We’re All Introverts Now

Food for Thought

Day 25: I’m sitting in Ground Zero of a historic pandemic, but the way I’m experiencing it is not very different from someone reading the news from the other side of the world because I don’t go out much.

It’s driving my kid crazy. She and her friends miss going to school. When schools reopen, there will be millions of kids who have never felt so happy to go to school, even those who thought they were too cool for school. The only way to truly appreciate something is to be deprived of it.

I didn’t realize, to what extent, extroverts need face-to-face human interaction. It seems that no amount of video conferencing and texting can replace it. It’s an extraordinary situation where all the extroverts in the world are forced to live like introverts. For many introverts, the current level of socializing feels just right. It’s puzzling to see extroverts struggle.

In normal times, extroverts see introverts overwhelmed by too much social interaction, retreating into isolation to recuperate; extroverts wonder, “What’s wrong with them?” The situation has reversed because the normal level of social interaction has decreased. Either way, what feels just right for some is torture for others. Extroverts are lucky that what feels right for them is the norm in our society. Hopefully, after this, we would have a better appreciation for each other’s differences.

We tend to assume that face-to-face communication is superior, original, and real, and that any mediated forms of communication are inferior, superficial, and fake. But how could we make art without mediation? Generally, isn’t it precisely the opposite? It’s face-to-face communication that is more facile, dumbed-down, thoughtless, and careless.

Isn’t isolation painful, precisely because it forces us to be thoughtful, mindful, and introspective? It is because face-to-face communication is filled with irrelevant distractions that it is tolerable. Art is meaningful because it removes distractions, like photographers cropping and freezing only the objects and the moments that matter.

This virus is forcing us to remove distractions and ask questions we’ve always wanted to evade.