For the past few days, we’ve had house guests: acquaintances and semi-colleagues, but not (yet) what we’d call friends; socially awkward at the very best of times. This visit coincided with a couple of potential (but cancelled) viewings of our quite small house, and thus led to a confusion of folding away bedding, tidying and untidying, social interactions, attempts to entertain etc. It was fun and—as I’ve said elsewhere—prevents us from going weird with only the cat for company, but by the end of it, after the guests had gone, it was all I could do to drag myself over to Charlbury to see other, closer friends yesterday, and I’m in no way convinced that I sparkled when I did so.
I’m not keen on labelling people as necessarily either introverts or extroverts. It smacks too much of the faux-science of nonsenses like the MBTI, where the label loses all sense of context and becomes a kind of weird and slightly obsessively applied horoscope. I’d much rather talk about introverted and extroverted moods and behaviours, which are subtle and can change with time, history and indeed context. Such behaviours are rarely strongly dualistic, but the reaction to prolonged social contact does feel to me like one. Most people (often need to) socialize to a certain extent, and an hour or two’s time with friends can cheer up even the most frequently labelled introvert. But what happens in the asymptote, where every minute with company is followed inescapably by another minute, and another?
In comparison with my own experience, a friend of mine (while he has his introverted moments) usually thrives extrovertly on social contact. At conferences he chats and chats, and indeed meeting people leaves him thirsty for meeting more people. He confesses he thrives on discussions, especially themselves about how we improve cooperation and a sense of community in our working life. I don’t know how he does it; but then I dare say there are crashes somewhere behind the scenes that we never see.
For me, I find that real-life, slightly awkward social interaction drains a particular tank in my head full of a slow-to-renew resource; once it’s empty my engine knocks and coughs, as it attempts to run on fumes and its own momentum. And yet, safe in my cave, I still turn to social media, to blogging as I’m doing here. So maybe it’s that I don’t know much about being an introvert: I just know what I like.