A teacup next to a water drop in the shape of a heart

Finding that someone (when you don’t want to talk to anyone)

I have a date tomorrow and I’m already dreading it. Don’t get me wrong, I am indeed looking for love. But the idea of going out after a long day at work, meeting a stranger and engaging in small talk—lots and lots of small talk— is less than my ideal evening (leftovers and Netflix, if you must know). Maybe I won’t like him, and this whole exercise will be for naught. Or worse—what if I like him and suddenly have a lot more socializing in my future?

Online dating: The good

It could be Tinder, Match, OKCupid or Farmersonly.com, but if you’re single and looking, you’re probably looking online. If you’re an introvert and looking, this probably makes it easier on you.

For one thing, you don’t have to go out to meet someone. You don’t have to endure a loud club full of loud people all shouting at each other to be heard. You don’t have to mingle at an event or party. You can simply log on from wherever you want whenever you want. You can search for your soul mate in your pajamas and that’s pretty great.

You also don’t have to talk to anyone and that’s even greater. Swiping left and right is a quiet experience, where I can learn about people without having to expend any social energy. It’s up to me if I want to send a message or read one that comes in. As an introvert, I like to think about what I’m going to say and find that especially important when talking to potential suitors. Sure, it’s technically hiding behind the internet, but it gives me some space to read, reflect and respond. There’s no pressure to go from zero to “on” immediately.

Online dating: The Bad

“You have to put yourself out there. It’s a numbers game. Just get out and meet people.” Thanks, well-meaning extrovert, but what you think is a pep talk is really our worst nightmare.

For many of us, meeting people while we’re out socializing can be pretty rare. Which is why it’s been so easy to say “I just haven’t met anyone.” Now, with 338934 dating apps in our pockets, there’s no excuse. And you have to consciously put yourself out there (well, on there); you don’t just bump into the person of your dreams on an app.

Choosing a date based on some photos, a brief profile and possibly a couple of messages also means you’re less likely to get a feel for the person right off the bat. It’s hard to get a vibe from your phone screen. This means you’ll likely end up going on more first dates than you normally would. First dates that are a minefield of small talk, awkward silences, loud environments and other such natural threats to the introvert.

Online dating: The “Whatever”

I think we’ve already established that dating is not an introvert’s favourite pastime. But let’s embrace technology for at least allowing us to socialize on our terms.

I won’t lie and say I haven’t been figuring out ways to postpone tomorrow or worrying about how drained I’ll be. But as long as I don’t open with, “Hi, nice to meet you. I’ve been dreading this all day. Shall we order?” I think it’ll be ok.

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Quote: In terms of, like, instant relief, cancelling plans is like heroin

A social introvert?!

My mom calls me a social butterfly. I call me an introvert. Who’s right? Well, believe it or not, both of us. My calendar is usually pretty full and I’m always planning some activity with one friend or another. That’s right, I’m a social introvert.

Yes, like the M&M guys, we do exist. Just because we’re introverts doesn’t mean we hate people. I mean, sure, some of us genuinely prefer a good book and solitude to socializing 100% of the time. But some of us still like to get together with friends, go to crowded events or *gasp* go to a party.

Running an energy tab

As I’ve mentioned before, the biggest difference between extroverts and introverts is how we recharge our batteries. For the most part, I enjoy socializing. One might even accuse me of having FOMO. However, as much fun as I’m having, socializing is work for me and every interaction has an energy cost.

Small talk with acquaintances, for instance, can be fairly pricey, but doesn’t tend to last long. Hanging out with my best friend is very low-cost, but over an extended period, the tab can really rack up. Add a few more close friends and the cost increases. Put us somewhere crowded, like a restaurant or somewhere loud, like a bar or concert, and the bill starts to go through the roof. I might be having the time of my life, but I’ll be running on fumes and likely need a full day to recharge.

Hitting the wall

At a certain point each day, I’m just done. It might come earlier some days than others, depending on how much recharging time I’ve been getting. If I’ve had plans every day after work, which is sometimes the case, and haven’t had some good quality quiet time a night, I’m no use to the world by Friday.

For this reason, it’s not uncommon for the social introvert to bail. The social part of me is excited to make lots of fun plans and see the people I care about. The introvert part of me, however, may have other things in mind. It can come across as flakey, inconsiderate or downright rude, but please know that I really did intend to do the thing I committed to doing. It’s just that I spent all of my social energy and simply can’t afford to use up any more. Just like you wouldn’t have a shopping trip when your bank account is in overdraft.

Trust me when I say that at that point, it’s better for all involved if I don’t try. Trust me when I also say that I’ve likely wrestled with the decision of whether or not to cancel for an absurd amount of time. I’ve pictured myself going through the process of getting to my destination and having interactions and the thought alone exhausts me. I do feel bad about bailing on you. It’s just that the guilt is soon replaced by a glorious sense of relief that I don’t have to be “on.”

A dog holding its paws over its face

I’m not just shy

I’m an introvert. Oh, so you’re shy? No. I’m an introvert.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been labelled “shy.” I never really liked speaking to people and have an especially hard time with new people. To some extent, I guess I am shy. However, that’s not the full story. It rarely is for us introverts.

So what is an introvert?

The average introvert is someone who turns inward mentally. That is to say: someone who tends to spend more time thinking to themselves than speaking out loud. We’re the types to sit silently in a meeting, taking in all of the facts and ideas, rather than reacting to each item.

Introverts generally prefer solitary activities, since socializing drains our energy. If you can get us to a party, we’ll be the ones sitting somewhere along a wall, out of the way. We’re watching the shenanigans, not causing them. It doesn’t mean we’re not enjoying ourselves; it’s just that engaging with others is work to us. Hard work. Where our counterparts, the extroverts, are energized by social activity, we are utterly exhausted by it.

Shhh…

One of the major telltale signs of introversion is the critical need for alone time in order to recover from socializing. We are also more likely to need recovery time from sensory overload in general. For me, leaving the quiet tranquility of my apartment (where I live alone, naturally) and venturing into the loud, bright, constantly buzzing world can be pretty jarring. By the time I’ve taken a crowded subway, where I’ve spent the whole time silently willing people to get out of my “bubble,” and sat down under bright fluorescent lights in my cubicle, I’m already feeling weary.

I have the good fortune of sitting right beside the front door to my office. Throughout my day, I hear the door slam, footsteps rushing to and from various meetings, every conversation on the floor, even the beep of someone’s security badge for the office next door. Concentrating can be, for lack of a more descriptive word, tough.

By the end of some days, my head feels heavy, like I’ve soaked up all of the noise and stimuli from my surroundings, and the only way I can make it home in one piece is by the grace of soft and soothing music in my headphones until I can get back to my quiet cave—I mean home—and just…not for a while.

Being quiet is OK

It took me a while to realize not only what I am, but also that it’s totally fine. Now that I know how my mind works, I can cater to it. I know what’s going to drain me and how to refuel. I know how I think and work and interact with people. I know that I’m not shy or anti-social– I’m an introvert.