Being introverted means appreciating different kinds of friendships.
I have over 1711 friends on Facebook, but very few of them are my friends in real life. Most of them are what you would call “friendly acquaintances.” Many of their Facebook pages are filled with pool parties, dinner functions, music festivals, awards shows, private film screenings, and sporting events. Their lives seem much more exciting than mine. Most of my Facebook posts are just links to my blog, and they get “liked” by the same people who share photos of parties they never invite me to.
This is the introvert’s dilemma. I don’t like going to parties, but I don’t like being excluded from parties, either. I’m not anti-social, but my style of socializing at a party is to observe, not to participate, which sometimes makes strangers uncomfortable. Sometimes I’ll find one person I feel comfortable with, who’s not part of the group discussion, and talk to them alone…which can come off as “snobbish.” Mimicking the behaviors of an extrovert is off-putting; it feels forced because it is forced.
Still, I look forward to photos from the party emerging on social media so the rest of the world can see how socially connected I am. I feel insecure, even guilty, about my introvertedness, and like to document the few extroverted parts of my social life so I can appear more “normal.” No matter the number of friends I have on Facebook, number of followers I have on Instagram, and the number of “likes” I get on a post, I still feel insecure about the fact that I’m not socially interacting with actual people.
Part of the problem here is that I, like many, have been led to believe that social media friendships are “fake friendships” and therefore carry less value than the “real friendships” that an extrovert has an easy time developing in the “real world.” For introverts like me, social media is not “fake,” it’s a place where we know we can carefully think out our words and say them without being interrupted. It’s a place where we know we can contribute equally to the conversation instead of allowing the more aggressive socializers to dominate it. It’s a place where we can quietly observe others without worrying that we will make others uncomfortable. Some call that “stalking,” but we’re only observing things others have displayed publicly. Would we call someone a “stalker” for quietly observing a person’s loud, drunken antics at a party?
Well, no, but if they observed too intently, we might call them a creep.
For this reason, the “like” button is a useful resource for the introverted and the socially anxious. We don’t have to worry about injecting ourselves into the conversation, but we still have a quiet way of acknowledging that we are part of it. We don’t get to do this in public. In public, the only way to join a conversation is by talking. People who merely stick their thumb up or offer a smiling face without talking will be perceived as “weird.”
I don’t get invited to a lot of parties, and for a long time, I thought this meant people didn’t like me, but when I see all the support and love I get from friends on the Internet, it’s hard for me to believe people don’t like me. The problem is, I’ve bought into this idea that “likeable” people are the ones who garner positive attention in extroverted social settings, whereas I garner mine in introverted settings like social media, blogging, and one-on-one conversations.
Introverts are not anti-social; we just socialize differently. We don’t dislike talking. If anything we like talking too much, which is why a loud nightclubs and parties, where attention spans are fickle, aren’t social settings we thrive in: when we talk, we want to feel heard, and when we listen, we want to feel like our listening is valued.
To an introvert, partying feels shallow and fake, in the same way that Facebook does to extroverts, but it’s not an introvert’s place to judge how an extrovert makes friends any more than it’s an extrovert’s place to judge how an introvert makes friends. Your “party people” are your real friends, and you like it that way; our Facebook friends are our real friends, and we like it that way. It doesn’t mean we mistake Internet for “the real world,” just as you shouldn’t mistake nightclubs for “the real world,” but just as nightclubs enhance your ability to make friendships in the real world, social media helps us to build those same real-world friendships.
In the end, the goals of the introvert and the extrovert are similar, even if the means are different. We want one-on-one romantic relationships, but an extrovert is more likely to meet their partner at a party, while an introvert is more likely to meet theirs on a dating site. We want success in our careers, but an extrovert is more likely to find success working in groups, while an introvert is more likely to find success when given the freedom to work alone. We want close friends, close families, and close professional connections, but I know I’m not going to find those things at a party where I don’t know anyone, just as you know you aren’t going to find them online.
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