"I sought among them for a man that might set up a hedge, and stand in the gap before me in favor of the land." Ezekiel 22:30

Friday, August 9, 2013

A World Made for the Extrovert

Hi, my name is Gabe, and I'm an introvert.

Well, that's not technically correct. Allow me to explain.

Usually when someone begins an explanation of a concept or theory they begin by defining one or more of the relevant or important terms. I'm not going to do that because, 1) it would take more time than I care to spend looking up the exact definitions, 2) you can do it yourself, and 3) it's not entirely necessary for this conversation.

However, I do want share one way I've heard introversion and extroversion explained. We all have, I think, a general idea of what these terms mean, but the best description I've heard is that introversion and extroversion describe where we get our energy. Yes, we all need sleep, but have you ever met that person who is boring and sleepy in with just one or two people around, but gets really hyper and excited in bigger groups? That's generally what extraverts do. On the other hand, introverts energize themselves either alone or in small groups of close friends, and get worn down and need recharging when in large groups. Both types of people get their energy in their respective ways. And there's nothing wrong with that.

For me personally, things aren't so clear cut.

A couple years ago as part of my MBA studies, we took several personality tests. One such test was from the Center for Applied Cognitive Studies. You can find out more about them and the test here. Of the many different aspects of personality tested, one was introversion vs. extroversion. On that particular measure, I scored a 49 on a scale of 100. In case you're not good at math, that puts me almost perfectly in the middle. The term for someone like me is an "ambivert." An ambivert isn't a true extrovert or introvert. Depending on particular situations an ambivert can be the life of the party or more comfortable at home alone with a pizza and a movie.

Even though an ambivert can go either way, I would argue that I am definitely more comfortable being an introvert than an extrovert, which explains the intro to this post. Being more inclined to introversion has its advantages, but being able to extrovert very well is extremely beneficial in a world that is increasingly geared toward extroversion.

Which is what got me thinking. Just about everything in the world as it is right now is built by and for the extraverts.

Just think about it for a second. Facebook. Twitter. YouTube. The media. TV. Radio. Coupons you get in the mail. Heck, even this blog post to some degree, all boil down to one thing: the need for attention. And extraverts need attention because that's where they get energy. Extroverts by their very nature are going to dominate society more than introverts, and thus, I argue, the world has always been dominated by the extroverts and always will be - not that this is a bad thing.

But in this day and age, not only does society glorify the extraverts (and extravert wannabes), but there are more avenues than ever before to provide the extraverts an outlet for their attention-seeking. Again, not that all this a bad thing. The fact is though that we don't operate in a vacuum, so this must have an effect somehow.

So, I want to ask you to just think about how the modern world, so geared towards extroversion, affects the naturally introverted person. Go ahead. Ponder that next time you have a quiet evening to yourself (if you're an introvert), or (for the extroverts) next time you're hanging out with a bunch of friends.

I think all this has a two-fold effect.

First, that we as a society are losing touch with some of the things that make people unique - introversion & extroversion are just one example. There is a lot of pressure from society for someone who doesn't want to put all their information out there for the whole world. For someone who is not naturally inclined to be social, well, it's hard to remain introverted. The "quiet kids" in class get called names, made fun of, etc., which is how things have always been. I just think it's getting worse. Kids are acting out more (bullying, etc) why? Because they feel a lot of pressure to go against who they're hard-wired to be. And then we put them on meds and call it fixed. (That's a whole separate topic.)

The second effect I see is that if we don't find time to shut it all down and get away, we can get so wrapped up in it all that we lose touch with reality. Yes, that may sound a little weird and hippy-like, but it's true.

As a Catholic, I can see this exemplified by the way Mass is celebrated in the Novus Ordo/Ordinary Form and the Latin Mass/Extraordinary Form. The former is a constant stream of external stimuli because it's about visible participation. For an introvert, shaking or holding hands, dancing, or any other extrovert-type activities is uncomfortable to say the least. The latter, the Tridentine Mass, appeals very much to the introvert because it is designed for a different kind of participation, one that is not driven by extroversion. Instead of focusing on other people, we can use that time to forget about earthly things and participate mentally with Christ's Holy Sacrifice. But, I dare say, the extrovert would not be uncomfortable with a Latin Mass either. There is plenty of singing and other stimuli to keep them interested.

Again, I'm not necessarily judging this interesting situation or trying to make a value statement out of it... Although I could get into that. Nor am I scientifically-inclined enough to get into the nitty-gritty and study this phenomenon, although I'd love to read some existing research on it.

What I am saying however, is that the way our 21st century world is set up and operates is geared towards extroversion, and that does have consequences, for better or worse. And I would argue we are already seeing some of those consequences, for better or worse.

Think about it.

No comments:

Post a Comment