How are you managing with social distancing? Whether you’re an extrovert or an introvert makes a difference

For introverts, who know the pleasure of reading, isolation isn’t so bad. For extroverts, it’s a struggle. (Photo: ESB Professional licensed from Shutterstock)

Most of us are worried about ourselves or a loved one getting sick with Covid-19. But are you paying as much attention to your mental health?

We worry about illness, losing wage income, and for some people, losing small businesses they’ve spent years building.

But for some people isolation can be the biggest cause of stress. We’re used to being around people and some of us don’t know how to deal with being alone.

It can make a big difference if you are an extrovert or introvert. Extroverts are energized being around other people. Introverts often enjoy people, especially one-to-one, but they need time alone, especially to recover from intense social situations.

I’ve heard it said that for introverts, the present crisis is a dream come true. For extroverts, it’s hell on earth.

That, of course, is an exaggeration. And most people fit somewhere on a sliding scale between introversion and extroversion. But I feel sorry for extroverts who are having to isolate and may be climbing the walls with boredom.

You probably already know if you tend to be more of an introvert or extrovert, but there are lots of quizzes online like this one that will clarify if you’re unsure.

I was born as an introvert, but through life I’ve learned to be outgoing to cope in a world of extroverts — especially in my career where I constantly needed to interact with people. The above quiz told me I’m an ambivert, meaning I have qualities of both.

Still, given a choice between sitting in a noisy bar trying to make small talk with a group of people in the deafening roar, or sitting at home and reading a good book, it’s a no-brainer for me. I’ll go for the book.

At various times in my life, I’ve gone for long periods without talking to anyone. I know how to enjoy my own company. The difference between solitude and loneliness is whether you like it or not.

In a recent Globe and Mail article, British professor David Vincent discusses the difference between loneliness and solitude. When Vincent researched his still unreleased book, A History of Solitude, he had no idea the Covid-19 pandemic was coming.

In this excellent TED Talk video from 2012, The Power of Introverts, Susan Cain talks about what introverts offer society, even as they struggle to fit into an extroverted world. She says that between a third and half of people are introverts.

Introverts are used to adapting to fit into an extroverted world. But now that the tables are turned, it will be the extroverts’ turn to adapt. And it won’t be easy.

I’ve picked out some short and longer articles about extroversion, introversion and social distancing at these links — sadly knowing that probably only the introverts will read them.

This article in Psychology Today, Introverts, Extroverts and Social Distancing, by writer Sophia Dembling, an introvert, makes the point that even for introverts, there is such a thing as too much social distancing.

She offers some suggestions for extroverts, and suggests to introverts that they reach out to the extroverts with understanding.

“I’ve seen a couple of Facebook posts from extroverted friends reminding people that for them, lack of social contact is stressful. They need people to talk things through with. Left alone too long, they lose focus, get sluggish and depressed. We all have needs. Social contact is theirs.

“So please remember that we’re all in this together. Help your extroverted friends out however you can.” – Sophia Dembling in Psychology Today

This article on BuzzFeed, “The Coronavirus Giving You Cabin Fever? Lessons From An Introvert,” by Michael Blackmon, says introverts shouldn’t be smug. For extroverts, these are difficult time, he says, giving a few tips on ways extroverts can remain safely socially engaged.

“Finally, if you’re really struggling to come up with creative solutions for indoor activities on your own, reach out to an introverted friend. We’ve been unwittingly preparing for a moment like this for quite some time,” – Michael Blackmon on BuzzFeed

This article by Kristen Rogers, of CNN, “The introvert’s guide to social distancing,” also makes the point that introverts “have been naturally prepared for this their whole lives.”

“Use your downtime to read as many books as you want. Pen your feelings and insights in a journal, or cook a dinner for yourself to enjoy during a quiet night at home. Give some attention to hobbies you’ve been wanting to pursue, such as photography, playing an instrument or learning new languages,” – Kristen Rogers

This article, by Ryan Prior, also of CNN, gives the flip side in his, “The extrovert’s guide to social distancing.” He’s got some suggestions on how extroverts can use technology to remain socially connected with others. It’s “physical distancing,” not “social distancing,” he suggests.

“As the US government prepares for a potential months-long fight against Covid-19extroverts will need to learn to create their own plans on how they might manage their own psyche as social distancing, quarantines and shelter in place orders become more commonplace,” – Ryan Prior

And this article by Simone Seikaly, published on KSL Radio in Salt Lake City, “Extroverts and social distancing,” suggests there are limits to how technology can help lonely extroverts.

“You know who of your family and friends are extroverts. Give them a call! Encourage others to call them. Send them a letter,” – Simone Seikaly

It’s time for introverts to reach out to extroverts and try to be understanding.

Author: Richard McGuire

Richard McGuire is an Osoyoos photographer who worked at the Osoyoos Times between 2012 and 2018, first as reporter and then as editor. He has a long career in journalism as well as research, communication and management at the House of Commons in Ottawa and in the federal government.

One thought on “How are you managing with social distancing? Whether you’re an extrovert or an introvert makes a difference”

  1. This describes me perfectly. I did not really notice a difference to my day to day life initially during all of this- other than the increase in anxiety about the whole situation, of course. But, then, something did change. My more extroverted acquaintances started to reach out to go for a social distance walk or patio chat. The more extroverted people in my life had experienced a complete drop off of their usual social connection – loud coffee shops, multiple volunteering options, community workshops, big-group dance classes, etc. and were in need of some social connection even if it had to be one-on-one. I became more social during this time instead of less if you can believe it!! Love this website and look forward to more! Eileen

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