How Introverts Can Survive and Thrive on Zoom
The bonding power of digital friendships.
Posted May 10, 2020
We all know homebodies and private people who are delighted with the extent to which professional meetings, as well as social gatherings, have moved online. Many people on the shy side prefer to avoid large, crowded gatherings, finding them overwhelming and draining. Truth be told, many of the rest of us feel the same way. This is also true when it comes to virtual gatherings. Yet in the sense that they have features in common with other social networking sites, virtual social platforms like Zoom may offer a greater benefit to introverts, than extraverts.
No Wallflowers on Zoom
If you are an introvert, it is hard enough to convince you to go out and socialize after a long day of work, when it means going out somewhere and interacting with a group of strangers. Ironically, it can be even more daunting to ask you to join a group of strangers in a Zoom room where everyone is on stage, in the spotlight, at the same time. There is no corner to stand in, no hallway to step out into for a break. There are no wallflowers—because there are no walls. Everyone is face-to-face.
Now add to that dynamic, the new standards of online sharing. In the midst of a pandemic, we are advised to keep to ourselves; but only physically. Zoom meetings, particularly when the theme is social as opposed to professional, usually involve participants being questioned in front of everyone else. Every new arrival is grilled as the bell rings and they appear on the screen, about everything from their screen name, to their appearance (or lack thereof if they have their video muted), to their background. Unless the host assigns break out rooms, even seemingly innocuous questions can make shy users feel like they are in the hot seat.
But here is some good news. Research indicates that at least for introverts, virtual interaction on social networking sites may assist in building rapport and trust that can translate into offline relationships.
Safety in Social Networking
In “#Connected: Facebook May Facilitate Face-to-Face Relationships for Introverts,” Alexander Spradlin et al. (2019) examined the relationship between social networking and face-to-face relationships.[i] They begin by noting that some research suggests that social networking sites (SNSs) increase face-to-face interaction. Investigating this link through conducting an online survey with 855 student participants, they discovered that the use of Facebook was correlated with increased face-to-face communication—a relationship moderated by extraversion.
Here is the interesting twist. Spradlin et al. found that “the relationship between Facebook use and face-to-face communication was significant for individuals with low to moderate levels of extraversion (i.e., introverts) only.” This association decreased as extraversion increased. They conclude that Facebook, as well as other SNSs, might benefit introverts by allowing them to develop rapport and build trust “in a less threatening social environment that, in turn, makes them more comfortable engaging in face-to-face communication.”
While the authors acknowledge that more research in this area is necessary to understand the mechanics behind this relationship, they nonetheless note that Facebook may benefit relationship development by connecting people “in the real world.”
Although Zoom is different than Facebook, the opportunity to interact virtually, from a distance, both verbally and using the chat feature, may allow introverts to build relationships slowly through the same mechanisms, by developing rapport and trust in a less threatening social environment.
The level of virtual comfort can be enhanced even further through carefully selecting social events.
The Company You Keep
Introverts do not change their stripes when they go online. So for introverts venturing cautiously into the virtual mix, knowing there are opportunities to build relationships slowly can mentally ease the transition. But it depends on the company they keep.
Virtual events centered on common interests, such as travel, learning a new language, or other areas of commonality are a good match for introverts seeking to expand their social circle. Zoom meetings focused purely on socializing are probably not. And those who are shy will want to check on expected format, including whether there will be break out rooms, as well as expected number of attendees—information most Zoom hosts are happy to provide.
By selectively exercising discernment (as we all should) in creating our virtual social calendar, introverts can successfully socialize and thrive online.
[i] Spradlin, Alexander, Carrie Cuttler, John P. Bunce, and L. Mark Carrier. “#Connected: Facebook May Facilitate Face-to-Face Relationships for Introverts.” Psychology of Popular Media Culture 8, no. 1 (January 2019): 34–40. doi:10.1037/ppm0000162.