Sunday, September 15, 2013

Leave Me Alone: The Introvert's Manifesto

Matt Walsh says what I've been thinking, but didn't want to say because, why bother: I'm an introvert and I don't need to come out of my shell
Kids who are homeschooled tend to be much better in “social situations” because they learned how to socialize from adults, rather than aping the personality traits of their peers. Public school doesn’t make kids “sociable,” and I think you could more accurately argue for the opposite. The whole concept that we need to send our children to government facilities to be “socialized” makes me shudder. Our children aren’t animals, and I wish we’d stop speaking about them as if they were. That said, I’m not looking to argue that point at the moment. Instead, I’d like to examine the idea that being “outgoing and extroverted” is some sort of universal ideal. 
It isn’t. If a kid is introverted he doesn’t need to be broken like a dog. He doesn’t need to change his personality. He doesn’t even need to “come out of his shell.” He’s not hiding in a shell. He just doesn’t feel the need to chatter incessantly with everyone in the room. If that makes you uncomfortable — that’s your problem. There’s nothing objectively preferable or superior about extraversion. 
Maybe we should define our terms. People throw these labels around without understanding what they mean (what else is new?). Being an introvert has nothing to do with being anxious in “social situations”. Any personality type can suffer from social phobias. Put simply, an introvert is energized by being alone or in small groups, where he or she can think, create and contemplate. An extrovert finds fulfillment primarily in large groups, and generally hates being alone. It’s more complicated than this, obviously, but I’m just hitting the basics. The crucial point is that introversion has nothing to do with fear, and extraversion has nothing to do with boldness or courage.
Walsh's more serious point is that, while modern American society never stops noisily proclaiming its tolerance, a person who seems abnormal in anyway, whether in thought or deed, will quickly find that tolerance will turn on him with a vengeance. Really, the only social "skill" an introvert needs to learn is to act engaged when you are at a party or some other social group (which it virtually any gathering of humans whether in Congress, in jail, at a bar or wherever). That way people won't think you are a jerk and you might actually meet someone who shares (some of) your interests. It happens!
There is an enormous amount of unnecessary chatter out there, both in public and private life. Sociability is fine, but not mindless nattering. 

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