Lesson #350: The Science of Introversion

I am an introvert. It’s something that I struggled with a lot in college; I spent four years pretending to be an extrovert with quite a lot of success. To this day, I’m not sure how I pulled off that long con without driving myself absolutely mental. And though I’d argue that I’m an extroverted introvert, in that I love meeting new people and will talk to anyone — something I inherited from my father and grandfather — I’m still an introvert. Which brings us to how we got here.

Yesterday, some friends and I went and watched our local MLS team. And it was brilliant! I had a great time and made friends with the ultras* and made even more friends at the bar afterwards. But it was all aboard the struggle bus this morning for the Spurs match. Two straight days of intense socialization without any time (I got in at 2 and was at the pub at 10:30) to decompress is bad news björnar. I know I’m in trouble when watching my football club with my friends is a struggle. And an offhand comment by one of my friends about thriving on all of that socialization made me wonder about the science of it. After all, there has to be a reason for why, having done exactly the same thing as I did from 2pm yesterday until 2pm today (assuming he slept and showered between the time I dropped him off last night and the time he got to the pub), he was reveling and I desperately wanted quiet.

The answer is actually pretty simple. The reason my friend was basking in the crush and noise and I just wanted to punch another member of the club who I normally like in the mouth so he’d stop cheering so loudly for our team comes down to the way our brains take in, filter, and process what’s going on around us. Science says that introverts’ brains process external stimuli more quickly than extroverts’, which leads us to become overwhelmed well before our extroverted friends.

io9 has a pretty good breakdown of other scientific studies that you can read here.

This is my favourite ever explanation of how to deal with my fellow introverts.

*who didn’t set anything on fire. I have absolutely no idea how to deal with ultras when they’re not setting things on fire.

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