Sunday, December 09, 2012

Introversion and special interests

For about an hour and a half I was writing tons of thoughts in my private iDoneThis personal calendar. I would like to write a summary of some of these thoughts as brief as possible and that could prove hard.

I got my inspiration from an incident today. I was out with some of my geeky friends and a girl who was into our geeky world sometimes but usually gets bored with our discussions. You could think if you have met us for the very first time that we are extremely talkative and that she is the introvert. But thinking about her, in several other occasions she is always the one who stars conversation with the next random person she just met and she seems to be more interested about meeting and talking to people than talk excessively about special interests. She is actually quite the extrovert with the more proper definition of the term if you think about it.

It also happens that we don't look introvert because we are a small group of geeky people with very similar interests and we know each other and know that we can freely talk about these subjects. If I was in a party with lot's of people and my friends where there and we didn't know each other, maybe I would not get the opportunity to talk to them about my special interests if I decided to hide these because most probably nobody would be interested to listen to these things at the party place. And those people too, would avoid to talk about these and maybe prefer to do small talk, because everyone is expected to respond and connect more easily with everyday matters and little stuff. Then we would possibly look introverted. Introverted in an extroverted world, but what if suddenly the party is occupied mostly by geeks that know each other well and only very few people who don't know why the heck they visited this party in the first place? Then we would actually be extroverts among very few introverts.

So, if our niche interests are not easily found in the majority of people in society and that makes it hard for us to connect with new people, would it ever be possible for that to change in our favor? I think not, because the thing that connects people is the most common denominator and that is casual talk about everyday life, things you see in TV and everyone is familiar with and that stuff. It's not technicalities, it's not the detail, not a hobby for fewer, more intelligent or weird people. And this even works in a vicious circle. If more people connect through common subjects, more people who are interested in connecting with an even higher number of people would continue spreading these subjects and more people would become familiarized with what everyone talks about and the cycle will go on. It reminds me of how common opinions are spreading, memes gaining weight endlessly.

So, the question is, why don't we also learn to start talking about common everyday things so that we connect this way to more people? And this is where the answer lies, one important dichotomy of different cognitive styles. When we start conversations we do it for the sake of transferring our ideas, discussing our special interests with someone else who understands and shares the same passion. Most people talk just for the sake of talking, in order to connect to even more people, without being specially interested in the details of what they are talking about. We don't particularly like talking about things just to talk about anything.

So if our obsession with ideas and interests that fascinate us doesn't help us connect with many people, while common everyday subjects helps more people to get together, it's bound that at the end 90% of social situations would be filled with more of the casual discussions and that would gradually form a social "reality" where most people's image would be the norm and niche interests would be stereotypically connected to introversion and abnormality. It works like a magnet where the majority attracts the most common denominator of frequently discussed subjects and also like a self evolving organism where it ends up to create the image of what came to be considered social or not.

This is one basic cognitive dichotomy I find very important about different temperaments. It's a quite different way we prefer to think and interact with people, whether we are truly interested about ideas or just want to connect with more people. Besides that, I am still feeling like being quite close but not exactly touching the whole connection of it with introversion either the stereotypical one or as it's defined by Susan and other psychologists. I mean, I am still trying to connect the whole puzzle here but the whole feeling of a certain answer slips away from me. In a world where more supposedly extroverted people make more casual conversations, this social mode doesn't exactly favor us and so we don't usually take part in the process and look like introverts in the eyes of most people. In terms of the later definition, there is this vague reference to losing energy while socializing and gaining while being alone and lost in our thoughts or hobbies. It's vague because I don't feel exactly like loosing/gaining some sort of physical energy in any way. But maybe it's just a context for being "energized", being passionate when revolving around our personal thoughts and special interests alone or with few friends sharing similar passions but being bored (not "energized" or demotivated) at the same time in most social situations where connections matter and you can't have a more thorough or interesting discussion.

Either way, we always fall as introverts in a majority that favors the extrovert style of socialization because that attracts most people and thus perpetuates the situation in a vicious circle. Now the strange thing is, Susan in her book Quiet suggests that according to statistics at least 1/3 (to maybe half!) of the population consists of introverts and what explains that we never see them is the fact that most have learned to play the role of the extrovert person because it's considered better to look like one. I would be quite surprised actually if something like 90% of that 1/3 would all really be the thinker person, passionate about ideas and special interests and dispassionate about forming too many people connections, yet they all hide under this pressure. Although I do believe that we live in a prison that we have created for ourselves, that we can be such schizophrenics, that the true revolution would be if each one of us would try to be a little bit more of his true self and less of the expected social image. But one third? I hope so really. Imagine the size of the prison we have build for ourselves if this is true though. The hypocrisy! A whole society, a whole world, living in self denial.

I have my doubts for this one and yet my hopes that it's true. Time will tell. And I hope for a revolution in the way we perceive the whole human condition concerning this issue. Time will tell.

No comments:

Locations of visitors to this page