Chronicle Internet Culture Startups

Day 72 and Isolation

I’m an introvert. I do not draw energy from crowds or socializing. My energy comes from within. I like to socialize with individuals, in fact I enjoy one on one conversations quite a bit, but can easily be overstimulated by them and require a quiet period afterwards. Engagement with others draws down on my energy whereas with extroverts that engagement sustains and builds their energy. If you are curious about this framework visit the work of Carl Jung.

Despite the skill set being heavily weighted towards people skills, I suspect leaders in startup land tend to lean towards introvert. My suspicion is that it is a function of the heavily generative nature of the work, you are bringing something from nothing. To be able to consistently bring something new about you need quiet mindful time to yourself.

Sadly society, particularly professional society, is weighted for extroverts.

Open office plans, meetings, collaboration and buy in, managing up and down, all assume that that extroverted behaviors are the default positive positions for a team. Add in after office cocktails, team dinners and off site events and you start to see a pattern that privilege people for whom social interaction is enjoyable (not even considering if it’s possible or a family strain like parents).

Modern work is a battle between extroverts and introverts and the extroverts have definitely won. Which is weird as despite the Jungian tradition it may turn out that ambiverts, balanced personalities who exhibit both traits, are actually the largest group.

I’ve always loathed conferences as it depleted my energy stores for at best dubious content benefits. During the pandemic I’ve been much more willing to engage with events as instead of arranging for transit, getting polished for a professional environment, moving my productive work hours around the event, I can simply show up and learn. It’s miraculous and frankly I’m sad so many people want to move on from these accessible events as it probably means I’ll drop attendance entirely. I can say yes to a lot more if the accessibility of an event remains geared toward remote, introvert and disabled. You don’t have to be any of those things to prefer it either. Maybe you have kids and appreciate participating in the culture all those child free extroverted wealthy twenty somethings enjoyed all this time.

I’m afraid that post pandemic the extroverts will win work culture norms again. Even though we are all sick of the over scheduling and the exhausting nature of office and event culture, we miss it a little. And the boomerang back is likely to make it seem more appealing than ever. But I can’t shake the feeling that the pandemic is a bit like a societal hypochondria moment. We needed to be sick to heal our culture. Prioritizing one kind of person and their needs (the extrovert) has led to all kinds of inequalities and tensions. I hope we can come back with a little more respect for the culture and desires of introverts. I know I’ll be coming out swinging for more balance.