I’ve had some interesting reactions to this series of posts. A couple of good friends have commented that it’s a matter of balance, and I’m sure that’s true. I suspect very few people are entirely introvert or genuinely extravert, and that we all need both social time and me time. Having said that, a surprising number of people have come back saying “Yes! That’s exactly how I feel!” so there must also be something in my feeling that it can sometimes be quite hard to carve out me time.
There’s been a bit of debate about introversion as a personality trait recently, much of it sparked by Susan Cain’s book Quiet – The Power of Introverts, in which she argues that introverts have a hard time of it because of our society’s bias towards extroverts. I confess to not having read the book, although I will do, but I’m interested by this argument.
In some ways I suspect that the “bias” towards extraversion is just the product of it being more visible; people going out for a drink or a meal with a group of mates are going to be more visible than the same number of people sitting at home on their own quietly reading a book. We arguably have more time for those who obsessively seek the limelight, but that again may be a product of their increased visibility; who is to say whether we honour Lady Gaga more than JD Salinger? Do we respect Helen Mirren more than Dame Maggie Smith, just because the magnificent Ms Mirren leads a more public life?
I also wonder if there is really an assumption that extraversion is somehow more desirable than introversion. It’s true that young people, when asked what they want to be when they grow up, generally reply “famous” rather than “reclusive”, but that may be because recluses are again, by their nature, less visible than the likes of Madonna.
But having said that, alcohol, for instance, tends to be advertised via pictures of people happily drinking in groups, rather than happily drinking alone. The assumption is perhaps that people who drink alone are sad gits, although personally I think a quiet pint with the paper in a country pub or a whisky savoured in front of the fire at home whilst enjoying a good book should be no less part of a balanced life than a big night out down the pub with your mates. It’s the latter that makes it into the advertising, though, probably because it’s perceived as shifting more units, but then, does being in the public domain result in it becoming “the norm” in a way that sitting quietly on your own does not?