What does it mean to be an introvert in modern society? To be perfectly honest, it means a lot of things. As with most other identities that people are classified to be, an introvert’s true personality depends on the individual themselves. However; the unfortunate truth is that this is not something that most people consider when meeting a person. People of all identities, especially introverts, are usually judged and stereotyped almost immediately upon introduction. Without much hesitation or real thought, introverts are generally stereotyped to be outcasts or nerds. In some cases this may be the honest truth, but the majority of the time it couldn’t be further from it.
Almost everybody knows at least one introvert. Everyone has at least met that one person who operates fine in small groups, but then tends to retreat back to their homes when the social gathering gets too large. Or maybe they know that individual who chooses to stay home and read on a Friday night. It could even be the person who presents beautifully to a group of hundreds of people, but then quickly disappears once the social hour starts. (Kaenzig) All of these people can be considered introverts. They aren’t necessarily shy or depressed people, they just simply prefer to live in this manner. Also, not all introverts are social outcasts, although that is definitely the way they seem to appear to extroverts. The concept of introversion can be rather difficult for an extrovert to understand because their minds simply do not operate in the same fashion. (Kaenzig) Extroverts tend to make decisions subjectively based on their consideration of society’s values, while introverts tend to mostly emphasize logic and objectivity in their reasoning. (Sak) To put it more simply, an introvert’s main focus lies within the ideas and concepts that exist in their minds, while an extrovert’s primary focus is the external world of people and activities. (Myers) Therefore, most people do unfortunately tend to see introverts as social outcasts and nerds. This type of labeling might not seem so bad, however; the media has a tendency to portray nerds in a very particular way.
I thoroughly believe that most people’s idea of nerds, outcasts, and introverts come from some aspect of the media. Usually this type of media comes in the form of movies or television shows. This is unfortunate because the media tends to portray all three of those identities as having interchangeable personalities. They are almost always depicted as shy individuals, who may be socially awkward, and often struggle to find a date. Their interests always seem to include activities that other characters and viewers would find boring. They are also commonly depicted to be the “lame” character when compared to other characters. Regardless if these traits actually exist in an introverted individual or not, these media portrayals usually end up giving real life introverts a hard time.
In the very popular television show: How I Met Your Mother, the main character, Ted, is depicted as a nerd. Therefore, the writers of the show tend to portray him as the “cheesy” character. He has a love for things such as classic literature and architecture, in which the other characters and viewers tend to find extremely boring. Even his passion for philosophy, which is widely seen as an interesting topic, is portrayed to be boring and pretentious. In a realistic sense Ted could be considered a very successful person. He is a rather good-looking male with a great job and a large apartment in what may be the most expensive city in the country. However; he remains most viewers’ least favorite character. What’s terrible about this is that I believe that he is unfavored not only because of the way he is portrayed, but also because of the media-implanted image of a nerd. Nerds have always been portrayed as objects of ridicule in the media, which almost immediately forces a bias against Ted’s character. Based on personal observations, many people tend to almost imitate reactions they see in the media, rather than form their own opinions. Therefore, when they meet an introvert in real life, they almost immediately classify the individual as a nerd and form a bias against them. To make matters worse, things that the introvert may enjoy, such as Ted’s love for literature and philosophy, are almost immediately grouped into that bias. Suddenly, very practical things such as reading may be considered something that only a nerd would do.
The very popular 2007 movie Superbad is a prime example of how introverts and nerds are used as objects of ridicule in the media. All three of the main characters are portrayed as nerds and may be the biggest social outcasts in their high school. In fact, one of the first lines in the movie references pornographic websites, hinting that nerds must resort to porn due to their inability to find a companion in real life. Throughout the movie the characters are simply trying to bring alcohol to a party so that they may seem cool enough to find a date for the first time. It’s understandable that this is a comedy movie and therefore each character’s quirks may be exaggerated, but it still reinforces a negative stereotype. It shows that nerds are not invited to parities unless they can bring something of value, therefore essentially being used by others. It also shows that girls are generally unattracted to anyone who may be considered a nerd. Again this is a problem because as previously mentioned people tend to imitate reactions they see in the media. Therefore, a girl or guy may think twice before accepting a date with their introverted admirer, only because of their fear of being judged for relating with that certain individual.
Another point to address is that most popular media products that feature a nerd or introvert are comedies. Consider widely known characters such as Brian Griffin from Family Guy, Steve Urkel from Family Matters, Lisa Simpson from the Simpsons or almost any character from The Big Bang Theory. Although these characters may sometimes be used for the progression of a plotline, their main contribution is to provide viewers with something to laugh at. Some of these media products have been viewed by millions for decades, spanning over multiple generations. To portray a specific identity in such a way for so long solidifies the negative stereotype against people of that identity.
In conclusion, introverts in our modern society are suffering due to the media’s portrayal of their identity. People tend to forget that each individual has their own unique personality, and although some may share similar traits and interests, they are indeed different people. Introverts are commonly ridiculed because of the way the media portrays them, and the lack of understanding that the rest of society has about their personalities. This is something that I hope to see change in the near future, although based on the media’s history of creating stereotypes, I doubt I will. It is possible to see progression for this matter before my death, but even that doesn’t offer much solace. It is most likely that the media will continue to do what they have always done, and create more stereotypes whenever they see fit.
How I met Your Mother. Dir. Carter Bays and Craig Thomas. Perf. Josh Radnor. 2005-2014.
Kaenzig, Jill D. Burruss and Lisa. Sengifted.com. n.d. 25 11 2015 <http://sengifted.org/archives/articles/introversion-the-often-forgotten-factor-impacting-the-gifted>.
Myers, Isabel Briggs Myers & Peter B. Gifts Differing: Understanding Personality Types. CPP, 1995.
Sak, Ugur. “A Synthesis of Research on Psychological Types of Gifted Adoloescents.” The Journal of Secondary Gifted Education (2004): 11.
Superbad. Dir. Greg Mottola. 2007.