No, you are not introverted

Extroverts are energised by social interactions, introversion are energised by solitude and ambiverts are in the between. The extroversion-introversion continuum is all about how you gain and lose your energy. It literally has nothing to do with how socially inept you are, how anti-social you are and whether you have anxiety or not.

If you love solitude, don’t envy party animals, but you still can be sociable with the right crowd or adequate amount of energy, then you are definitely an introvert. You enjoy interactions, but they can be draining in excess.

If you are envious of outgoing people and wish you can be just like them, then you are definitely not an introvert. You are an extrovert shackled either by social anxiety or social ineptitude.

I know I am an introvert because social anxiety and awkwardness never make me solitary; social interactions never give me panic attacks and my poor social skills do not stop me from interacting with people I like or interacting for practical purposes. Not to mention that I never envy other people’s outgoingness. If anything, not only I find their lifestyles jarring, I have always hated how I was constantly forced to denounce solitary life.

They may be ignorant people who are willing to learn; in some cases, they indeed are. But, I don’t believe ignorance is the only culprit here. The more I hear anti-introversion comments, the more I take heed of the prejudice.

Despite having been informed of what introversion actually is and how to distinguish it from social awkwardness, social anxiety and even anti-social personality disorder, some people refuse to acknowledge its validity as a personality trait. Interestingly, they are never explicit about this.

Their mouths say they acknowledge introversion’s validity. But, from time to time, we still catch them claiming that introverts secretly want to be extroverted, that we secretly prefer social situations over solitude. Worse, they even still perceive symptoms of social anxiety and poor social skills as signs of introversion.

Maybe those people are still consciously anti-introversion; they lie about it because they don’t want to any (deserving) backlashes. Maybe their sentiment is subconscious; they genuinely believe they are accepting of introverts, not realising acceptance requires more than verbal expressions.

Either way, contrary to the words coming from their face hole, they still believe that people like them are the default normal, mentally sound people. They still believe that solitude is an inherently bad thing, simply because it is not for them.

And, no matter how hard they try to hide them, their true sentiments manage to seep through and will always do.

This is a bigger deal than it seems.

If you are already a self-accepting, empowered introvert, you would not be affected. But, what if you aren’t? What if you are still an impressionable and insecure introvert who does not know that introversion is a legitimate personality trait?

I definitely was one. Despite the fact that I was able to socialise on my own accord, I was made to believe there was something wrong with me; I genuinely thought my love of solitude was a symptom. If it wasn’t for internet and its bountiful introversion-related content, it would have taken a lot longer for me to reach self-acceptance.

And yes, I believe how those people treat introverts is an example of bigotry.

Dehumanising your fellow human beings and making them hating themselves simply because of their trivially “undesirable” traits. How is that not bigoted?

Oh and I am never tired saying this: the COVID pandemic has proven how much of a liability extroversion can be. If it wasn’t for extroversions who felt entitled to parties, the outbreak would have been more manageable. Extroverts can also be damaged people.

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As an introvert, the pandemic has finally affected me… in a bad way

No, I don’t miss large social situations.

I know some extroverts insist that, deep down, introverts prefer large social situations over solitude. Of course, they are stupid because that’s the exact opposite of what introversion is. They still believe “true introverts” are damaged, even though some extroverts’ willingness to risk public health for the sake of partying shows they are not immune from damage.

In fact, many introverts (who are free from financial problems) use the opportunity to be free from burdensome social “duties”. If it wasn’t for the adversities, I would have used a more celebratory tone.

I don’t miss the crowds. But, I do have to admit: I have developed a new anxiety.

Before the pandemic, I only had one reason to hate social gatherings: just like any introverts, I found them mentally grueling. Speaking for myself specifically, the less I was familiar with the people, the more exhausted I would end up.

And now, not only I still find them hectic, I also perceive them as potential disease incubator; considering a pandemic can last for years and there is always a potentiality for another one, I doubt my fear would dissipate soon.

Never mind encountering actual crowds. Even the sight of one in a goddamn video makes me anxious. They have become doubly stressful.

No, this does not prove extroverts’ inherent superiority. Let me remind you that some of them help spreading the disease. It shows extroversion’s liability in crises like this.

My point is I was a bit too assured about mentally surviving the pandemic, thinking introversion immunised me. Fortunately, like the one I have been having for years, this new anxiety is not crippling; I can live my daily life with ease.

But, it is a problem nonetheless.

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Dear proud sociable, extroverted people…

Why bother taking pride in being ones if you still don’t know how to be mindful?

No, don’t pretend you know how to when I have seen how cringeworthy you are towards other people.

I may be awkward. But, I am still socially adept enough to realise I have committed so many faux pas. Meanwhile, the sociable extroverts around me constantly commit equally as many without realising or feeling guilty about it.

And here are the list of those many faux pas:

Talking while chewing.

Talking in places where noises are understandably a nuisance.

Breaking personal boundaries.

Boasting about wealth and status.

Seeing wealth and lineage as indicators of our worth as human beings.

Being self-righteous about how cultured and/or virtuous you are.

Dismissing other people’s experiences just because you don’t share them.

Seeing grades as a sign of intelligence.

Unable to accept even the most trivial differing opinions.

Accepting stereotypes as facts.

Mistaking confidence and arrogance with each other.

Thinking bullying and teasing are the same thing.

Loving to insult people and yet hating it when they retaliate.

Lacking empathy and seeing it as a weakness.

Unable to take No for an answer.

Thinking being rational is the same as lacking empathy.

Unable to detect the most obvious sarcasm.

Claiming bootlicking as a sign of sound mental health.

Thinking the rich suffer as much/more than the poor.

Thinking the rich represent the common people better than the poor do.

Willing to sacrifice others for your own selfish sake.

Unable to see the greyness of human beings.

Unable to understand introversion.

I put the last three on the bottom because I want to discuss them further.

So many extroverts like you are incapable of accepting that not everyone is just like you. You genuinely believe you are the definition of normal and introverts are the damaged ones.

Your shallowness compel you to think in extremes. For you, we are either 100% sociable or 100% anti-social. It does not matter if we have a healthy regular dose of human interactions; if we don’t do small talks or we love solitude, you will see us as those who are incapable of connecting with fellow human beings.

Oh, and don’t forget one thing: you are willing to break health protocols in the middle of fucking pandemic -making the disease even harder to control- in the name of socialising.

You have proven that just because you love interacting with fellow human beings and have interacted with millions of them, that does not mean you know how to behave mindfully in their presence and that does not mean you understand human nature at its core.

I just wish you admit that you are nothing but a bunch of damaged, overrated fucks.

I thought the pandemic would be your rude awakening, forcing you to start appreciating solitude and stop overvaluing social interactions. But then, I shouldn’t expect much from damaged, overrated fucks.

Oh, and don’t blame me if the foul-smelling shoes fit.

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Holidays during the pandemic

If they hold deep spiritual meanings for you, then no festivities needed. Pure and simple.

I mean, why should you? If they are indeed spiritual, shouldn’t you be able to cherish them by yourselves? Isn’t spirituality -which is all about cherishing the connection with one’s self (and one’s God)- inherently solitary in nature?* If you are truly spiritual, shouldn’t you spare some of your time for a bit of solitude?

Some of you may argue holidays are the times to bond with each other. But, the thing is you can bond at any other times! You can bond during meal times, work breaks, daily commutes, exercises, imprisonment, urinating, you name it. Literally all you need is the presence of compatible human beings, that is it!

Some of you may also argue that holidays are meant to be adorned with festivities. But, this argument also does not make sense because partying can be done at any other times as well! Party animals have shown you that celebrations can happen anytime and anywhere!

In fact, this excuse is even more infuriating because they defend their hedonism under the guise of meaningfulness. I love me some indulgence. But, I never try to frame mine as something profound. It is supposed to be carnal and shallow, for god’s sake! It is supposed to keep us in tune with the mortal plane!

I have been having this frustration for years. But, this year, it has escalated because people think those excuses are worth breaking life-saving health protocols!

The only problem I have with this writing of mine is how long-overdue it is. I could have written it months ago. But, somehow, I choose to write it now…. almost a year into the pandemic.

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*Yes, it is admittedly a very biased definition of spirituality and may come across as sanctimonious. But, I base it on my observations of how people I have met -both religious and non-religious, both theists and non-theists- describe their spiritual lives.

Virtually all of the personal accounts share one common denominator: they perceive spirituality as an act of communing with one’s self, with or without the presence of the almighty. It is all about determining their places within the universe.

Yes, my definition is far from perfect. But, at least, it is way less shallow than the ones that liken it to religiosity or feelgoodism.

I perceive spirituality as a solitary endeavour because those personal accounts reveal contemplativeness and, you know, contemplation requires solitude.

There is no arguing about that. How can you reflect if you let yourselves distracted? No, you don’t have to live as a hermit; in fact, I think that is a bit too extreme.

But, you certainly have to be alone with your minds…. and, if you are theistic, alone with your God(s).

Me being a captain obvious.

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The internet makes us more ‘isolated’… so what?

Let’s be honest with ourselves: not every social interaction psychologically benefits us.

As an introvert, I hate small talks. If I am the one who starts a conversation, it means I am genuinely interested in its topic. For me, small talks are only useful if you want to please anyone who can make your life financially and/or professionally better. A small talk only for the sake of it gives a delusion of bonding.

Many Indonesians see small talks as borderline virtuous acts… and yet, the Indonesian term for small talk is ‘basa basi’ and ‘basi’ means ‘rotten’ or ‘outdated’. I don’t know why we describe something we love with such spiteful adjective. Maybe we take pride in being ‘rotten’ and ‘outdated’. Who knows?

Oh, and don’t forget that toxic people exist. Despite the financial and professional leverage, every single interaction we have with them is and will always be psychologically hazardous. If you believe there is no such thing as toxic interactions, you have to claim that toxic people don’t exist!

And when I say ‘isolated’, I mean it in a physical sense.

Whether you believe it or not, what we do online still count as social interactions. Even though the most objective definitions of ‘social’ and ‘interaction’ say nothing about being online or offline, it is still ingrained in our collective psyche that physical closeness determines the quality of the bonding, compelling us to ignore the superficiality and toxicity of actual offline relationships.

If we are shown a photo of a family or a group of friends using their phones, most of us would be heartbroken. I, on the other hand, would laugh at you abnormally fragile crybabies.

Even if I dismiss the soundness of online relationships, so what if they are on their phones? How do you know that one image is a representative of their entire life together?

Many people fail to comprehend that you can be active both online and offline… just like how they fail to comprehend that you can condemn Islamic extremism and anti-Muslim bigotry at the same fucking time (seriously, both Muslims and non-Muslims don’t fucking get this)!

What if we are told the people in the photo stop interacting with each other after acquiring internet access? Most would probably blame it for deteriorating the relationships. But, is it really?

How do they know the relationships weren’t bad in the first place? How do they know the interactions weren’t surface-level or toxic? How do they know internet ‘addiction’ is the root of the disease and not its symptom?

If the offline relationships have been proven to be beyond repair, I don’t see anything wrong about ditching them for the online ones. If anything, the internet ‘addiction’ may have stopped the relationships from deteriorating even further.

One may argue that even if the current offline relationship is not a keeper, we should replace it with an offline one as well. Well, if you are the type of person who is not dignified enough to be reasonably picky with relationships, it is feasible.

But, some people like me should be picky for our own mental sakes.

As an introvert, I need people who respect my innate need of solitude and my distaste of small talks. As a stutterer, I need people who won’t abuse or sneer at me for my defect.

Considering how introversion and stuttering are only found in a small number of people, the average people see me as ‘abnormal’ and, unless you live under a diamond-crusted golden boulder, you know damn well they see anything ‘abnormal’ as nuisances or even dangerous.

So, if I desire pleasant relationships, it is better to go online. Offline, I have to vet every person I encounter and potentially exposing myself to snake venom in the process. Online, unless you are a victim of bullying, the venom is easy to steer clear of.

If there are peer-reviewed studies with replicable results which show how online relationships will never be as fulfilling as the offline ones, I will concede. But, so far, I only encounter brain-dead dribble excreted out of the unwiped ass of extrovertedly-inclined and digital-hating normativity.

Oh, and I now hate those ‘internet corrupts us’ memes. Not only they have become tiresome after seeing them in an ungodly abundance, I also cannot shrug off the hypocrisy of posting and sharing anti-internet memes on the fucking internet. Can’t believe I used to find them profound.

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I initially wanted to talk about having somewhat niche interests because, unlike the so-called ‘real’ world, the internet is where I can easily discover people to share interests with. But, even though my geekiness can be a lightning rod of ridicule, I was never abused for it, thankfully.

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What I learned from the ongoing pandemic

No, I did not learn about governmental incompetence, human selfishness, the flaws of neoliberalism and unwillingness to learn from past mistakes; students of history already know that.

What I learned is that extroversion can be a liability during pandemics.

You have definitely heard about how citizens of various countries do not conform to social distancing. It shows how people with a gregarious personality can have a problem following the advice, which is a governmental ruling in some places.

They love socialising so much, they believe satisfying their desire for it is more important than the collective well-being. Who gives a fuck about the pandemic? I just want to party and pretending to be good friends with anyone!

Growing up, I was shamed into believing that introverts like me were ‘abnormal’ and ‘damaged’ while extroverts were the ‘healthy’ and ‘well-rounded’ ones; it took me years to find out about the truth and attain self-acceptance.

Now, it feels almost sadistically-gratifying to witness how genuinely abnormal and damaged those extroverts are, to witness how those who call us ‘anti-social’ have exposed themselves to be the anti-social ones; if you know what ‘extrovert, ‘introvert’ and ‘anti-social’ actually mean, you would not find anything oxymoronic about ‘anti-social extroverts’.

I respect socially-responsible extroverts for putting public well-being first and sacrificing their love of social interactions.

Incoming dark and potentially-pseudoscientific musing:

If we experience a few more pandemics in the incoming years or even decades, would the incoming human generations become more introverted or more tolerant of introversion?

Obviously, introverts are experts in social distancing; unless resource-depletion is a problem, we can definitely survive pandemics and therefore, passing down our introverted genes.

Socially responsible extroverts will inevitably learn how to appreciate solitude; if they survive the pandemics (and they very likely will), they will be able to procreate and pass down the appreciation to their descendants.

Anti-social extroverts have a high chance of getting terminated in a pandemic; they will get themselves killed either by the diseases or by angry mobs who accuse them of siding with the diseases. If they do survive, they either change their behaviours out of peer pressures or not changing at all, but they will have a harder time passing down their genes because there will be fewer living beings who want to cum with them.

But then, I know extremely little about evolution and natural selection. This will always be my personal and unnecessarily-dark musing.

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Living unsociably

Growing up, I used to be a lot more self-hating.

I hated how I was so unlikable by aggravating every single person I encounter. I hated how I spent too much time alone, reading, listening to music and watching videos, never interested in having a large social circle.

Then, maturity hit me.

One day, I realised that my hatred of my own introversion (not to be confused with shyness) and lack of likability is caused by the shaming I had been constantly receiving for many years, not because those two traits are inherently evil that must be eradicated once for all!

My unlikable nature is indeed irksome to deal with. But, it is a combination of my social ineptitude and non-conformist attitude. You know, two harmless things. The former is something I always try to overcome. The latter is something I am planning to keep; just like introversion, it is considered evil simply because it makes me different from everyone else, not because it actually is.

Oh, and speaking about introversion…

I acknowledge that we need our fellow human beings to live a more complete life. But, we don’t need them in every waking second! You can still have a quality life while spending most of your time alone. ‘Quality’ and ‘quantity’ are two (often) mutually exclusive words. Whether you like it or not, extroverts can also be anti-social (which is different from being asocial)*. Even the most social creatures I know still embrace solitariness from time to time.

Before self-acceptance

In order to avoid the constant shaming, I often tried to act like I was a lovable and outgoing person. You know, faking. It took an emotional toll on me.

Every time I put on the mask of superficial charm and conformity, I was fooling everyone with this phony ‘lovable’ character (and I am sure the most intelligent among them could see past my bullshit). I was being dishonest about my true self. Even though it was not a fitting figure of speech, I often felt like a wolf in sheep’s clothing. I was a fraud, a sinner. Sounds a bit too dramatic. But, that was what I sincerely felt.

This tendency also didn’t solve the problem with my awkwardness. Instead of encouraging myself to overcome it, I preferred to falsely declare its non-existence. That’s like having a bulging tumour on your abdomen and your solution is to wear dark, loose clothing; the more you ignore your problem, the harder it will to triumph over.

Contrary to popular belief, extroversion is not the end-all cure for loneliness. In fact, for people like me, it can either cause or exacerbate the sense of desolation. I am more likely to feel lonely among the crowds than when I am just by myself.

The presence of other beings can make me feel too self-conscious. Not counting my gawky and rebellious personality which already makes me stick out like a sore thumb, many people (especially the petty ones) love to point out my silence which they deem ‘uncomfortably deafening’. I become too mindful of my inability and unwillingness to interact with the piling stacks of homo sapiens.

I constantly dreamed of being someone else.

Reaching self-acceptance

The process itself was gradual. I started to accept my love of solitariness when I was a teen (which coincidentally when I also started to interact more). But, the guilt still lingered and it felt like I was loving a diseased part of myself.

Fast forward to my college years, when I became an internet addict who love to browse ‘trivia’, I added another word into my vocabulary: introversion. For the first time in my life, I accepted that my ‘hermitic’ tendency was not a mental disorder, but a personality trait that every reasonable and receptive individual regard as normal. No longer I see solitude as a vice. But, this journey of self-acceptance is relatively easy to overcome.

Regarding my social ‘charm’, it is still an ongoing issue as awkwardness persistently haunts my life to this day. Escalating the quantity of human contacts does not work for me. So, I try to behave in a palatable manner as naturally as possible.

I have three mottos for my social life: ‘be polite (to strangers, at least)’, ‘wrong someone who wrong you first’ and ‘be honest’. Of course, it is far from perfect. What we consider to be polite and nice is always influenced by our own subjectivity and, for someone who experienced stereotypical Asian upbringing, being honest is easier said than done.

But, at least, this is better than intentionally painting ourselves with false colours.

After self-acceptance

Unsurprisingly, the act of affirming selfhood is and will always be in one’s favour. In my case, there are quite a few of them.

My acknowledgement of introversion as a legitimate personality trait has three effects on me, two of them seem counter-intuitive. First, I recognise the importance of spending some time with your thoughts and feelings; like it or not, they need to be nourished with self-reflection. Second, I appreciate the importance of quality human relationships; no matter how much I love solitude, I still cherish the amicable presence of fellow human beings. Third, I also appreciate extroversion as a legitimate personality trait instead of a festive of noise and smarminess; no longer I see all extroverts as repulsive creatures.

The self-toleration of my social ineptitude compels me to be more vigilant about human behaviours. My past attempts of putting up shows enlighten me of one thing: humans are creatures of falsehood. We will do anything to be the possessors of ‘attractive’ personas, no matter how deceitful they are; it is worth the death of sincerity.

It sounds cynical. But, as I said before, I am being vigilant. Unlike me, many people I know still easily fall for those so-called philanthropists and motivational/spiritual speakers. They are ignorant of how those philanthropists guilt-trip us by constantly bragging about their open-handedness. They are ignorant of how those speakers present anecdotes as objective facts and constantly use fallacies. They don’t realise they are victims of rhetorics.

Oh, and because I merge introversion and vigilance together, I am picky regarding the people in my intimate space. As I get older, I become more restrained about giving personal information. I constantly make sure the people I interact with are not back-stabbers; despite the nastiness of front-stabbers, at least they are blunt about their true nature. As Indonesians would say, I don’t want a snake under my blanket.

But, the best benefit I obtain from the self-acceptance is this: contentment.

I am content about living a relatively solitary life. I am content about my status as a deeply unsavoury individual. I am content about its negative effects on my fate as I would probably have a hard time maintaining careers and networks. I am content about my ‘abnormality’ and I have stopped giving a fuck about what people think of me.

…and the contentment helps to validate my own individuality. No longer I see myself as diseased. Contentment makes me feel more human.

*’Asocial’ is what we use to describe people who avoid social interactions, either out of shyness or lack of interest. ‘Anti-social’ is what we often say to describe sociopaths.

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