverts and others are introverts. In the Myers-Briggs personality type framework, those who are extroverted are energized by being around other people and enjoy being involved in a lot of different activities. In contrast, introverts prefer to spend more time in their inner worlds and become drained by a large amount of interpersonal interaction. They feel the need to “re-charge” after spending time with others and don’t require as much interaction as extroverts do. The difference between extroversion and introversion is further outlined on this page , and you can take an online quiz to help distinguish where you fall on the spectrum. I took the quiz and scored as 78% Introverted and only 22% Extroverted, which came as little surprise to me.
What I didn’t understand until recently is that the concepts of introversion and extroversion apply to online interaction as well. Sure, I may be sitting in my quiet home while interacting via telephone, email, or social media, but that type of connection can be just as draining to an extreme introvert as being at a party. I’ve always been a person who values quality over quantity in terms of the number of friends I have and how often I connect with those people. I may go weeks or months without communicating with someone while still caring deeply about that person and considering them to be a close friend. I just don’t have the need to be in frequent communication with anyone besides my husband. I believe that relationships need to be nurtured and maintained, but I’ve never been a high-maintenance friend. I would much rather see or talk to someone once in a while and have that contact be deep and meaningful. In my mind, there are no quotas for how often I need to hear from someone and I’m okay if a friend or family member takes a few days or even longer to respond to me (emergency situations excepted, of course).
I’ve mentioned that I’m sometimes lonely and would like to have more face-to-face interaction with people. That’s still the case, but a little can go a long way for me and my fellow introverts. The ideal number of social interactions I’d like to have is a delicate balance. A few in-person get-togethers per month are plenty, and I’m fine with only having a handful of telephone conversations during that time frame as well. My threshold is somewhat higher for email and text-based interactions, but I generally don’t want to connect with anyone on a daily basis. This is a matter of my personality type and not any offense to the people in my life at all. I just need more alone time and “downtime” than the extroverts and “ambiverts” (those who can easily go back and forth between extroversion and introversion – my husband is one of those) I know.
Social Media and Introversion
I’ve been able to balance my life as an introvert for many years, but social media changed the ball game to a large degree. You see, social media is all about being hyper-connected all the time, which goes against the way I’ve conducted my relationships for most of my life. I joined Facebook around ten years ago, but I wasn’t very active on that platform until probably 2014. My participation skyrocketed with Facebook groups, particularly when I started my own group in the summer of 2015. I hesitated for a long time to start a group because something in my gut told me it would be a struggle, but I did it to give the readers of my previous blog a way to safely and easily interact with each other.
Although I knew that my regular participation in the group wasn’t required, I felt that I should be there, plus I grew to enjoy many of the people and conversations there. The pull to stay involved with my group and the many health-focused groups I belonged to led to my spending several hours a day on Facebook, which was much too much for me. When I chose “balance” as my theme for 2016, I knew that something needed to change. I had grown weary with spending so much time online, but I didn’t realize that it wasn’t just about time management. At the time, I didn’t understand that I wasn’t being true to myself and my personal need for space and time to re-charge.
I believe that social media is better suited to extroverts than introverts and that extroverts feel more at home on those platforms. It’s more natural for extroverts to share photos and details of their day-to-day lives and to message with friends multiple times per day. Extroverts are energized by such activities, so social media can be a good fit for them, although the issue of moderation is still applicable for everyone. Over time, I have started to feel more and more anxious whenever I spend time on social media. While Facebook is the main platform that I’ve used, I find all social media applications to be “noisy” and overwhelming. It feels like I’m at a loud nightclub or a rock concert where everyone is shouting and I can’t hear what anyone is saying. I also feel like unless one commits to being online daily or even multiple times per day, it’s impossible to keep up with the stream of information and endless notifications.
Is There a Happy Medium?
Many people have elected to opt out of social media altogether, as is advocated by author and computer science professor Cal Newport, author of Deep Work. I have considered doing this, but I didn’t want to “throw the baby out with the bath water” and give up the positive interactions I have there. So instead, I’ve cut way back and have been hoping to find some sort of happy medium that would work for me. Unfortunately, I’ve struggled with that goal, as social media really seems to be an all or nothing proposition. I’ve found that when I’m not engaged on a very regular basis, I can’t keep up at all. After just a few days, I come online to over a hundred notifications and countless threads, which has me feeling extremely anxious and like I just can’t win. I feel like I’m not really part of the community unless I’m there all the time and I find it hard to find the most meaningful posts, threads, and comments within the never-ending scroll.
I don’t know what the answer is, but I do know that I feel happier and calmer the less time I spend on social media. I still feel the “should” pull to go online, but I find myself resisting it more times than not lately. I miss my online friends, but if I have to choose to either be all-in or all-out, I’m going to have to go with the latter for the sake of my peace and happiness. I don’t know if I have to make such a choice, but it’s increasingly feeling like I might. I’m going to keep honoring myself and my needs and only go online when I truly want to do so, but can my desire for quality over quantity actually work in the fast-paced world of Facebook and other such platforms? Can introverts find a way to make these tools work for themselves without compromising their own well-being?
It All Comes Back to This
My themes of the past few years – simplicity/joy, deliberate, balance, peace, and essential – have all brought me to this place of authenticity (hmmm – perhaps my theme for 2019?). For years, I’ve been trying to be something and someone I’m not and I’m not going to do that anymore. A lot of the reason why I stopped writing my last blog was because the joy had gone out of it for me. I was writing what I thought I should write and worrying too much about what readers might think and say rather than sharing from the heart like I did in the beginning. I also turned my Facebook group over to new leadership because it no longer was true to my vision and had become a source of too much stress (although I’m still part of the smaller off-shoot group that someone else created, which is the main reason I even have a Facebook account at this point).
This blog has a much smaller readership and far fewer comments, but I’m okay with that, as I like the more intimate feel of it and the freedom to write about a broader range of subjects. Even so, I did worry a bit about writing this particular post, as some of my Facebook friends read here and I don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea of my feelings about them. I truly value these people, but I’m wrestling with how to balance my desire to connect with them with my challenges around using that platform. I want to have quality interactions that are uplifting for all concerned, but I haven’t figured out how to best make that work yet. This is something that I’m going to continue to work on while also trying to live more of my life off of the computer as well. I’m still not sure what I want this to look like, but I know that I will need to honor my introvert tendencies and my need for quiet, private time to re-charge. I hope I can find the type of happy medium I’m searching for.
I’m guessing that some of you will be able to relate to the sentiments I’ve expressed here. I also know that readers will have insights that will be helpful for those of us who are struggling to balance overwhelm with our desire for connection. If you have tips and suggestions, please share them. Likewise, if you just want to commiserate with me and others who have yet to figure out how to experience peace amidst this hyper-connected world, I’d love to read your words as well. I’m sure I will be writing more about this topic, but I thank you for reading my thoughts today.