In most introvert networks, the rise of social media as a means of communication has been generally heralded as a new dawn for introverts, one which finally provides us with an opportunity to level the playing field with extroverts and get our voices heard.
And there is of course much truth in this viewpoint. Social media does enable communication and networking on a scale that most introverts could never begin to achieve otherwise. It allows us to choose where, when, how and with whom we want to communicate, and it lets us work at our own pace and express ourselves via our favourite medium of writing. Essentially the internet enables us to ‘put ourselves out there’ without even having to leave the house if we don’t want to.
As an introvert, I welcome this opportunity – after all, this blog wouldn’t exist without it. However, I also have a degree of unease about there being such a blanket acceptance of social media as ‘a good thing’ for introverts. Maybe not everybody wants to have their friendships revolve around Facebook or to conduct their lives through a smartphone. What happens if you’re just not interested in playing the social media game?
Surely then, as introverts, we are actually worse off than before, because these days if you’re not plugged in to social media you are completely out of the loop. This means that unplugged introverts now have to work doubly hard to build social networks and make ourselves visible. Maybe it’s just a generational thing (and I’m getting old…!), but if that’s the case then older introverts will find themselves disproportionately disadvantaged and disconnected.
Don’t get me wrong – I do think the internet is great, especially for introverts. But I also think we need to be careful to keep it in perspective, and I worry that the excitement around social media may mask the still-present need to redress the introvert/extrovert balance in our culture. Virtual introvert activity should not become a substitute for being ourselves in the real world and we should not have to hide behind a screen in order to feel comfortable with our introversion and valued for our strengths.