Shout if you’re an #introvert

Why avoiding small talk is the new kale


C. Camarena / Image Source / Getty Images

Avoiding small talk is the new kale. That’s right: The trendy bitter green responsible for breakfast shakes that taste like fertilizer was recently eclipsed by a new, less expensive trend called introversion, defined as an “interest inwards toward one’s own thoughts and feelings rather than toward the external world.” An introvert, says American author Susan Cain, in her widely shared TED Talk, “The Power of Introverts” (she also wrote a bestselling book on the subject called Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking), is someone who “recharges” in private; “introverts feel alive when they’re in more low-key environments.” They crave social interaction like everyone else, but in the end, they are most at home alone. Cain’s first inkling that she might fit this profile came when she was nine years old at an overnight camp. She wanted to read a book in peace and quiet, but her overbearing counsellor—arguably the most formidable breed of extrovert—thwarted that plan with a highly obnoxious, misspelled cabin letter-cheer of r-o-w-d-i-e! Cain made it her mission to preach the value of those who cherish their alone time, and in turn she launched a movement: books, blogs, and most recently, a torrent of Internet quizzes that seek to determine whether or not you are introverted. (Hint: You probably are.)

Cain claims that one-third of the world’s population is introverted. I wouldn’t be surprised, though, if that were a severe underestimation, because if the current social media zeitgeist is any indication—my own Facebook newsfeed in particular—almost everyone I know is now an introvert. In fact, it’s nearly impossible to avoid the distinction.

According to one of the most popular introversion pieces circulating on the Internet this month, a Huffington Post article called “23 signs you’re secretly an introvert,” you may be a member of the world’s fastest growing club if you “find small talk incredibly cumbersome,” “networking makes you feel like a phony,” “you’re easily distracted,” “downtime doesn’t feel unproductive to you,” and, my personal favourite, if “on the subway you sit at the end of the bench—not in the middle.”

Considering the breadth of the criteria, Cain may want to re-evaluate the introvert/extrovert distinction and go for something a little more succinct. Maybe: Richard Simmons, and everyone else.

As one young woman put it, after posting a recent article on the joys of introversion to her Facebook profile: “Having a glass of wine in the bath alone. #Introvert.” (Apparently, this is the mark of a loner in the modern age.)

It seems as though the core tenet of modern introversion, beyond social fatigue, is telling anyone and everyone as much about yourself as possible. Perhaps the closest we can get to privacy in a hyper-connected era is claiming we have some. Maybe the recent spark in introversion’s popularity is actually its death rattle.

Beyond the chimera of alone time though, it’s no wonder everybody wants to be an introvert. According to Cain, introverts get better grades, are more knowledgeable and make exceptional leaders. To be introverted is to be in good company—theoretically, of course. “Darwin took long walks in the woods and emphatically turned down dinner party invitations,” says Cain. Forty per cent of CEOs are apparently introverts. Donald Trump, for all we know, is an introvert. It is the ubiquitous condition. Sometimes even I wonder, when inching away from a pungent stranger on a bus, or curling up with a good book after Dexter, if I fit the fashionable mould. And then I remember the last time I hoped a diagnosis would render me special.

In high school I was plagued with anxiety attacks punctuated by a brief period of déjà vu; a sign, said the Internet, that I was suffering from petit-mal seizures. I told my dad, who, while skeptical about the source of my diagnosis, indulged its potential veracity long enough to tell me that if it was any consolation, some of the world’s great minds suffered from epilepsy: Julius Caesar, Napoleon, Alexander the Great. “Some people call it the ‘royal disease,’ ” he told me. I saw a neurologist. It turned out I smoked too much pot.

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Shout if you’re an #introvert

  1. A shallow, silly trend if there ever was one. There have always been introverts and extroverts. Only recently has advertising one’s introversion to the world become popular. So popular in fact that now extroverts are publicly declaring themselves introverts.

    • Agreed. I never thought of introversion as a growing club. Plus, I thought the dividing line was pretty simple. Recharged by being alone = introvert, recharged by people = extrovert.

    • ..And we introverts will not say a thing about it.

  2. Emma, there is something I have always wanted to ask an introvert. As an extrovert, I just speak out when I want to something. Do introverts have a compulsion to speak out but keep quiet or is there no desire at all to speak out and is it difficult when someone asks you for your opinion?

    • Well as an introvert, I always think a lot before I say anything. In every single discussion I’ve ever been a part of, I don’t speak until I have something significant to contribute to the discussion. I mentally build up points I know will be important for others to know, and then I speak up. I’m not compulsive and I don’t ever just say the first thing that comes to mind until I know exactly what I want to say.

      • Thank you.

  3. Being an extrovert is a major job requirement for politicians, so we don’t get any thoughtful intellectuals in office.

    • Pondering your 7,699 useless comments posted up here I can’t decide what it is you might be. So here’s a multiple choice quiz.
      Emily is:
      a) an introvert
      b) an extrovert
      c) a lunatic
      d) an absurdity

      Help us out here Emily

    • How do you explain Steven Harper – hardly an extrovert?

      • Some people say Canada is a country of introverts

        • Whereas the US is a country of extroverts. What a difference it makes.

          We probably need a Hollywood….otherwise the only two ways to be famous in Canada is to be a hockey player or a politician.

          • Oh I don’t know Emily.

            All you do is come here and drool all over the blogs and you’re famous.

            7,706 and counting Emily. Can’t get much more famous than that.

      • He came after Stock Day, so Cons were probably extroverted out by then…..LOL

        That kind of thing won’t fly in the rest of Canada, so they went for Steve….he’s an introvert on the outside, and an extrovert on the inside. Note the wild attack ads…..the willingness to say and do anything to win.

        • You’re wound up pretty tight on this “Cons” business Emily. We’d all forgotten about Stockwell Day or Stock Day as you call him..

          Maybe you should get some help Emily. It looks like you might have obsessive compulsive disorder and that can really muck you up.

          I know a guy who had it and he posted over 8,000 stupid comments to a grocery store advertising flyer before they got it under control.

          • At least she’s talking about the subject and sharing her convictions instead of just criticizing and slandering other commenters. What is your problem? And what’s stranger: posting comments about issues you care about on an internet forum or posting comments about people whom you don’t like (who post on internet forums) on internet forums?

          • Clearly you are not aware of the long and sordid history of Emily on these threads. She has effectively chased away any sort of legitimate “sharing of convictions” with her incessant, nonsensical postings, usually on subjects about which she is clueless.

          • And replying to her with insults will help?

          • No, but it’s great fun.

          • I’m glad you proved my point. Thanks for your useful and informed comments; I’m sure they’re worth the server space they occupy!

          • You’re a cheerful little tinker aren’t you?

          • Take a look at the thread under the article Degree or Disagree. 176 comments last time I checked, many of them contributing to the discussion. Then there is Emily accusing anyone who dared to express an opinion different from her own as either Soviet, (yes, ‘Soviet’), misogynist, anti-education, anti-intellectual, anti-science, or just a total failure. Also take care to note the only commenters who agree with her. (Hint: they tend to be the most juvenile, spiteful, poorly-written, inarticulate of posts). Then come back here and defend her, if you still wish to do that. I’m guessing after reading that thread, you’ll be cured of that impulse.

          • I’m referring to this thread as is appropriate for a comment in this thread. And in this thread it is Mordant who is the offending party , and you too, to the extent that you jumped in to defend him and insult Emily .

          • Ah, I see the problem here. You are viewing this thread in isolation. I can see how, in doing so, we look like a bunch of schoolyard bullies picking on poor old Emily. But stick around for awhile. Better yet, check out some older threads. You’ll see how this situation came about.

          • I hear you and you seem like a perfectly reasonable man/woman, but I still don’t see anything valid, fruitful, or even remotely true in anything mordant has posted.

          • Emily makes every effort to discuss topics Emily always sources facts. Emily gets attacked for that.

            Emily is disliked by Cons….who like to ‘share convictions’ without anyone being allowed to disagree……..and who keep up a barrage of complaints…..because the facts are so often against them. LOL

          • When you dismissed sleep apnea as “another fake disease” yesterday, were you making every effort to discuss the topic and to source facts? That’s not what most of us would consider discussing a topic and sourcing a fact. Most of us would consider that a flippant, mindless comment on a topic with which you have zero familiarity. No problem. I’ve made more than my share of flippant, mindless comments. I sure as hell don’t try to dress them up as meaningful discourse.

            Don’t confuse the handful of apologists and defenders you’ve gained here at Macleans for anything approaching intellectual legitimacy. You have none. Nothing wrong with that. I don’t have any legitimacy as an “intellectual” either. I just don’t feel the need to pretend otherwise.

          • Nope…..I gave an opinion. Not everything is a legal white paper you know. LOL

            And do stop being silly….it’s just makes people cringe.

          • Ah yes, and when someone had the audacity to challenge your “opinion” with a thoughtful post based on personal experience, you responded with this gem:

            Show me the deaths…. or roll over.

          • LOL same as asking for a source

            Play at Miss Manners with somebody else.

          • It’s an internet forum dude, not a peer reviewed journal. Intellectual legitimacy has no relevancy here. However, a little civility would be much appreciated.

          • I’ve had many civil exchanges, all on record here at Macleans if you cared to check. My civility has limits.

          • Emily are you sure you’re all right.

            Whether you know it or not, right now you’re referring to yourself in the third person and that’s bit crazy wouldn’t you say. Richard Nixon used to do it and he was a psychotic maniac.

            And I have to say as crazy as was Richard Nixon he couldn’t hold a candle to you. There’d have been no 7,754 crazy postings on here from Richard Nixon. You’ve done about 80 since yesterday when you’re count was at 7,677.

            Get help buddy, you’re losing it.

          • Do you know what Richard Nixon did? A hell of a lot worse than expressing his opinion I can tell you that.

          • Well “she’s” all yours. But listen here wabbit, be vewy vewy careful because it might not be a she.

          • And that’s relevant how? You’ve just clearly demonstrated that you’re nothing but a sexist pig, who gets his kicks by insulting others.

          • Well gee, did I miss something?

            This he/she business has always been relevant up to now. The world turns on it. Even the daffodils know about it.

            So what kind of garbage have these big 300 pound NDP kindergarten teachers been loading you up with?

          • Thanks for proving my point again bigot, and Emily’s point about you being a con. Two birds, one stone. Be proud!

          • What point would that be?

            It’s a pretty useless endeavour to run around screaming that you’ve had your point proven when you’ve failed to state your point in the first place.

            So spit it out pie face, state your point. What was proven here?

          • Sorry; thought you could read. Point: you’re a sexist pig

          • Well, you dropped the civility pretty fast.

          • like begets like :)

        • …he’s an introvert on the outside, and an extrovert on the inside.

          Not possible. Extroversion, by its very nature, cannot be kept inside. That is counter to the very definition of extroversion. As usual, you are typing gibberish.

          • As usual you display no understanding of imagination, explanations, humour or even English.

          • Certainly requires imagination. I’ll agree with that much.

          • It’s an analogy. You know exactly what she means and in fact she gives an example in the next lines. Could be he’s an introvert with a deeper desire to be an extrovert that drive him to do questionable things. That’s the impression I got from the comment.

          • Thank you! Cons pretend….or maybe they really think that way….that they can’t possibly understand what is being said…..so therefore it’s my fault. LOL

          • It’s not just “Cons” who have expressed dismay over your posts lately. You’ve been warned about your increasingly erratic and contradictory statements by numerous commenters from across the political spectrum.

          • Yeah, it’s just Cons.

            Libs, Dips and Greens don’t do anything of the sort.

            They are more civilized.

          • Lord Kitchener’s Own, Thwim, and others have expressed their exasperation with you in the past. They aren’t “Cons”. Yet your tone remains supercilious, while your posts remain void of real content.

          • People disagree. Get over it.

          • And when they disagree with you, they’re anit-intellectual, anti-science, or just misogynist.

          • Oooh gawd…how dweadful

            I call someone who’s anti-science just that….and it’s Armageddon.

            Other posters use profane insults….I don’t.

            It’s a free country. I have an opinion. You gonna survive or you wanna go cry?

          • Is that “dweadful” as in Barbara Walters or “dweadful” as in Elmer Fudd

            Maybe you could let us know at the beginning of the day whether you’ll be posting as a boy or a girl.

            It’s been pretty confusing since you told us the other day you like to switch around.

          • Wanting to be an extrovert and being one are two different things.

          • Precisely, I do believe Harper is a natural introvert who has forced himself (with much coaching) to act more like an extrovert because of job requirements. And the results are not always graceful or pretty. A fish out of water comes to mind. That is a far cry from Emily’s twisted explanation.

          • Some politicians are naturally extroverted, some have to force it – Harper is definitely in the forced category. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it has to be stressful for him.

          • I disagree; I think that, like a lot of introverts, Harper has a deep desire for absolute control over other people. It’s not stressful; it’s ideal. He’s in a position where he can be as introverted as he likes (personally) while still dominating the public discourse.

          • You’re confusing Harp with Kathleen McWhinnie and I can promise you they’re totally different in the “vert” department.

          • Is that what you think of “a lot of introverts”? That they are secretly control-freaks? How very limited and simple-minded to reach such a conclusion.

          • I think that a lot of people who are disenfranchised have drive for control. It’s not a blanket statement, but the powerless tend to strive for power.

          • Another arm chair psychologist. How do you know Harper has a deep desire to control other people? Because the MSM says so? Look at his wife – a motorcycle mama who was raised on a ranch. That doesn’t speak control freak to me. Harper has to control his caucus because the MSM jumps all over every comment they make.

          • It’s just what I see. He tries to control far more than just his caucus: from unions to researchers to the regular operation of parliament. If you see differently, I’m happy to hear why.

            And I don’t know what MSM stands for.

          • Introverts tend to have control issues – where did you pick that idea up?

          • Personal experience and common sense (or deduction if you prefer). If you feel otherwise, I’m happy to hear why, but honestly I’m beginning to get the impression that you’re not interested in the slightest in having a real conversation.

          • So suggest a better way that she could phrase her comment, since you’ve clearly demonstrated that you know what she meant, or ask for clarification, if you didn’t. That way everyone learns and the level of discourse is improved. Instead you just threw the discourse in the mud. Thanks!

          • We’re not sure this Emily thing is a “she.” It might be just a computer program that comes on here and makes stupid remarks.

            Over in the Liberal party some of their activists visit charitable organizations and make speeches for which they charge a fee.

            Because it doesn’t fit the Liberal image, we don’t believe they keep this money themselves. We believe they donate it to a type of internet research that builds Emily robots that go out to the newspaper sites and scream “bigot” at everyone who posts something.

          • Oh so you’re a paranoid conservative with conspiracy theories. That explains a lot.

          • What an odd thing to say. Why would you refer to it as a conspiracy theory?

            Why is it a conspiracy theory to believe that the Liberal activists aren’t out there fleecing charities and keeping the money for themselves?

          • You have demonstrated to me that your comments do not warrant response. You live on a plane that transcends rational debate. Have a good life!

          • You know, I think that charities thing has been beaten to death, then beaten into a pulp, then beaten some more. It’s probably best to just leave it at that. He won’t do it again (bad optics moreso than ethics) and if he does, well we can all have some fun with it.

          • RR, we have too many problems with the type of people seeking high office.

            Harper and whatever the hell his party is are roaming the world with my cheque book and given the fact of them sucking away on terrorist Omar Khadr, the sight of them makes me sick.

            Friday we’ve got Hudak and Shurman with such poor decision making that for a lousy $20,000 they’ve likely ruined their chance of being able to drive out McWhinnie, a total absurdity being rammed down our throats by the wacky liberals.

            We’re saddled with the fools at the NDP who insisted on a $500,000 state funeral for a jackass degenerate picked up by the police as a naked found-in at a massage parlour.

            And here we have an Emily flack screaming out bigot and racist to anyone opposed to a Trudeau entry onto the scene.

            Well I’m not having it and I’m going to remind them of how stupid he is every chance I get.

            The people like Emily who make these attacks are professional paid agitators and we need, as a member of society to ridicule and refute them every chance we get. You’re good at it.

            Kevin or Dylan or Hairbrain, whatever the young paid snot’s name is, has no rebuttal, was intellectually incapable of spinning it any longer and had to quit. You don’t get much for a lousy two bucks an hour

          • Sorry to butt into the conversation but my thought is that Emily is a ‘bot. I’ve tried arguing with her and you can actually get her to argue against her original points. This is why I ignore any comments she makes after mine.

          • No, no thanks.

            I’ve thought to myself it was sometimes taking contradictory positions on a broad scale but I haven’t noticed it arguing against itself in the same thread but then I haven’t been looking for that either. So thanks.

            I’ve been wondering if it’s a bot that searches out spots to inject a piece of inanity, does so and then alerts an operator to follow up.

            Whatever it is, it’s engaged in some sort of political shenanigans, or being tested for that, because although it’s benign nonsense most of the time it consistently takes extreme positions on Harper, First Nation issues, terrorists and Rob Ford.

          • Yes, I’ve seen that happen many times. She’ll argue one thing, then when you make a counterpoint, she’ll turn around and take up the opposite side of the argument. When you point out the fact that she is now contradicting a statement she made 10 minutes before, you get the “Ciao!” Sometimes she’ll sneak in the accusation of misogyny first. It’s a bizarre experience.

            Perhaps we’re all being played. Maybe she’s been hired to incite heated discussions which in turn generates more traffic on the site. Kind of like a market maker in the options pit – they’ll take the opposite side of any bid or offer just to generate liquidity.

          • I don’t need to prove anything to you. I have civilly asked Emily for clarification or expansion of her points many times. Try it yourself sometime and see how rewarding that is.

            I engage in many interesting online discussions with civility and respect.

            I also have exchanges with Emily. Seldom do I mistake one for the other.

          • I find her writing to be kind of incoherent but easy enough to decipher what she’s thrusting at, so I wouldn’t ask her for clarification (because I don’t think it would get clearer). Emily isn’t the most eloquent or subtle of writers, but that means I either do not respond or I spin her ideas into my own topic (as you did), which is perfectly acceptable, but why throw the insults when you borrowed the inspiration for your post from her?

            And honestly, you don’t have to prove anything to anyone here. You could act just like Emily or Mordant. But some people have values, integrity; they want to prove something to themselves.

          • Sorry; thought you could read. Point: you’re a sexist pig

          • Point out where I said anything sexist. This should be interesting. I’m starting to suspect that you are nothing more than Emily posting under another name. A boy’s name no less. Thus our “confusion” over her gender.

          • Not intended for you; mobile glitches. Apologies

          • I see that now. My apologies in kind.

          • You filthy scofflaw. It’s against the law to drive around in your car banging away on your tweeter with a toothpick.

            Or maybe you’re on your bicycle eh? Well be careful because Jack Layton was doing the same thing on his bicycle when he crashed into a newspaper box and put himself into the hospital. He was on the way to one of his weddings at the time.

  4. I took the test once. I thought of myself as an introvert, but scored right in the middle of the scale, neither intro nor an extro — just a ‘vert.

    To my surprise, the assessor asked me if I thought an introvert was generally a smarter person than an extrovert. For sure, I answered, but he then proceeded to say I was prejudiced toward extrovert and that IQ did vary with introversion and extroversion.

    Since I am neither, I don’t care, but would like to tell all selfish, self-centered people they are not really introverts if the reason they hardly ever get out of their personal bubble is self-absorption.

    Let’s face it, with all the monster fame/w_oring, the Facebook/Twitter/Instagram unholy trinity, and the armies of zombie smartphone clutching people walking around seemingly hypnotized, there are likely plenty of false introverts walking around.

    I’d also like to know if introverts are not by any chance major eExtrovert online — sure would confirm years and years of empirical research.

    • An omnivore is neither pure carnivore or pure herbivore, but right in the middle. I propose we call those in the middle of introversion and extroversion omniverts. It makes so much sense, maybe someone has beaten me to it? I’ll have to Google it.

      • or maybe ambiverts if they go both ways?

  5. Reminds me of how it’s also fashionable to claim to be a nerd, now.

    • Spot on Andrew!

    • Reminds me of some graphitti I saw spray-painted on the side of a burned out church on St. Anne’s road in Winnipeg about 15 years ago: HONK IF YOU’RE AMISH.
      Of course, the author of the graphitti spelled it something like “HONK IF YOUR OMISH”, (and really, what would you expect from an idiot running around with a can of spray paint?) but I thought it was humourous anyway.

  6. I’m sure Mr. Simmons enjoys a glass of wine in the bath occasionally as well.

  7. Chances are if you are posting constantly about yourself on social media, you aren’t an introvert. The introverts are probably the people who have been on your friends list/following you/whatever for five years and have never posted a status update. Maybe they’ve posted few pictures (probably not with them in it) or something.

    I think if you’re looking at that “23 signs you’re secretly an introvert” list and find one or two that hit you, you’re probably not an introvert. At most, you’re maybe an extrovert with some introvert tendencies. If you’re hitting 20 of those signs, then you’re probably an introvert. Then again, if you’re an introvert, chances are you already know it and don’t need to take a quiz to confirm it.

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