Why introverts love Social Media

by Mack Collier

“Hello, my name is Mack, and I am an introvert.”

If you are an introvert that’s active in social media, do people that you meet find it difficult to believe that you are introverted?  I get this often, so much so that I have on my Facebook page that I am “Online extrovert, offline introvert.  It’s complicated.”

But for me, it’s much easier to be outgoing online, than it is offline.  I think that’s why I love social media so much.

For example, one of the things that I hate is being in a room full of people where I don’t know anyone.  I find it extremely difficult to introduce myself to anyone and talk to them, because I assume they don’t know me and don’t want to know me.  It’s a terribly awkward situation for me, and if you’re an introvert you can probably relate.

But if I am in a group of people I don’t know on Twitter, I have little problem striking up a conversation with them.  The anxiety over having to in-person introduce myself is all but removed, and as a result, it’s much easier for me to engage with people.

Here’s another example of an awkward offline situation.  What if you have just met someone and are talking to them.  What do you do when you reach that point where the conversation has died, and you need to politely break it off?  I hate that!  But again, if I’m online, then I can leave and no one really knows.  So again, that awkward feeling is removed.

This is why I think it’s so easy for introverts to be extroverted online.  I was talking to Liz Strauss and Kellye Crane about this at SXSW, and we all felt the same way.  But the problem this creates for me is that since I *am* extroverted online, people that I meet offline expect me to be extroverted.  And I’m almost always more reserved (even at SXSW), so I can give some people the wrong impression that I am ‘stuck up’, or not interested in talking to them.  I’ve really tried to work on that, but it’s an issue.

What do the rest of you introverts say?  Do you find it easier to communicate with people online versus offline?  And if so, how do you handle meeting people offline?  Do you think there’s a noticeable disconnect between how you act online, vs offline?

BONUS: My friend Lisa has a series of posts on introverts and leadership and business.  Great reading!

 

{ 125 comments… read them below or add one }

lisa kribs February 29, 2012 at 8:24 am

GREAT topic Mack. I’m just seeing this now. Awesome participation.

I always am taken aback when meeting (eg.) a twitter friend IRL and they are completely quiet/shy, etc -the opposite of what appeared online.
I suppose this is neither right or wrong (?) but, I do feel mildly “fooled”. Not consciously, or purposely by them necessarily- but in a way where this medium has started to dissolve the former “norms” developed over time that no longer can be assumed. There is something to that I think.
In a strange way it’s similar to the feeling when you receive an email from someone where you know they would never say XX to your face but did so in that space.
To me this walks the incredible line of how our communication is evolving rapidly and the tools we bring along the way.

It also seems to graze the personal branding area. I think all voices are incredible and extremely important, but how are we to really perceive one if they behave differently according to mediums (phone/web/inperson/etc)? We cannot expect to have several different brands of ourselves according to where we’re communicating.
Well, this is more heady than I intended to get!

Cheers Mack, incredible and I do look forward to one day meeting you in person!
Lisa

Reply

Mike March 2, 2012 at 10:49 am

You just put into words what I was thinking! Social media gave those of us that 30 years ago would have had jobs in a back room somewhere a way to communicate with confidence. But like you said, the problem arises when we step back into the real world and don’t live up to expectations of being the person we’ve allowed everyone to see online.

(I could never say what I just said in a room full of people)

Reply

David July 5, 2012 at 8:59 am

While this is a great read, I don’t think it’s fair for you to treat introversion as a socially crippling disease that renders you more incapable of organic real-life social interaction than others. Life is inherently awkward. Those uncomfortable situations you mentioned – they’re uncomfortable for everybody. You owe it to yourself to learn to take it in stride, otherwise you risk alienating your fan base when you act differently in person than you do through social media.

Unless you’re adopting a pen-name of sorts or a pseudonym, or playing a character (Maddox), your social media profile should be an online extension of your real self.

Reply

Mack Collier July 5, 2012 at 9:15 am

David I’m not trying to paint introversion as a ‘socially crippling disease’ but introverts DO communicate differently than extroverts do. Neither method is inherently better or worse than the other, just different.

What I have noticed that it’s easier for me, as an introvert’ to be more ‘social’ online. It’s easier for me to strike up conversations and spark interactions in an online setting. I’ve talked to many other introverts about this, and they all report similar outcomes from their own use of social media.

I think we all act a bit differently online. For some, the differences are very subtle, for others they are stark. I think it’s up to each of us to try to understand how our offline behavior may come across to people that are only used to interacting with us online.

Reply

Pramila May 7, 2013 at 11:30 am

Hey Mack, I have been wondering about this phenomenon for quiet sometime.. I am an introvert and feel exactly as u have said. But online, I feel the extrovert in me come alive, and I chat endlessly sometimes.

Reply

Carrie Chwierut (@CarriesSocial) July 8, 2012 at 9:32 pm

Thanks Mac, great article. As a fellow introvert working in social media I can relate to everything you said! In fact, I’m sharing your comments in my next blog post. Thanks!

Reply

Another Introvert November 6, 2012 at 3:31 pm

I’m an introvert who doesn’t care at all for social media. It s

Reply

Troy Surratt November 25, 2012 at 6:41 pm

I can relate also.

To tie a couple of concepts together within the rockstar metaphor, how does an introverted songwriter behind the scenes step up to the mic and really become that fan-adoring rockstar to the world?

You can try to think like one, as brilliantly outlined in posts here, but the qualities to make that rare next step actually happen are probably a little different in the online versus offline worlds. This world online is ours, well-suited for thoughtful words about big ideas from a world wide web of equal voices that might be quieted or not heard above the noise otherwise.

To each world their own, and it’s great that different personalities have a wide variety of ways to communicate and make a difference in the way best suited to them. We do have to live in both, though, and as might be the case in the situation described, when those words and ideas on computer screens impact real people the reluctant author is going to be pushed up onto that stage in front of that microphone as the fans want more. Take a deep breath… are you ready to rock! Even if you’re not, at least your ideas already have.

Reply

Mack Collier November 26, 2012 at 8:50 am

Troy I love your point about how can an introverted rock star connect with fans!

For me, I go through the same thing with public speaking. I get nervous every time I speak, but I do so because I believe in the ideas I am speaking on. I believe there are two types of speakers; Those that love speaking because they want the spotlight on them, and those that love speaking because they want the spotlight on their ideas. I think extroverts tend to enjoy being in the spotlight, while introverts want the spotlight on their ideas.

And for me, that’s why I love speaking, because it’s a way for me to bring exposure to ideas that I am passionate about. I would think it would be the same way for introverted musicians, a way for them to share their music with their fans.

Reply

Leslie Anneliese November 26, 2012 at 10:55 am

Absolutely! Being active in social media is the perfect hide-out for an INFJ. Some of my other introvert friends do not get this and are now convinced I am an extrovert. Not ! It’s nice to see this verbalized by others.

Reply

Andrew December 15, 2012 at 6:48 am

I am an introvert myself, yet I don’t think this type of thing is related to being an introvert or an extrovert, but more about being shy and thinking about it or not.

I often times found my brain auto-sabotaging myself with thoughts like “don’t do that, something bad may happen!” / “don’t strike up a conversation with her, who knows what she might think about you afterwards!”.

However, after I ignore those thoughts a few times and simply “GO” without thinking of possible (and unlikely) bad consequences, I always manage to get myself into the social mood and feel awesome meeting strangers offline.

It may be just me, but that’s how it works here! :)

Thanks for sharing your great experience with us, Mack!

Reply

kim December 16, 2012 at 7:12 pm

I completely know what you are talking about. From what I have read about extroverted personalities is that it drains the energy when they are in front of others who they have to converse with. Your brain power online has a longevity of its own and can withstand the conversing that goes on. Therefore, when you are in a room of others having to strike up a conversation it takes everything out of you.

Reply

Tracy January 9, 2013 at 8:48 am

Yes, Introversion/Extroversion is about how you get or keep energy. I think you meant to say “introverted” above where you said “extroverted” — an introvert gets energy from within. We recharge by being alone in a quiet place, and being out in crowds or interacting with lots of people is exhausting. Extroverts get energy from without — being at a party or in a crowd is exciting, fun, and energizing for an extrovert, and they could do it all day (and all night) long. Being alone for an extrovert is just lonely.

Of course these are extreme descriptions — most people fall somewhere in the middle. And introverts are not necessarily shy — I can be extremely outgoing and often mistaken for an extrovert in many social situations. What people don’t see is the little shivering meltdown I have at home afterwards! :-)

I find social media nearly as difficult as face-to-face, though. Not so much that I can’t be witty and charming in social media, but that it’s just as hard to do a lot of it (as most social media gurus say you must) as it is to do a lot of big-group socializing. I tend to re-share stuff others have said, or reply to conversations (as here) rather than start my own conversations. I’m much more of a listener than a talker. That would probably be fine if I had thousands of followers who would tag me in posts I could answer, but building that following is tough when you just don’t have that much to say.

Reply

Jo December 22, 2012 at 3:42 am

i loved your article – I’m also an introvert who enjoys social media, and I’m often thankful that I’m alive during a time when we have these opportunities. I’m sure there are many extroverts who communicate much better in person than they do online, so if we met them we might think differently about them than if we were reading their posts on Twitter.

Reply

Dana May 5, 2013 at 3:05 am

I agree with all of you. Online extrovert and Offline introverted. This is why online courses fascinate me. I’m pursuing my doctorate online and I absolutely love it! Many years ago I could not understand this sort of juxtaposition, today I understand the two sides well. Thanks for this article.

Reply

ElynnKy May 16, 2013 at 5:53 pm

I like social media because it allows quiet communication. Sometimes I just don’t feel like hearing other people talk, even though I might want to know what they are thinking. Being around a lot of noise gets me exhausted.

Reply

betty August 5, 2013 at 4:38 pm

I totally understand…everyone knows not to knock at my door, or phone me. They will always use my inbox on FB to contact me.

Reply

b December 11, 2013 at 7:41 am

Makes me think of the video to a country song from several years ago, Brad Paisley’s, “So Much Cooler Online,” although I know that takes it to an extreme of actually creating and escaping into a different online persona. I find that I interact far easier online than in person, but can adapt in person – it is just completely exhausting to do so. A benefit for me is that I have had the chance to get to know some people online before meeting them in person, so the typical awkwardness of having to make small talk with a stranger is no longer present, as we have a friendship base from the get go. I almost equate communicating online to the idea of pen pals in days gone by.

Reply

Vicki January 27, 2014 at 2:24 pm

Typical introverts prefer writing to talking. Social Media is All About writing.
Typical introverts like to control their interactions. Social Media is all about control (I can walk away in the middle of a post, come back in two hours and finish it, and no one knows).
Introverts, when engaged in a subject they enjoy, can “talk your ear off”. Social Media is all about what you enjoy.

Reply

Tawni February 3, 2014 at 5:55 pm

I LOVED this and referenced it in a post just today.

And to respond:
“If you are an introvert that’s active in social media, do people that you meet find it difficult to believe that you are introverted?”

ALL OF THE TIME.

Thank you for posting this — I’m not alone, after all!

http://tawnimarie.wordpress.com/2014/02/03/my-own-skin-creative-expression-as-a-form-of-worship/

Reply

Brian Clark February 4, 2014 at 1:09 pm

>>>so I can give some people the wrong impression that I am ‘stuck up’, or not interested in talking to them.

As an introvert myself, I’ve always been worried about this. So I basically give it all I’ve got when talking to people, for example, after I give a presentation. And then I go back to my room and hide a bit to recharge. Of course, then I get criticized for the hiding (mostly by extroverts). ;)

Reply

Mack Collier February 4, 2014 at 1:17 pm

Brian I know that feeling exactly. Conferences are especially draining, I try to limit my attendance to a day and a half max, if it’s 2 days or more it becomes incredibly tiresome. Especially on Day Two being surrounded by a bunch of extroverts that thrive off non-stop interaction :)

Reply

Kerry O'Shea Gorgone February 4, 2014 at 7:51 pm

I’m a compassionate extrovert, Brian. I’d understand. :)

Reply

Leave a Comment

{ 24 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: