The Life of the Introvert in an Extroverted World

There is a portrayal in popular culture as introverted people being inherently strange and socially awkward and they are often cast in a negative light compared to their extroverted counterparts.  To make things clear, when I say introvert, most people tend to think it is synonymous with shyness, when this is not the case.  Nor is it the complete opposite of extroversion in that introverts never want to be around people at all.  Introversion and extroversion are on a spectrum; a person can be closer to one side than the other but polar extremity is not usually the case.  In television and films, however, introverted characters are pushed so far to the extreme that they are often imbued with psychological maladies to exaggerate their traits.

 

Dexter

Let’s look at Dexter Morgan, a blood analyst and introvert who also happens to be a serial killer.  He exhibits all of the traits of an introvert.  He prefers working alone in his lab, as he thinks best when doing so.  For the most part, he has only one close friend; his sister, which he considers enough to satisfy his social needs.  A defining trait for introverts is their desire to be in minimally stimulating environments, whether this be working in a lab or having a hobby that avoids noise and people.  One such hobby of Dexter’s is to go out on his boat and fish.  He does this whenever he needs to clear his head and think (also to dump bodies).  Dexter is an accurate representation of an introvert in that he is seen as charming and sociable by his co-workers and friends but secretly harbors a desire to be alone because interacting with people can be exhausting.  He is often forced to pretend to be someone other than he actually is to appease more extroverted people around him.  The misrepresentation of introverted people in general is that Dexter is also a pathological liar and killer.  Introverted traits are repeatedly associated with serial killers in popular culture but in reality, there is no basis for this trope.  In fact, as Susan Cain says in an article entitled “The Myth of the Killer Introvert,” she states that “introverted young people are less prone to violence and delinquency than extroverts are.”

 

Hannibal

The main character of the show is Will Graham, an introvert.  Graham is a criminal profiler and psychologist who uses his vast stores of empathy to get into the minds of murderers and understand why they do what they do.  Quiet and brooding, Graham is everything about an introvert that TV loves to exaggerate.  He is introverted to the point of mental illness.  It’s even implied at points that Graham has low-level Asperger’s syndrome, a diagnosis that has recently become synonymous in popular culture with innate genius . To exemplify his extraordinary introversion, he even lives alone in a secluded house with his only friends being a bunch of dogs.

 

Curb Your Enthusiasm

I figured I should provide an example from a show that doesn’t involve serial killers, so I picked the introvert everyone loves to hate:  Larry David.  David is a good example of being introverted rather than shy.  Author Susan Cain explains in “Quiet,” a book about introverts that “Shyness is the fear of social disapproval or humiliation, while introversion is a preference for environments that are not overstimulating.”  Larry makes plans with friends and hosts parties because he feels like he has to, and at the back of his mind, he is always secretly hoping the plans will fall through so he can relax at home by himself.  Not because he hates people, but because he just gets tired of them quickly.  Larry David is one of the more realistic portrayals of an introvert in popular culture. He uses his creative, solitary nature to create a successful life and one that allows him to be himself.

Imgur

If a meme is the primary way that introverts express themselves in modern society, then Imgur is the introvert’s paradise.  What started out as a simple image sharing site has now developed into a full-fledged community of people who feel their voice is lost among other social media sites.  The site is filled with memes such as the “awkward penguin” one above, and obscure references to jokes made excursively on Imgur.  Rating something “5/7” is actually giving it the best rating possible.  There is an undercurrent of self-depreciating humor to the way many users make fun of their own antisocial tendencies.  This is a popular trend among introverts: allowing the perception of extroverts towards introverts to control how they view themselves.  The picture above was posted with the title “This is why I don’t go outside…”  Simply put, Imgur reveals that the public’s misconceptions about introverted behavior actually affects the behavior of introverted people.

 

The Brain of the Introvert

What most of popular culture seems to forget is that the there are physiological differences between an introvert versus an extrovert.  It’s not simply a matter of being shy around people.  To explain the graphic above, here is a quote from Dr. Marti Olsen Laney, author of the book The Introvert Advantage:

“While extroverts are linked with the dopamine/adrenaline, energy-spending, sympathetic nervous system, introverts are connected with the acetylcholine, energy-conserving, parasympathetic nervous system.”

Basically, introverts need less external stimulation than extroverts because they are more sensitive to dopamine, and if they get too much, they will feel overstimulated and anxious (Laney).  So, an extrovert will go to a party with loud music and plenty of new people to soak up all they can to feel stimulated while an introvert will go to the same party, listen to one song and talk to one person and feel the same level of excitement.

Knowing that there are real, physical differences in the brain of introverts and extroverts makes me as an introvert feel more comfortable with myself.  While we tend to see this division as a fifty/fifty chance, in reality only about a quarter of the population is introverted (King).  Perhaps this is the reason for the many misconceptions society has about introverts.  There is an underlying attitude in popular culture that introverts need to “change” and make an effort to become more social and extroverted, when in actuality we are innately different and view society in different ways.

Learning Experiences

I think the thing that will stick with me the most from this class is how everyone saw a different result after searching online for the same thing.  While I was aware companies such as Google were tracking peoples’ internet histories, I wasn’t aware the extent to which each individual’s internet platform was being catered to their desires.  What bothers me the most about something like this is that I never signed off for anyone to track my web activities.  Imagine someone from Amazon showed up at your home one day, set up a camera without asking, and videotaped your life in order to decide which products you would probably like.  That is just as creepy to me as companies tracking your activity online.

The laundry list of negative impacts associated with reading and watching popular culture news was another revelation for me.  As someone who flips through a news app a thousand times a day, I definitely took notice.  Among other things, it inhibits deep concentration, it wastes time, and most important to me, it destroys creativity.  As Rolf Dobelli says in his article regarding the news: “If you want to come up with old solutions, read news. If you are looking for new solutions, don’t.” Considering that looking for solutions to problems was one of the main reasons I had for reading the news, this really hit home.  I know that after this class, I will spend more time searching for more “newsworthy” journalism and less time looking at sensationalist headlines, and hopefully, find better solutions to the world’s problems than the ones the media supplies.

 

Work Cited

Dexter: the first season, volume 1. Dir. Steve Shill. Showtime, 2008. TV Show. Web.

David, Larry, Jeff Garlin, and Cheryl Hines. Curb your enthusiasm the complete series ; one to seven. S.l.: Home Box Office ˜œ, 2012. TV Show.

Fuller, Bryan . Hannibal. NBC. 2012. Television.

“Imgur: The most awesome images on the Internet.” Web. 15 Mar. 2017.

Laney, Marti Olsen, Dr. “The introvert brain explained.” Magical Daydream. 21 Nov. 2016. Web. 15 Mar. 2017.

Granneman, Jenn. “Introverts’ and Extroverts’ Brains Really Are Different, According to Science.” Andymort. N.p., 4 Mar. 2015. Web.
Laney, Marti Olsen. The introvert advantage: how to thrive in an extrovert world. New York: Workman Pub., 2002. Print
King, Carl. “Myth #1 : Introverts don’t like to talk.” CarlKingdomcom. Web. 8 Mar. 2017.

“Imgur popularity rises among Millenials.” UWIRE Text, 29 Jan. 2014, p. 1. General OneFile, 19 Feb. 2017.

Cain, Susan. “The Myth of the Killer Introvert.” Psychology Today. Web. 15 Mar. 2017.

Dobelli, Rolf. “News is bad for you – and giving up reading it will make you happier.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 12 Apr. 2013. Web. 15 Mar. 2017.

“Introvert, Shy, Socially Anxious: What’s the Difference?” Addiction Treatment | Elements | Drug Rehab Treatment Centers. N.p., 05 May 2015. Web. 15 Mar. 2017.

 

 

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5 thoughts on “The Life of the Introvert in an Extroverted World

  1. Tcornt,

    I was intrigued the entire time I read your post. I didn’t know someone in our class was doing research on introverts, and I’m kind of glad. I too identify as an introvert. Although as I have grown up, I’ve become more of a social introvert–where I adore company but I value my alone time above all else. With that said, your post was extremely relatable; to the point where I actual learned something new about myself.
    I love how you chose, out of every representation of an introvert in the media, to center on psychopaths/ sociopaths. I’m a complete Fannibal (Hannibal fan), to the point where its scary. I’d like to point out that I’m glad you wrote, “Introverted traits are repeatedly associated with serial killers in popular culture but in reality, there is no basis for this trope”. Coming from a person who studies Psychology, I agree with you when you state that every serial killer doesn’t need to show traits of that of an introvert. A lot of real world serial killers were actual quite social; thats why it shocked a lot of people to learn that their neighbor was shoving bodies into a freezer (The Ice Man). I also liked how you touched upon the idea, that a lot of times introverts are diagnosed with mental illnesses. While I don’t disagree, I would like to see some proof of this. I mean I’m an introvert and I have been diagnosed with a lot of mental illnesses; one of which is in the group of personality disorders. However, I’m just one person who has had a rough childhood. So my opinion is completely based on my own experiences. I guess a good question to ask is, does a person’s childhood determine if they turn out an extrovert or an introvert? If yes, how much of an influence/ impact does it have on our personality? The last thing I wanted to mention is how you talked about the connection between being either an introvert or an extrovert, and how it can actual be shown in our brain’s anatomy. I did not know this. I mean it makes sense, cause everyone thinks differently based on how our nerves are laid out.
    Overall, I loved your post. It was a nice read. Thank you.

    Cheers!

  2. Wow, this was an amazing read. Thank you for explaining the difference between an extrovert and an introvert. All my life, I have thought of introverts as pretty much what everyone else thinks; shy, awkward, never wanting to leave the house. Your post explained that the difference is the brain processing. I really enjoyed reading this because you went with the scientific approach to further explain your point. But I mostly enjoyed this post because I believe that I take on the introvert identity as well, and everything I just read felt pretty accurate. Again, thank you for explaining the introvert identity!

  3. I liked the topic that you picked and that you had scientific research to prove your findings about how the brain works and how it comes down to chemicals. I am more introvert on the scale but I feel others see me as being lonelier or shy. There are things I like to do alone because I either like the isolation or like the independence. I just like to get things done and don’t need the distraction of a million others things in the way. I do like that you picked Curb Your Enthusiasm as an artifact and how it shows a different side and more what the person thinks rather than how their seen through others eyes. It’s interesting to see the other 2 artifacts are being serial killers or be obsessed with death.

  4. Hey there!

    Great job on your final project. I was very interested and intrigued from the get-go, beginning with the title! Just as you mentioned, introversion and extroversion lay on a spectrum, and we all fall somewhere along that scale. I think it is interesting however, that when it comes to media, these types of personality traits appear to be a little more black and white. Though I have never watched any of the shows you referenced, they seem to support your thesis very well.

    Thinking about it now, it seems really problematic to present people with more introverted personalities in this way. Casting the shy guys as sociopaths and serial killers in the media seems like it could have very serious real world consequences. Your post actually got me thinking about kids I went to high school with and how I perceived many of them. I lay on the very extroverted side of the spectrum, and I totally recall thinking about some of my peers as awkward and weird because they didn’t talk much and seemed really shy.

    I am certain now that the media probably played a huge part in how I was perceiving my fellow students in the past. Along with all the mainstream media, I enjoyed the fact that you also included some scientific information and background on the difference in brain activity of introverted and extroverted people. I think you did a really great job on this and I look forward to see if I can further identify common and repetitive representations of introverts in the media.

  5. Hey Tcornt,

    Great blog post, your introduction was very strong. Right up front I think you addressed an issue that a lot people fail to look at in that one characteristic doesn’t give nearly a perfect picture of how a person is. Stating that introversion versus extroversion doesn’t necessarily mean that person is on one far end of the spectrum sums it up pretty nicely. There was an interesting article that I found for my blog post, in it the researcher polled a number of people in the software engineering field to find out what personality types they possessed. What I found interesting about the article was that it wasn’t just simply “are you an introvert or an extrovert” those were just 2 of what I think were 16 personality types. The actual scientific facts that you brought up were really interesting, I didn’t know that there where physiological reasons for some personality types, I’d assumed it was almost always a nature vs nurture type of thing.

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