The Mythology of the Internet Introvert

Since you’ve joined the ranks of the Internet, odds are you’ve encountered an article or thousand about what it means to be an introvert. They could be cute listicles on what introverts really like to do, signs of what an introvert truly is, or quippy videos on how bad going outside is.

The only reason why vague posts about this are popular are the same reasons horoscopes still work today: they’re clever enough that if a few bits of it sound familiar, the mind judges it as a valuable opinion.

Don’t get me wrong, I adore Matt Bellassai’s work. His BuzzFeed videos are genuinely funny (the last video in the list of links is part of his series, Wine About It). That video does play into a narrative, however, which has become vogue in the internet since “binge” was incorporated into companies’ marketing strategy.

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The trend here is pretty obvious. In comparison to other forms of binges, binge-watching is a topic of far more internet interest. How is binge-watching connected to this internet introvert? Well, the weekly brags of “I’m going to stay in bed Sunday and watch Netflix” are a clear inhabitation of this attitude. The Internet Introvert myth idolizes the sedentary lifestyle.

The infatuation with introversion has also made a full transformation into outright horoscopic conjecture. It is impossible to assume that nearly half of the world’s population are better judges of character, more independent, more serious about life, or more reliable. Yes, those are actual headings from the article. That is nothing more than categorically untrue.The only reason why vague posts about this are popular are the same reasons horoscopes still work today: they’re vague enough that if a few bits of it sound familiar, the mind judges it as a valuable opinion. It’s confirmation bias.

This mythology isn’t just in the BuzzFeed blogosphere. Publications all over have given into a false narrative about introversion. Even sources like Atlantic have posted their own take. The articles are written with nothing short of condescension. I’ll let you read them on your own time.

While research does support that there are neurological differences between extra- and introverts, the narrative should end where the empirical facts do. Contrary to this, a structure has been scaffolded outward from a basis of truth. This shoddy front of opinions, mostly formed by internet articles, is the prototype for all manner of superiority narratives.

I used to want to be an introvert like the internet said, one of the wallflowers who secretly just wanted to go home and read Dickens. But I’m not. That’s fine, and saying that I’m apathetic, unintelligent, or amoral for not being an introvert is undiluted balderdash.

Much of the Internet Introvert myth really is a superiority narrative. The Atlantic article, “Caring for Your Introvert,” is rife with apparently-obvious platitudes like “[introverts are]a minority in the regular population but a majority in the gifted population.” Another goes, “If we introverts ran the world, it would no doubt be a calmer, saner, more peaceful sort of place.” This is revoltingly prideful. Even when asked if his attitudes are arrogant, the opinion writer responds, “Hardly. I suppose this common misconception has to do with our being more intelligent, more reflective, more independent, more level-headed, more refined, and more sensitive than extroverts.”

The internet self-praise about introversion isn’t an articulation of truth. It’s a platform from which to project superiority. Firstly, it is an economic superiority. When one is always “introverting” or bragging about such, there is no room for work. It lends credit to the mental image of someone who has lots of leisure time, a characteristic of the wealthy. Hence, the binging and social media bragging. Secondly, this myth horoscopizes a real psychology to such a point that anyone, even an extrovert, will believe it. If you think before you speak—most everyone does, or at least hopes to—that’s an “introverted quality.” But it’s much less exciting and polarizing than the internet would have us think.

I used to want to be an introvert like the internet said, one of the wallflowers who secretly just wanted to go home and read Dickens. But I’m not. That’s fine, and saying that I’m apathetic, unintelligent, or amoral for not being an introvert is undiluted balderdash.

To be an introvert is to draw energy from solitude; to be an extrovert is to draw energy from interaction with others. Certain characteristics do stem from this, but they are not nearly to the extent which the internet’s endless gabble has mythologized them. When someone says they are an extrovert, that does not mean you know their habits nor their opinions. The same goes for introverts. Instead of pegging someone as an I or an E (I’m looking at you, Myers-Briggs), have a conversation and find out what someone’s really like.

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