Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Curious Comfort of the Interweb

I am an introvert. *gasp* I know, right?? You're totally shocked, aren't you. You're not? Ah, well, I don't hide it very well. It's something I've struggled with since high school. Actually, I think my troubles with it might have started in sixth grade, when classes were first split. Before that, I didn't think anything of it. I was quite content staying home and reading all day until I noticed that everyone around me was hanging out at the mall, partying, etc. I didn't enjoy that stuff, so I figured something must be wrong with me.

It got worse in college. I picked one of the biggest schools in the nation to attend. Talk about a smart choice (/sarcasm). Still, I loved the school. It was a gorgeous campus, I could go to the football games, and I did meet some really cool people. I even went out to the occasional club or party, though most of my time was spent in my room, the library, or my friends' room playing 007 (I sucked, but it was fun). Then after a couple years and lots of testing of my social tolerance, something happened. I discovered MMOs.

Yes, scoff if you must, but that one discovery helped me tremendously. Before that, I hadn't really spent a lot of time on the internet. I used it for searching and stuff, but I never used it as a social tool. But when I started playing Star Wars: Galaxies, my world changed. I met new people, people I never would have encountered without the game. I became part of a community of individuals, a lot of who (whom?) were much like me. Since then, my social footprint has grown and I have expanded the ways I meet new people, but I still find it easier to interact with folks online that in person.

That's all good and great, but what's my point and why am I rambling? Well, while reading Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Won't Stop Talking last night, Susan Cain brought up a very interesting point:

Studies have shown that performance gets worse as group size increases. .... The one exception to this is online brainstorming. Groups brainstorming electronically, when properly managed, not only do better than individuals, research shows; the larger the group, the better it performs.

Weird, right? Earlier in the book, she mentions how introverts seem to feel more comfortable online and are able to express themselves and build friendships that then transfer to the "real world" much easier than they can in the physical world. As I was reading that, I was like "Yes! Absolutely 100% yes!" But why? What is it about the internet that makes it so much easier for introverts to be themselves and share their inner thoughts?

1. We don't get interrupted.  This is a big issue for me in face-to-face communication. I always like to let people finish talking before sharing my thought, but often that means they've moved onto another topic and sharing my thought would be out of place. Or I get interrupted in the middle of a thought and find it very difficult to bring the conversation back around to where I was before. In online communication (specifically typed chat) no one can get interrupted. Everyone gets their say and can even discuss multiple topics simultaneously.

2. We have time to think.  It's rare that we're required to answer RIGHT NOW when someone asks a question or makes a comment online. We often have time to ponder it over, even if it's only a couple of minutes. And if we are required to answer right away, we don't have someone staring at us while we think.

3. We can double check what we've said. Before we even send the message, we can read it over to make sure that what we're saying is what we really wanted to say. This greatly reduces the chances of our figurative foot ending up in our mouths.

4. People are typically more supportive than judgmental. Sure, there are some jerks out there, but I've found an enormous community of extremely friendly, helpful people. And everyone is so different. They come from all walks of life and share so many different experiences (and many of the same). If I have a problem, someone else has been there, too, and they understand.

Are you an introvert in a world of extroverts? Do you find online communication easier than face-to-face? What are some other benefits of online media?


  1. I love that book too, so enlightening. Your first point about interruptions is spot on. The internet is fab!

  2. I relate so much to this! Especially the first point; I think that's the biggest one for me. But really, they all come into play. I love how many close friendships I've made on the internet--so many like-minded people. I was even worse than you at uni, I didn't go to any parties or social events at all. I did make a couple of close friends and we were all more into studying than partying.

  3. This is so incredibly true. I'm an introvert, and so social encounters drain me completely of energy. I love people, and I'm a friendly person, but large groups are draining and I often feel awkward. I feel like people get a better look at who I really am through online communication because I'm relaxed and in my element.

  4. I'm so glad I'm not alone! Looks like I'm in great company, too. :)

    I thought of another reason.

    #5. When we run across someone who we don't like or makes us feel bad about ourselves, it's much easier to avoid them on the internet than it is in person!


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