An Extrovert, Her Books, and Her Quiet Evenings In
Last week, another one of those introvert memes cropped up on my Facebook timeline. You know the type I mean -- the ones that make you want to throw your computer through the window and then run down the street screaming.
Oh, wait -- that's just me?
I don't dislike introvert memes because they're typically unflattering to extroverts. (I once read one that said introverts think long books are "wonderful friends" and that extroverts just use them as doorstops.) I dislike them because they're simply not true. How else could I -- as a card-carrying extrovert -- win at Introvert Bingo? Not only can I claim a whole row of the card, but a grand total of nine squares actually apply to me. That's more than half the board.
I'm not saying that introversion/extraversion distinctions are a total lie. After all, people do process their thoughts and emotions either internally or externally. I am saying that the way we understand the distinction is skewed. As a result, we're too quick to jump to conclusions about people based on where they fall along the continuum.
For example, reading is not the exclusive domain of introverts. I'm an extrovert, and yet I read substantially more than most of my introvert friends. (Not that it's a contest, but if it were, I'd be winning.) The difference is not that introverts read and extroverts don't, but that extroverts process what they read externally. That's why so many extroverts join book clubs--not because they're drawn exclusively to the social aspect of the book club but because the discussion meets a fundamental need in helping them complete the reading/processing circuit.
Personally, I'd rather light my head on fire than join a book club, but that's only because my book-discussion needs are already met through a close-knit circle of family and friends with whom I regularly swap books and what-are-you-reading updates. I can't even imagine the intellectual loneliness I'd suffer without them.
In the same vein, introverts are not necessarily more effective thinkers than extroverts. They definitely have an easier time appearing as if they think deeply because they're capable of being quiet in public ("Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent"), and they're capable of processing their entire thought before beginning to talk -- unlike extroverts, who are often processing as they talk.
Admittedly, this looks bad for us. But that doesn't mean we don't think deeply ever.
I point again to my own experience. Anyone who's attended one of my classes or has read my blog knows that I'm capable not only of deep thought but of digging into the root of why we think the way we do (or, as Introvert Bingo describes it, thinking about thinking). Yes, when I'm mixing with people, I'm constantly babbling. It's only when I'm alone that I can dedicate brainpower to focused thought. To that end, I purposefully rise early in the morning and plan long evening walks in order to provide space for prayer, Scripture meditation, and analytical/philosophical inquiry.
Because extroverts must be alone in order to accomplish deep thought, we're never actually observed thinking. The result is that we come across as chatterboxes who never stop talking long enough to rub two thoughts together.
It wasn't my intention to devolve into a rant. I'm aware that internet memes are invented off-the-cuff and are intended to be taken at face value and not approached too critically. Maybe I should stop taking this so seriously and just relax and enjoy the joke. After all, not everything needs to be analyzed.
Who do I think I am -- an introvert?
* * *