Being an Introvert in a Digital World
Today I am bringing to you all a little discussion thread based on my own personal thoughts, feelings and experiences. I understand that it may be different for everyone so it’d be great to hear your own thoughts on this below too!
Once upon a time, a good few years ago now, I was a child and a teenager in a world where mobile phones were rare and very expensive. During this time I would go to school, spend the day with my friends and then come home and have the evening to myself to do whatever I pleased – most often this was reading books! Then we got the one family computer and that precious dial-up internet. But still, I was only allowed an hour max on the computer each evening. So I spent it writing roleplaying games with random strangers who all had a similar interest in Harry Potter.
Fast forward a few years and I am privileged enough to not only have my very own computer but this wonderful magical thing called Broadband. Still, my mobile phone was only capable of sending texts, receiving phone calls and playing snake! Thus my evenings soon became spent talking to my friends on MSN, roleplaying and creating quirky graphics on the free graphic software I had downloaded – I think it was called Paint Shop Pro? I don’t even remember anymore!
Soon my computer turned into my laptop, my phone into a smart phone and then, without even realizing it was happening. I was always connected. My phone is with me wherever I go meaning that, essentially, I am “on” at all times. At first, this was a blissful luxury. It meant I could talk to my friends, whenever I wanted and I was just simply never alone.
However, this quickly become a big problem. It meant that even when I was with friends and family, I itched to check my phone and talk to the people who were nowhere near me. People who understood me in ways these people I was with didn’t. Which sounds like a good thing, right? Except that it made me anti-social with the people in front of me. It meant that I didn’t listen to conversations properly and got into trouble more. I distanced myself from people in my real life while getting closer to those far away.
But the biggest problem? I never got a break. I had people talking to my face and talking to my eyes, practically at the same time. Add in the “why haven’t you responded yet?” comments, messages, thoughts and soon I became overwhelmed and scared. As an introvert, this was really difficult to me. I lost my energy completely. I felt like I had to reply to people lest they think I was being rude, but also just didn’t feel like I had the energy to do so.
Flash forward further to the now and I am hoping that I’m a little better at dealing with this. I take time away from the computer and my phone, I “switch off” as it were and allow myself to just be alone, but there is still that fear of coming across rude that has me answering the phone every single time it buzzes.
I hope one day I can get over this, but I’m not so sure. What do you think?
Communication is Key
Moving on from the above, another issue I have found with this digital world is the constant need to communicate. Not just to twitter followers or facebook users but to friends and family. Friends and family who comment about how you “never replied to their text” or “never returned their call”. I want to tell them that it’s not because I do not care but simply because I am so run down from being constantly online that even the simple act of typing out a one-word sentence can seem to much sometimes. But instead, I just apologise, jokily laugh about how I forgot and we move on and pretend it never happened.
Because in this world now, we are expected not just to always be available, but to always communicate. Once upon a time, you could only communicate with your friends at school or at their house. You may have called them up and had a phone conversation for an hour or two or you may have just randomly knocked on your door. You then wouldn’t speak at all until you saw them again. Now, if you don’t respond or action any communication between meetings, you’re seen as being anti-social. People, quite literally, give up on your friendship, assuming that you do not care enough to communicate to them.
But why can I not just arrange to meet you in two weeks or two months or two years down the line and just catch up in person. Why do I have to tell you about all the things that happen between the meet ups before we even meet up? Because for me, as an introvert, this is too hard. I am already struggling to be online all day long, the last thing I need is to feel guilty because I have not messaged every single one of my friends that day/week/month.
Now this actually comes from a tweet thread I saw months ago in which it asked you to write down a list of your closest friends, people you want to get closer to, less close friends, etc. It then went on to explain that you should message every friend you are closest to or want to get closer to every single day. And that if they do not reply, then they are not the person you thought they were. And it killed me to read it. Because that is something I just cannot do. There are days when I literally do not speak to anyone because my introvertedness or depression is too much to handle and I need some quality me time. The last thing I then need to feel is guilty about being a worthless friend for not messaging someone every day. Like, what do you want to know? That I hate everything and everyone and I want to be alone? What would be the point in that?
So I just want to know, can we start our friendships know asking about how we feel about communication? Because if you’re someone that needs to be spoken to every day to feel cared for and loved, you need to find that from someone other than me. It doesn’t mean I love you any less, it doesn’t mean I do not care about you or do not consider you my friend. It is simply that too much communication kills me slowly and then I need to recharge my batteries.
And, in all honesty, I do have friends who I do not see or speak to for a year or more and then when I see them, it is like we have never been apart. Because that is what true friendship means to me. It is being loved and cared for, even when you’re out of sight. Otherwise, why do we even have the expression, absence makes the heart grow fonder? How can we know how much we mean to each other if we never get a break from one another?
By all means, continue to message people every day but please do not see me as less of a friend simply because I am not one of those people.
Everything is Shiny
This is my last little point, I promise. This is about how social media is a place of lies. Now, I’m not saying you didn’t have a fantastic time at that event and you didn’t love every moment you spent on holiday, but I am saying that you and I both know that you are only sharing the good things. It might be that you had a pretty mediocre travel to the event or holiday, so you don’t exactly want to share that with the world. Thus, instead, you show us the “best bits”. The parts of yourself and your life that you like and that you want others to like too. Because that is what social media is now. It’s a popularity glamour patrol. You have to be showing off your perfect life with your perfect friends or life isn’t worth living.
Of course, some people don’t do this. Some people share their deepest darkest thoughts – myself included – but we’re still doing it for a reason. We want people to see, to talk to us, to tell us that they feel the same way. There’s nothing wrong with that. But is it real? Afterall, we’re sharing the good and the bad, we’re just not necessarily sharing the boring. Because does anyone really care if you sat on the toilet for ten minutes after that mega coffee you devoured? We all know it’s likely to have happened but we don’t exactly want to hear about it.
So instead, social media – even the bad bits – are glammed up and shiny. They’re perfection. We’re living in this world where we have to make our lives interesting online or we’re not doing it right. And what is the point in that? Why can’t we just live. As an introvert, I know that there are times where I come completely off of social media and I think that is the best way to battle this because I know for a fact that I can’t always be shiny all the time. I need time to just be human – and so do you.
What do you think about the shininess of social media?
Sorry for the ramble post. It was more of a word vomit than anything else but what are your thoughts on this topic?