Being a ‘social introvert’ can be difficult at times. On the one hand, we love to meet new people, and we love to be around people. But we also require considerable lengths of time alone, in order to recharge.
When it comes to explaining introversion and extroversion, I am especially fond of the X-box analogy: introverts are like wireless X-box controllers. Our batteries are charged by being connected to a power source – alone time – and we can then be used independently, away from the console for a while, until we need to be recharged again. Extroverts, on the other hand, must always remain connected to their power source – human interaction – in order to function properly. Whilst perpetual socialising energises extroverts, it is usually quite draining for us introverts.
There are, of course, a multitude of misconceptions when it comes to the nature of introversion. Introverts are often mistaken for innately unfriendly, ‘boring’, haughty or ‘shy’ individuals. This might be true for some introverts, however many of us are social introverts. This may sound like an oxymoron of sorts, but it simply means that we possess the capacity to thrive in certain social contexts, but without sufficient time alone to recharge, things can turn rather ugly.
When my energy levels are particularly low (be it due to a lack of sleep or food, or simply due to the whimsy of my unpredictable mind) it is a bad idea for me to be present in a stimulating social environment. When I am exhausted, events, parties, and lengthy conversations will do nothing but amplify my exhaustion, until I feel (and look) wholly detached from my surroundings. Even the mere thought of having to constantly register and respond to endless emotional and environmental cues is enough to tire me out sometimes, and this is when I feel the sudden insurmountable urge to go home in order to (in the literal sense) Netflix and chill… but not for too long, as, ironically, the feeling of loneliness is one of the worst feelings imaginable to me.
An introvert’s ‘alone time’ does not always have to take place in complete isolation from the rest of the world. As long as we are given our own space to recuperate and enjoy our own company (in my case, usually with a good film and some take-away) it doesn’t really matter if there are people around us.
For me, when going to school becomes mentally overwhelming, I often rejoice in the forty minutes of ‘alone time’ I have on the train journey back, listening to music and staring blankly out of the window, allowing my random, frenzied thoughts to come and go as they wish, and without being burdened with the need to explain any of them to anyone.