Throughout the past couple of centuries and more, society has shifted from idolizing one group of people to another. In the late 19th and early 20th Century it was the scientist and inventor; in the Roaring Twenties it was the young and independent; in the 40s and 50s it was the soldier; in the 60s and 70s the businessman and stockbroker; in the 80s the rocker, and so on.
Today, one can (and in my case, will) argue that the “in-crowd” of the moment is that of the introvert.
Introverts might hate being in the spotlight, but like it or not, the spotlight is exactly where they’re in.
BOOKS, QUIET, SOLITUDE, RAINY DAY, ETC.
Unless your internet has been out for the past decade (maybe you use Singtel, or something), you must have realized that digital media abounds with respect for the archetype of the introvert. We have this image of what an introvert is, and spout volumes of rhetoric about their virtues. The introspective intellectual; the bookish loner; the quiet party-hater; the lone wolf in his fortress of solitude.
Take a hike through the myriad introvert-centric articles of the elitedaily’s and thoughtcatalog’s of the net and you might find that our image of the stereotypical introvert has gotten so specific and extreme that it can only be described as caricature.
While many of us identify in some way as introverts, many of us also identify in certain ways with characteristics of the extrovert. Regardless, whether you consider yourself an introvert, extrovert, or ambivert, it is important to realise that introversion-extraversion is not a binary. The vast majority of people fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum, exhibiting both introverted and extroverted traits to varying degrees.
Not all introverts are smart or shy, and not all extroverts are boneheaded jocks or basic bitches who hate books and meaningful conversation. However, many an internet article waxing rhetoric on the shrine of the introvert seems subscribed to the notion that the traits commonly associated with introversion are exclusive to and inextricable from introverts.
Come on, guys. You know it’s not that simple.
PRODUCT OF TECHNOLOGY
In her article titled The Introvert Fetish, Whitney Erin Boesel asserts that beyond internet articles and blogposts pandering to the sensibilities of the introvert, the introvert craze we are in might actually have begun as a response to the invention of the internet.
With the advent of the world-wide web and the advancement of communication technology, we began to witness an unprecedented level of superficiality in our communications. We realized that in many ways, communicating on the internet resembles our typical ideas associated with extraversion. Messages are short and shallow. Articles are a fraction the length of their printed counterparts. Social media interactions are touch-and-go. Like our constantly ringing smartphones, extroverts never shut up. Like our Facebook accounts, extroverts have far too many fake friends. Like extroverts, online communication lacks depth and authenticity.
Because of this, we have gravitated away from the innate superficiality of cyberspace, towards a pursuit of real-ness, hence driving us into an appreciation of the characteristics of introversion, to the point of “fetishism”.
Ironically, while the internet may be a haven for introverts and their self-praising fans, the decidedly un-introverted characteristics of online communications may be exactly what birthed the introvert craze in the first place. Or, as Boesel puts it, “Actual introverts may have a particular affinity for the Internet, but the Internet itself becomes an extrovert.”
As a way of pushing back against the perceived hollowness of digitally mediated experiences, Boesel believes that we as a society have invented the introvert fetish in an attempt to reconnect with a sense of offline authenticity and meaning, even while staying constantly connected to the internet. We want to call ourselves introverts, because we want to believe that we are genuine and “real”, while we flood ourselves with all the fake, superficial nonsense of the internet and social media.
What do you think, dear reader? Do you identify as an introvert? If you do, how do you feel about the constant barrage of media sucking up to the stereotypical introvert by portraying a caricaturized version of you? Do you think the introvert craze is a positive movement towards the acceptance of introverts in a traditionally extrovert-dominated world? Or is it simply a manifestation of conservative backlash against the artificiality of an internet-augmented society?