Do we live in an extrovert’s world?

When things slowed down during lockdown this was a question that played on my mind. As a mix of a ‘social’ and ‘thinking’ introvert’ I very much need solitude to recharge and give me time to get lost in my thoughts every once in a while. You can see a definition of four types of introversion in this article here. There is a line at the start of the article which states, …’extroverts…thrive in highly stimulative social environments’. I would say I often do too, but only if you give me enough balance to hide away when I want to, and have time for much needed introspection.

The break from the norm over the past couple of years made me realise how loud the world can be. Morning commutes on public transport where so many commuters think we all want to listen to whatever they are watching/listening to on their phones (last week I was treated to a recording of a student’s lecture on the way to work). And then there is the open plan office environment which can quickly descend into a pit of noise. I did really begin to miss the social interaction of office life (and it is very important in my service delivery to clients), but I am still so grateful for moments of quiet on busy days where I need to focus on research and tasks. I wouldn’t enjoy my job if I didn’t enjoy meeting and engaging with people, but on a recent training workshop I was reminded that the level of ‘active listening’ I do in my day job can be tiring! And some quiet time is so important.

Talking to young people throughout lockdown also gave me new sympathy for those who actually breathed a sigh of relief and enjoyed escaping from the over-whelming ‘noise’ and social interactions in schools, and those who had left school were grateful for some new options where they were able to log in to online courses , taking the pressure off if they were having a bad day and didn’t want to leave the house.  There is the other side of the coin of course too, where lack of social interaction and ability to have the freedom to live life was not welcome.

I also have sympathy for the growing expectations from employers in interviews, with assessment centres (when in person), often incorporating group tasks and role-play scenarios (do extroverts even enjoy these?).

I’m not saying a ‘quiet’ world is necessarily preferable over a loud world; but it would be nice to sometimes have more of an equal balance.

In my writing life I am forever grateful for the skills I developed when training to become, and then work, as a careers adviser. Writers I suspect often fall into the introvert category, as we need time and space to escape into our own imaginative worlds, and the work by nature often requires sitting alone in solitude. (I’m saying ‘often’, as I know some writers actually prefer to sit in cafes with some background noise and people around.)

When writers then release their work out into the world, there can be the expectation to magically turn into a ‘performer’; talking and presenting and delivering engaging workshops in front of multiple audiences. I soon got lots of practice of how to be a ‘performer’ in my early years as a careers adviser where I had to hold the attention of teenagers during multiple talks and workshops. Fast forward to my debut novel release and I suddenly realised how lots of my skills transferred when I put on my ‘author hat’ to engage with young people. And even if the thought of standing in front of hundreds of young people is still nerve wracking, each and every event has been enjoyable – even the one where the IT system broke down just as I was about to deliver a power point presentation to the whole of second year. (Another thing I learned from the day job – always be prepared to adapt pre-prepared sessions!)

Even the way writers engage with audiences online is becoming much more ‘extrovert’ and ‘performative’. Writing blogs such as this is something I enjoy, and I think used to be more of a ‘thing’ in the writing community. Now this form seems over-shadowed by visual and spoken content on Instagram, Youtube channels, Podcasts and of course #Booktok. I referred to TikTok in a previous post where I talked about my hesitancy of this world. I like the idea of trying to put together creative videos (and I am a fan of ‘visuals’ as well as words), but not when it’s me talking to the camera!

Every time I watch TikTok or read about social media ‘influencers’ who have millions of followers, I can’t help thinking about Andy Warhol’s quote ‘In the future everyone will be world-famous for fifteen minutes’ (you can read an old post of mine where I talk about how Andy Warhol’s philosophies influenced my YA mystery Follow Me here).

These days I think it’s more like fifteen seconds, Andy.

I’m sure he would have risen to the challenge…