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An Introvert Offline is an Introvert Online

Computer-mediated communication doesn't make extroverts of introverts.

I have been ever-so-gently chided for not posting more often. Guilty. I've been busy, and because I have no deadlines here, it just fell off the schedule.

But something else is at play, too, and it's very introvertish: I've had nothing in particular to say, and don't like yammering. We've covered a lot of territory here since my first post, in August 2009. I've had my say, you've had yours, back and forth--I needed to stop and think before continuing the conversation. Just like in real life, I try not to blather.

It's funny how consistent we are between the real and virtual worlds. For the most part, we don't try to lie about who we are, and maybe we can't. Research shows that we mostly present ourselves honestly online (if we're not offline liars, we're probably not online liars), and that people's first impressions of us online and off are remarkably similar. (Here is some research on the subject, and here.)

In many ways, computer-mediated communication--texting, blogging, Facebook--is a godsend for introverts. It gives us control of our airspace, and time to think before we respond. If we choose, we can sit on the sidelines and just watch the party without anyone tugging at our arms. (Happily, we've moved past those irritating FB "pokes.")

Some (many?) of you consider Facebook just another form of mindless chatter. Fair enough. You may fall further along the introversion continuum than I. For me, alone in my home office, FB is like having colleagues in nearby cubicles. We swap one-liners, do a little shop talk, share interesting articles and recipes, commiserate, and cheer each other on. And I can ignore anyone who seems a waste of time. Perfect. I keep FB open in a browser tab all day.

The doomsday scenario about computer-mediated communication is that people will use it to replace face-to-face interaction. Nah. We'll always need face-to-face interaction. If anything, CMC (as the cool kids call it) will replace the telephone. We will simply absorb CMC into our interactions. With the exception, perhaps, of shy people. who may feel emboldened online, we are the same people we are offline, online. Many introverts enjoy CMC, but it doesn't mean we're online extroverts. I blog, I tweet, I FB. I'm all over the place. But like in the offline world, I have my limits.

By the end of a workday, FB voices start giving me the same kind of tiredhead I get at a party or after a stretch of face-to-face social engagements. Sometimes I find myself getting annoyed when people comment on my status lines, which is silly. If you're going to be an exhibitionist, you have to expect people to look. Then I know it's time to shut down the dog-and-pony show. Sometimes just a night off is enough, sometimes I need a weekend. When I'm traveling and have little time for FB, I have that same feeling of surprised relief you get when a noise you hadn't been aware of suddenly goes quiet.

An introvert offline is an introvert online. I don't accept friend requests from everyone on FB (so please don't friend me--though feel free to join me on Twitter). I take a while to warm to new virtual friends. I hide people who bore me. Sometimes I want Twitter to just shut the hell up. And I prefer not to post on my blogs unless I have something to say. I haven't said much here recently because I have had nothing to say here recently.

Of course, indulging one's personality is not always wise--such as when one's income is contingent on one's output, as it is for me here. But that's a topic for another day. It will give me something to talk about.

Photo by Brian Lane Winfield Moore via Flickr (Creative Commons).

Copyright 2010 Sophia Dembling


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