As promised, I’m back to talk about the growing culture of introversion and how, in some ways, it is easier than ever to be an introvert. (Thank you, Mr. Internet.) In case you missed Part 1, you can check it out here. Now, onto Part 2!
When I mentioned Susan Cain’s book, Quiet, in Part 1 of this series, it got me to thinking–does the rise of “introvert culture” mean that the world is getting quieter?
I would say no. If we’re speaking metaphorically, I would say that it is getting louder. In many ways, there is more chatter and more noise. Once again, thank you, Mr. Internet. If most introverts really do prefer deeper and more personally connected conversations, then maybe “introvert culture” isn’t so introverted after all.
What do I mean by this? Why am I speaking in riddles and/or contradictions? Why am I asking you so many questions??
Introvert culture, as I have been using the term, refers to 1.) a glorification of qualities associated with introversion, and 2.) and increased number of outlets and tools for communication without physical (or even vocal) interaction. While something like texting does serve introverts well by allowing us to think before we “speak” and avoid face-to-face interaction, it also assumes that people are ready to be contacted at all times. If someone takes more than 5 minutes to respond to a text, we start to wonder why they’re ignoring us. Facebook keeps us up-to-date on our friends lives, but it can also lead to FOMO (fear of missing out), which can make an introvert feel self-conscious about his/her choice to be alone sometimes. Or it can make us feel like we know what’s going on in someone’s life even if we haven’t spoken to them in months.
While the culture of introversion may have given us technology that allow us to order pizzas with the click of a button (which is a glorious thing by any metric–ok, except maybe health), it has also reduced the amount of meaningful contact that we have with others. And aren’t we introverts the ones who want all of our contact with others to be meaningful? We are the ones who famously loathe small-talk, aren’t we?
So, is the culture of introversion actually unfriendly to an introvert? And what about to an extrovert?
Millennials are Not the Worst
First thing’s first–I don’t want anyone to think that I am kids-these-days-ing here. I do not think that texting, Tinder, Seamless, Tumblr, Facebook, and Snapchat are the worst. Nor do I think Millennials are self-centered twits who are out of contact with the older generations. I am a Millennial, as are 99% of my friends.
Older generations have a tendency to think that the younger generations–especially the one’s whose members are currently coming of age–are inferior to their own. But that’s nothing new. Baby boomers worried about Gen Xers; the Lost Generation worried about Baby Boomers. And Millennials will probably be freaking out about Generation Z in a few years. I know I’ve looked at my two-year-old niece operating an iPad and been mildly terrified at her skill.
So no, I do not think that Millennials are killing off our ability to have real conversations or are an overly-sensitive bunch of socialists.
While I do not think that Millennials are losing the ability to communicate, I do recognize that expectations and norms of communication have certainly changed. Once again, this is normal. I don’t think anyone regrets that they haven’t sent a telegram recently. But communication that is ostensibly ideal for introverts–i.e., texting, Facebook, online dating sites–might actually not be giving introverts what they (we) need.
We all know that texting misses a lot of the nuances of a conversation spoken aloud. Even emojis can’t fix that. Plus it just takes a long-ass time to type out any particularly complex thought. Sometimes, if you’re going to have a real conversation, it’s easier to just call.
If you really don’t feel like talking on the phone though, then yeah, texting can be great. But the assumption too often is that even if you can’t take a phone call at the moment, you can answer a text. In class, at work, on a date, during a Law and Order SVU marathon–you’re expected to be accessible and at least mildly social at all times. Not really ideal for an introvert.
Oh the FOMO. In case introverts didn’t already feel guilty enough for selectively eschewing socialization, now we can look at the pictures of everyone having a great time at that party/concert/bar/orgy–in real time. Of course, chances are that not everyone is having the time of their lives; those people just aren’t posting pictures or statuses about how they’d rather be at home in their p.j.s.
I’ve dabbled in Tinder, and while I didn’t hate it, it definitely wasn’t the right venue for me. I have friends who met long-term partners on Tinder; I have friends who hate Tinder and wouldn’t swipe right with a ten foot pole.
On Tinder, you choose to swipe right (the equivalent of a “yes”) or left (a “nope”) based on a few pictures and a couple lines of description, and if your right swipee also swipes you right, then, congrats!–you’re a match! You guys can start up a convo, or you can continue to swipe…and swipe…and swipe…until you realize that 3 weeks have gone by and even though you have 47 matches, you’ve messaged with exactly 2 of them.
The best thing about Tinder is the volume of people you can match with. But that’s also, in my experience and opinion, the worst thing about tinder.
After the Swipe
Sure, the ability to rate people from the comfort of your couch and pretend to be some mysterious, worldly figure, all while eating ice cream and watching Netflix sounds like introvert heaven. However, I know it was hard for me to strike up a conversation with someone knowing next to nothing about them. It didn’t help that, as a heterosexual girl being matched with guys, the guys were doing most of the initiating, and on Tinder, initiating usually consists of a witty, “Hey. Whats up” or if you’re lucky, “Hello lovely.” Nothing wrong with either of these, but they don’t exactly lend themselves to scintillating, deep conversations, especially if you’re as awkward and uncreative as myself.
And of course, many people do use Tinder as a hook-up app. Once again, there’s nothing wrong with that, but if it’s not what you’re looking for, it can add another layer of discomfort to your Tinder usage.
Online Dating in General
I think that the biggest issue with online dating in general is the fact that you start so many conversations with interesting, funny people that never end up going anywhere. Vague plans to “hang out” or “get coffee/drinks” don’t always materialize. There could be many reasons for this: the conversation fizzles, you realize you’re not that into each other, they meet someone else, etc. But I would venture that the number one reason for conversation fizzle-age and loss of interest is that there are just so many options. I mean, Guy A seems really nice and you both love yoga and kombucha, but Guy B has a dog, and Guys C and D are both really hot, and Guys E – Z are out there, waiting to be discovered….
Studies have shown that when you have an abundance of choices, you are less likely to make a decision than when you have fewer choices. With online dating, it’s often too easy to stay in the cycle of browsing profiles, messaging a few people, browsing more profiles, messaging some more people–on and on, without making any real connections or meeting in person.
This all being said, I am a huge fan of online dating, and I have had success with it and met my current boyfriend on OkCupid. My biggest piece of advice to any online daters out there (introvert or extrovert) is to get to an actual, in-person date quickly after mutual interest has been established.
Netflix and Chill
If/when you do meet up with your Tinder buddy, what do you do? “Netflix and chill” is no longer just an interest that people include in their Tinder profiles or an inquiry into what a potential partner feels like doing–there were “Netflix and chill” Halloween costumes this year, for pity’s sake.
Once again, I think this is too much of a good thing. I love Netflix, I love chilling, but I do occasionally get off my couch and do other things. Especially when you first start dating someone, I think it’s important to have experiences and conversations in order to learn about each other. For our second date, my boyfriend and I drove to a nearby town where we spent 12 hours together and had the rough equivalent of 3 dates in one day.
Now, I would not recommend this to everyone–that’s a good way to get yourself stuck in a random town with a random person who you realize you hate after your second hour together, especially if you only take one car, like we did. But we had gotten on well enough on our first date that we felt fairly confident that this wouldn’t happen to us, and we also checked in with each other throughout the day to make sure that the other one wasn’t ready to go home yet. I’m not saying that everyone should make their second date last the length of a day, but I will say that having lots of time to talk and to experience what it’s like to just be out and about with each other was very informative. How your date treats a server says a lot about them, in my opinion.
If you’re looking for a long-term relationship, you can’t live in a bubble forever; no relationship exists in a vacuum. Although, if you do “Netflix and chill” at their place, you will get the opportunity to see if they know how to vacuum. (Buh dum buh.) Also an important thing to consider.
So what do you think? Do you think that the culture of introversion is good for introverts? Is a Quiet-er world actually louder?
Comment here, or tweet @rsuppok to let me know what you think!
Also, if you have any suggestions for a Part 3 to this series, let me know. I wasn’t planning on doing a third one, but I realized that I was again writing an essay and had to stop myself.