I Am Joe’s Blog:

April 7, 2007 • 7:24 PM

Blogging for Introverts

A few days ago I was talking to my mother on the phone, and I mentioned that Morgen has a new blog, Spectatrix, about life as an introvert. In the process of explaining what the blog was about, I mentioned in passing something about my being an introvert too, and my mother was incredulous. “You? An introvert? You’ve got to be kidding! I mean, I knew I was an introvert, but you?” Well, I was shocked that she was shocked. But on further reflection, I think we were working from very different definitions of what it means to be an introvert, and I can see how easily someone (even someone who’s known me my whole life) might therefore make that mistake.

If you’ve ever taken the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, you know that the first personality component it produces is I for introvert or E for extrovert. (I’m an INTJ, in case you were wondering.) The sense of “introvert/extrovert” measured by this test is a specific psychological definition. As the Wikipedia puts it, where one falls on the “I/E” axis

show how a person orients and receives their energy. In the extroverted attitude the energy flow is outward, and the preferred focus is on other people and things, whereas in the introverted attitude the energy flow is inward, and the preferred focus is on one’s own thoughts, ideas and impressions.

In other words, extroverts get more energy from being around other people, whereas introverts get more energy from being alone, and find that being around others tends to drain their energy. This is very different from the colloquial sense of “introvert” as someone who’s shy, timid, withdrawn, or even misanthropic. I’m none of those things, and in fact I love speaking in front of crowds and throwing parties. But I have to do these things in moderation, and on my own terms. Given the choice, I’d almost always rather be with fewer people than with many, and I’d be happier still to be alone. Of course, it makes a lot of difference who the other people are and what they’re doing. If there’s a lot of noise involved, or if people are crowded close around me, that’s not so good, but if the crowd is more spread out and quieter, then my tolerance goes up; it goes up even more if the people are friends rather than strangers.

From what we’ve read, it sounds like Morgen and I are fairly typical introverts (although she’s further toward the “I” side of the scale than I am), and what she’s written on Spectatrix certainly rings true for me. Introverts tend to have a lower tolerance for noise and a greater need for personal space than extroverts, but there’s certainly a lot of variation. So although I might chalk up some personality trait as being “because” I’m an introvert, there could be other reasons—and it may not be true for other introverts, or true to a different degree.

A few people have expressed confusion at the notion of an introvert running a blog, as though by definition we should be very private people who want to avoid attention of any kind. I guess Morgen and I are pretty private people, but the great thing about the Web is that it lets us share information about ourselves with lots of people in a way that doesn’t drain our energy, since we’re not interacting with everyone at once, or in person. I’ve corresponded with I can’t tell you how many thousands of people who have read one of my books, articles, or Web posts, and because the interactions are all done from the privacy of my office, by typing rather than talking, it’s always felt completely neutral in terms of draining my energy. Again, that may not be true of all introverts, but I think many people would be surprised how many actors, singers, politicians, and even high-profile bloggers would identify themselves as introverts.