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!

 

Lisa Petrilli March 25, 2011 at 9:18 am

Hello, my name is Lisa and I’m an introvert too. :)

Mack, I’m so glad you wrote this post because I have found social media – and blogging in particular – to be a way to express that “inner world of ideas” that we introverts love so much. And yet, as you mention, when we’re “IRL” with others we’ve just met, our preference is to listen rather than to share openly – which may be off-putting to some.

I know that when I do attend conferences I make a very real effort to tap into my extraversion as much as possible, and then to head back to my room thoroughly exhausted to recharge.

I’ve also discovered that what works well for me IRL is to approach people and assume that they are just as introverted – and perhaps uncomfortable – with the networking experience as I am, and to focus on making them comfortable and on learning about them and how I might be of help to them. Typically, conversations open up much more freely when I do this.

And thank you for mentioning my series, Mack, it’s an honor to be your friend.

Lisa Petrilli

Mack Collier March 25, 2011 at 9:49 am

Lisa I think you hit on the reason why introverts love blogging, it gives us a chance to think and organize our thoughts before we talk. At least I know that’s why I love it.

I think your approach of meeting people and assuming they are also uncomfortable is a great one because I think most of us are! Also, a problem I run into is that I am so self-conscious about talking to someone I don’t know that I often forget key details about them….like their name and what they do :)

You are very welcome for the mention of your series on Introverts in leadership and business, a great idea and perfect for you!

Jevon Bolden March 25, 2011 at 9:33 am

Hi, Mack!

Love this article. As an editor who works with writers who loathe the idea of networking (most of them must be introverts too), I believe that social media could be their dream antidote.

Anyhow, I completely agree with Lisa. I have to attend conferences and various author events and have to seriously tap into extroverted side. One thing I can do well is ask questions and laugh at my own awkwardness. These two things seem to set people at ease. Another way I try to bridge my two identities (online extrovert and in-person introvert) is by attending events or setting up one-on-one meetings with people I find interesting in my social media network. It has worked wonders, because some of that awkwardness is removed in some ways, because I think they already know me.

So… I was trying to think of what else to say, but my introvert just kicked in. I got nothin’.

Wonderful piece, though! Talk to you later. :)

Mack Collier March 25, 2011 at 9:52 am

Thank you Jevon, that was great ;) I need to do a better job of asking questions during networking opportunities IRL. One big problem I have is that while the other person is talking, I catch myself sometimes not listening to them, and instead trying to figure out what I want to say next. Which totally defeats the point, because then I’m not sure what to say, cause I haven’t heard everything they just said!

Thanks for stopping by, Jevon, I had a feeling the comments to this post would be amazing ;)

Jevon Bolden March 25, 2011 at 3:22 pm

Oh, I didn’t say anything about listening to them! No, only kidding–a little. I work hard to listen and sometimes have people repeat what they’ve said to me. Sometimes, I laugh and say, ” I know you’re speaking English but for some reason it went over my head and did not translate. Has that ever happened to you?” And they have to admit that yes, it happens to them. We’re human–extrovert or introvert.

Karen March 25, 2011 at 9:36 am

THANK YOU for writing this. I’m an introverted extrovert. It’s really easy for me to be friendly and *seem* outgoing, but to really get to know me is a different story. I find that events are particularly difficult for me and I find one buddy to kind of cling to and then I will magically disappear midway through an event and retreat back to my apartment in sweet, sweet silence. I require a LOT of alone time and with a crazy travel schedule, I find that at the end of the day, I want to crawl not only in, but UNDER the bed. EEP!

Mack Collier March 25, 2011 at 9:54 am

Karen I hear you. Even when I am at an event like SXSW where I meet a lot of people I know and friends, by 9pm I feel exhausted, because even spending time with other people in a crowded environment weighs on me. I don’t really notice it at the time, but by the end of the day I feel drained. Do you feel this way?

Becky Pearce March 25, 2011 at 9:50 am

I can SO much relate to what you’re saying! I am a mess when it comes time to attend events and conferences and I’ve never heard/read anyone describe how I feel more perfectly than you did here. I feel terribly awkward just walking up to people and introducing myself. I often tell people how social media has helped with that. I can start the conversation online so I feel (at least slightly) more comfortable when I get to the event and find someone I know.

I’ve been at conferences where speakers talk about the best “social media people” being those who are outgoing/extroverted. I wanted to raise my hand – but of course didn’t :) – and say NO! Introverts can be equally effective as online communicators and ambassadors for brands.

Recently I was at an AMA event and there was a young woman in attendance who I could clearly tell felt exactly the same way I did. It was refreshing. I immediately approached her and she looked so relieved. That rarely (if ever) happens though.

Thanks for the great post Mack!

Mack Collier March 25, 2011 at 10:07 am

Becky I really think introverts can be ‘better’ at social media than extroverts. I think we introverts WANT to be more expressive, but of course offline situations often make us uncomfortable. But online, a lot of the worry and anxiety is removed, so I think we embrace it more passionately.

Wondering what the extroverts think, if they prefer online or offline communication?

Steve Woodruff March 25, 2011 at 9:54 am

Mack, when I first met you IRL in NYC, I knew in a millisecond that you were a fellow introvert. But having “known” you on-line, I also knew you weren’t stuck-up. Social media has been the best tool ever for me to pre-meet people, so that in a more crowded situation, it’s easier to get out of myself and start interacting.

Still need the alone time, however. That’ll never change!

Mack Collier March 25, 2011 at 10:11 am

Steve I’ve been thinking about this, I wonder if social media helps us introverts meet more people? I can see a natural progression here: Meet someone via social media…..then start emailing……then phone calls……then meet IRL at a conference or tweetup, etc. It’s a natural progression for us introverts, but each step helps us know the other person a bit better, so I think it makes us introverts a bit more comfortable with the entire process. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

Jesse Luna March 25, 2011 at 10:00 am

I define extroversion based on whether or not a person gets energy from being around orhers. Some people get exhausted online and offline from dealing with people. Others thrive online but then face the awkwardness IRL so feel introverted. But if they really were introverted, they wouldn’t even want to be around other people at all. I love being around other positive people and get completely energized ny it but I’m not always as social IRL.

Mack Collier March 25, 2011 at 10:16 am

Jesse I agree with your definition of extroversion, as I believe extroverts do get energy from being around others. And ironically, although I am an introvert, if I am around a small group of CLOSE friends that I am completely comfortable with, that energizes me as well.

But I don’t agree with you that if someone is introverted that they wouldn’t want to be around people at all. There are degrees of introversion, and that sounds like an extreme case. As Steve said, we still need alone time, but being with friends can be energizing as well!

Kevin Behringer March 25, 2011 at 10:33 am

Mack:

You nailed it!

I left SXSW this year – my first one – kicking myself for wasting the opportunity because I wasn’t more extroverted. Sure, I went to plenty of sessions and learned a lot, but I didn’t make the connections with people because I was too introverted. I assume, like you said that they probably don’t want to meet me. That they have bigger things to worry about and that they know so much more than me, so I don’t really have anything to offer so I won’t waste their time.

I do find that I’m more extroverted online, but even there I get the sense of, “what do I really have to add here?”

Thanks so much for articulating my feelings so well!

Kevin

Mack Collier March 25, 2011 at 10:38 am

Kevin I think that ‘what do I really have to add here?’ comment is telling and something that we bloggers need to remember when writing our posts. We need to try to find ways to make our readers, especially the introverted ones, feel more comfortable commenting and adding to the conversation.

My experience is that most people are smarter than they give themselves credit for, I bet that’s true in your case as well!

Tad Dunville March 25, 2011 at 12:08 pm

Mack, your writings are great. The most important thing to remember, in the words of Dale Carnegie (or alternatively Chris Rock): People will consider you the most interesting person in the world if you ask them about themselves. In other words, people that get to talk about themselves all day to you will consider you interesting, despite the fact you haven’t said much.

In one of Chris Rock’s original acts, he said something like: any man with half a brain will ask his wife how her day was when she gets home.

The take-away from this anecdote? Introverts don’t have to become extroverts, they just have to learn how to get others talking. Other than my team, I don’t know jack about the NCAA tourney, so I just ask questions about others’ teams.

Mack Collier March 25, 2011 at 12:26 pm

Tad that’s a good point about asking others to talk about themselves. I wonder if it works better with extroverts, as I can see introverts being more private in nature? Y’all are giving me a lot to think about with your comments, I love it!

Nedra Weinreich March 25, 2011 at 12:08 pm

You hit it on the nose again, Mack. The thing I love about social media is that I can think through what I want to say before putting it out there, whether it’s a post or a conversation. And, as you said, it’s easy to reach out to strangers and not worry about awkward pauses that happen in face-to-face conversations. And, when people know me through my blog or Twitter, they will often come up to me and initiate the conversation, which makes it so much easier . There’s always that panicky moment of having to take a deep breath before diving into the crowd at events.

I’ve found that one of the things that helps me cope is having a ready list of questions in my head that I can ask people about themselves when the conversation slows. Also, giving someone a compliment (whether it’s about their clothes or their presentation) is a great way to break the ice with someone you would like to talk to. I think an introvert support group would be a great idea to share these kinds of ideas with each other. Following your lead… Hello, my name is Nedra, and I’m an introvert.

Mack Collier March 25, 2011 at 12:31 pm

Thank you Nedra! This is another reason why I love Twitter. If I am in a group chatting in an offline setting, there’s always that awkwardness about how to leave the group. But if I am chatting with people on Twitter, I can just leave and there’s none of that in-person awkwardness to deal with!

And that’s a great suggestion about having questions ready or a compliment to keep the conversation going.

Karen March 25, 2011 at 12:10 pm

Loved this and the comments. Between my social media stuff and my public speaking…people are surprised to realize I am truly an introvert. Just posted the whole thing on Facebook–the introvert equivalent to a “shout out”.

karima-Catherine March 25, 2011 at 12:23 pm

Hi Mack,

the title caught my eye; I am not an introvert offline. but I don’t like being in a room where I don’t know anyone. That’s why I try and quickly connect with at least one person in the room; Because it’s a very uncomfortable feeling.

However, I can see the reason why, for an introvert, it would be more comfortable to provoke those connections online.

You’re doing great! By the way :)

Mack Collier March 25, 2011 at 12:41 pm

Thank you Karima, I always love seeing your smiling face ;) As an introvert, I definitely do this, I try to find someone I know, and gravitate toward them. Hopefully they can connect me with someone else, or someone they know will connect with us. Online, I don’t have a big problem introducing myself to someone I don’t know, but offline it can be a nightmare!

And thank you ;)

Kevin Behringer March 25, 2011 at 2:53 pm

I agree with this one, but I find that when I do this, I tend to just hang with that person and not branch out to others!

Kevin

Mack Collier March 25, 2011 at 5:52 pm

Funny Kevin, I tend to do the same thing as well. Then others think we are all being ‘cliquey’!

Jeff Goins March 25, 2011 at 12:38 pm

I’m an X on the introvert/extrovert scale. What I’ve found is this:

-It’s easy for me to be outgoing online.
-It’s hard for me to go up to somebody in person and introduce myself.
-I like being around people.

So, when I go to a social event, I bring a friend. I like the interaction, but sometimes lack the charisma or gumption to just go and introduce myself. If I’m with somebody else, though, making connections is just easier and feels more organic. Great post!

Mack Collier March 25, 2011 at 12:43 pm

Jeff I think with online, a lot of the offline barriers to connecting are removed, at least I sense it’s that way for me. And that’s a great tip about bringing a friend or being with a friend, interesting how that tip keeps getting mentioned in the comments!

Brandon Yanofsky March 25, 2011 at 12:41 pm

I definitely find it easier. I get anxious whenever I talk to more than one person or there is a large group around. Online, I feel I can be more one on one with people.

Mack Collier March 25, 2011 at 12:47 pm

Brandon does that feeling of anxiety change for you if you are in a group of say 5 great friends? For me, the uneasiness seems to disappear if I am with friends, versus strangers. Still, if I spend all day with friends, I get exhausted and feel drained.

Brandon Yanofsky March 25, 2011 at 3:02 pm

If I’m with 5 friends, yes. But I’m still not as comfortable when it’s a one on one relationship.

Mack Collier March 25, 2011 at 3:07 pm

That makes sense. Maybe introverts prefer fewer but deeper relationships?

Speaking of which, that would be an interesting study, avg number of people that extroverts follow on Twitter, vs avg number of people that introverts follow on Twitter.

Brandon Yanofsky March 25, 2011 at 3:18 pm

That’d be interesting. Any sociology or psychology enthusiasts know how to dothat properly?

Beth Buelow, ACC, The Introvert Entrepreneur March 29, 2011 at 4:43 pm

In general, introverts DO prefer fewer but deeper relationships. We’d rather get to know a few people really well – and have them know us – than have a ton of acquaintances with whom we have little connection. And outties need deep relationships, too – they just need larger social networks/more relationships than innies to feel energized.

With regard to social media, I’ve gotten more relaxed about who I accept FB Friend invites from. With that, I notice that it’s getting less and less satisfying to be on FB, partly because I see more posts from people I really don’t know. So at least for me, even being open and outgoing on social media has its limits.

Christine Geraci March 25, 2011 at 12:42 pm

You’re singing my tune here!

It’s quite the irony, being introverted, yet so passionate about social media. I totally feel you on the conversation break-off point too :)

Yet, perhaps it’s because we’re still separating our online lives from our offline lives. I try my best to balance the two, so that I’m as social and engaged offline as I am online.

But then again, the online world doesn’t have the added stimuli of body language and aura, which if you’re introverted, can make you shut down pretty quickly…

Mack Collier March 25, 2011 at 12:46 pm

Christine I really wonder if most introverts WANT to be more expressive, but they just don’t feel comfortable doing so ‘in real life’. If that’s true, then social media and online interactions are our outlet, and why we love connecting and communicating online so much. Because as I was just telling Jeff, a lot of the in-person communication barriers are removed, when we move the connections to online.

What do the rest of you think? Do you think most introverts WANT to be more extroverted? I’m not sure this is universally true, as Steve said, we definitely need some alone time. But do we want to be more engaged? Interesting to think about…

Chantale Roy March 25, 2011 at 9:11 pm

Hi Mack,
Thank you for this post. I enjoyed reading it and people’s response. Most of which I can identify with.

As an introverted (or a listener as my friend refer to me) I do wish I could be more expressive ‘in real life’, express my thoughts and my knowledge better in person, but I have a tendency to start shaking every time I want to put an idea in words. I always found it easier to write my ideas and for that, Social Networks are wonderful.

But I also know that I get my energy from alone time, not from interacting in groups, even when I really enjoy a night with friends.

I do not know about others, but my introverted issues does not come from wanting to interact more face to face, but to communicate better ‘in real life’.

Tobey Deys March 25, 2011 at 9:22 pm

Hi Chantale :-)
Kindred spirit here :-)
Something I find interesting about your comment is that you feel you have ‘introvert issues’. I don’t see introversion as being something to ‘fix’ .. as though it’s a ‘wrong’ way to be. Introverts have much to offer; introspection, perception, thoughtfulness and, you mentioned a really important contribution – listening. We are excellent listeners. Imagine a world of ‘extroverts only’ … no one would get a word in edgewise ;-)
Introverts make wonderful contributions and I suspect you’re a much better communicator ‘in real life’ than you realize – we all are (some just in smaller doses!)

Mack Collier March 25, 2011 at 10:16 pm

Chantale I agree, I think simply wanting to ‘communicate better’ is a big part of it. Or maybe it’s more about being more relaxed in communicating? When I meet someone, I often catch myself not paying as much attention to them as I should, and instead trying to think of what I should say next. Do you do that?

Kerry March 25, 2011 at 2:14 pm

Yup, this is me too. Extroverted people in general have a really hard time understanding introverts. In fact, an extroverted extrovert once told me she felt our type (introverted extroverts) are not authentic! I say extroverted extroverts don’t do social media as well as we do!

Mack Collier March 25, 2011 at 2:47 pm

LOL! Kerry that’s hilarious, so introverts aren’t authentic? What else are we supposed to be? ;)

Jayme March 25, 2011 at 2:28 pm

Can we start an “Introverts Anonymous” group? Maybe I could finally make friends that way. LoL

Mack Collier March 25, 2011 at 2:48 pm

You’re among friends here, Jayme ;)

Brandon Yanofsky March 25, 2011 at 3:04 pm

I’d join

Beth Buelow, ACC, The Introvert Entrepreneur March 29, 2011 at 4:48 pm

Mack, I hope it’s OK to share this: come on over to my Facebook Page, and you’ll find a tribe of introverts who are having great conversations about our unique strengths and challenges! http://www.Facebook.com/TheIntrovertEntrepreneur

Mack Collier March 29, 2011 at 4:55 pm

Thanks Beth, I’ll check your page out!

laura warburton March 25, 2011 at 3:38 pm

I truly am introvert however have spent too much of my life being a fraudulent extrovert. I am really not too sure what that means if anything.

Mack Collier March 25, 2011 at 5:53 pm

That’s interesting, what do you mean Laura, you try to act more outgoing than you are? If so, why do you feel the need to act that way? Not judging, just interested in your story.

Tobey Deys March 25, 2011 at 3:50 pm

Hello, my name is Tobey and I’m an Introvert. (phew, step 1 out of the way!)
… Jayme, the trouble with starting an Introvert’s Club (of any kind) would be lack of attendance ;-) or maybe not enough wall space ;-)
But I’m getting there! In real-life social situations, I’ve progressed from looking at my shoes to looking at the other person’s shoes.
Seriously, I’m definitely more comfortable one-on-one … so I find that, in large gatherings, instead of getting to know many people vaguely, I’m able to get to know one person quite well. After enough of these, I end up knowing quite a few people. I do find being amid throngs of people really exhausting and, after, feel the need for complete solitude to recover (quite honestly, I do :-) ) and that I’m never really ‘me’.
Social media definitely allows my introverted self much more comfortable opportunities to connect, share, and listen than I would find in a room full of people.

Mack Collier March 25, 2011 at 5:55 pm

Hey Tobey! That’s an interesting system you have, so what you mean is that if you are going to a social gathering with similar people, that each time you try to get to know and become friends/friendly with one person? So that way after a few times you know several people there?

Interesting…

Tobey Deys March 25, 2011 at 6:16 pm

A bit like that … at local networking things where usually the same people attend, I’ll spend some time meeting one new person. The next time, another new person (so at this point, I know two people). IF I go a third time, same deal … even at events that I will attend only once, I tend to be quite low-key and typically will connect with only one – or maybe two – people. I usually spend more time listening than talking. People like to be listened to :-)
I’ve tried to chat with many people in rapid succession (always ends badly) or join in groups of people (ends with me screaming from the room).
Like most introverts, I’m not at ALL anti-social, isolated, or snobbish – I love connecting with and getting to know different types of people. Just more tortoise than hare in me, I think ;-)
(and I definitely limit the time I spend at ‘events’ – the ‘human’ energy tends to wear me out quickly … then it’s hide in the hotel room to de-programme :-) )

Mack Collier March 25, 2011 at 7:57 pm

Too funny on the hiding in the hotel room to de-programme, I was back to the hotel every night before midnight during SXSW ;)

Tobey Deys March 25, 2011 at 8:12 pm

whoot! Couple of party animals here ;-)
You mentioned about seeming ‘cliquey’ when it really isn’t … so true that for introverts, it’s all about comfort zones. Even hanging out with people I know, and whom I like, eventually drains me. I try to time my graceful exit before ‘cranky’ kicks in LOL

Naomi March 25, 2011 at 4:43 pm

I prefer “loner” but I suppose introvert would be applicable, too.

Mack Collier March 25, 2011 at 5:57 pm

To me, the word ‘loner’ infers that the person wants to be alone. I don’t think most introverts do. Such, we definitely need more alone time than extroverts, but to constantly be alone? I think that’s a bit much. What do you think?

laura warburton March 25, 2011 at 6:34 pm

I am not certain that a “loner ” wants to be alone rather is comfortable being alone.
Introverts are perhaps in need of more time on their own than extro erts who tend to get energy from others… introverts can easily lose energy amongst others.
Myers briggs is an interesting psychlogical testing measure on extro verse intro. Does it provide reliable results to online activity?? I WONDER

Tobey Deys March 25, 2011 at 7:43 pm

Well put, Laura. That’s exactly what happens to me; I lose energy in large groups; they drain me. Conversely, one-on-one AND on Social Media, I gain energy.

Naomi March 26, 2011 at 8:47 pm

Exactly; I feel much more comfortable when I have some alone time. Even just a few minutes to settle into my room at a conference lets me ground myself for the onslaught of humanity.

Maybe it’s a holdover from being an only child.

Mack Collier March 25, 2011 at 8:35 pm

I think Tobey said it best, we are ok in large groups, but in moderation. I think extroverts thrive off this environment, while it seems to drain us. I’ve heard from a lot of introverted friends about SXSW that they like to avoid the parties at night, and instead have dinner with a small group of friends.

I would LOVE to see a study of how introverts interact online, that would be fascinating.

Tobey Deys March 25, 2011 at 8:48 pm

Mack, that would be fascinating. How many of those folks that we assume are extroverts actually aren’t? Be very groovy to find out what’s behind the ‘online extrovert’ behaviour of introverts (what drives it … whence does that comfort zone emerge?) Is it like the Wizard of Oz – the man who’s curtain gives him is ‘extro-ness’? Very cool question!
Maybe we should ask … I would, but I’m shy ;-)

Andy March 25, 2011 at 5:07 pm

i so feel the same way. Great article. I totally relate about being online extroverted, offline introverted

laura warburton March 25, 2011 at 6:27 pm

Mac, to answer your question and it is quite timely… I have for my entire adult career worked in the medical/pharma industry… whilst really “living” my life on evenings and weekends as a painter/artist.
Two very polarized identities. Art and Science.
In the “corporate ” world most who knew me would tag me as an extrovert for sure.
This however was a somewhat uncomfortable ” role ” to play. I say that with hesitation though as I realize that parts of me were in fact totally comfortable with the “extrovert” role.
In just the past week I have made the jump… and exited my corporate role …. full time artist I am .
My true comfort zone tends towards introversion, one on one , no large crowds and more intimately related conversions, my former life ( the first time I have written that .. wow) was much more in trenched in extroverted activities and relations… which always left me feeling exhausted !!!
so that is the short of my story.

Mack Collier March 25, 2011 at 8:03 pm

Thanks for sharing Laura, that makes complete sense. Congrats on becoming a full-time artist, it sounds like that might be a far more comfortable role for you ;)

Susan Weiner, CFA March 25, 2011 at 7:17 pm

Mack, you are right about introverts and social media. I plan to meet a bunch of my social media friends soon at a conference. I’m afraid they might not recognize my “in person” personality.

Mack Collier March 25, 2011 at 8:06 pm

Susan over a year ago I got back from a conference and someone I met told me that they started not to approach me because I was always in the same group of people, and they didn’t want to bother me. What I was of course doing was ‘clinging’ to the few people I knew there was my ‘security blanket’, but at the same time, I was not only making others reluctant to approach me, but we were also, unwittingly, giving the impression that we were ‘cliquey’. In fact I hear that a LOT about events, that everyone is so cliquey.

Now I think that’s sometimes true, but I also think that introverts tend to naturally gravitate toward people they are familiar with, as others have said here in the comments.

Mark Campbell March 25, 2011 at 9:28 pm

Oh boy…can I ever relate. I tend to freeze up when faced with a crowd of people who are strangers. Early in my career, I failed miserably in jobs that no matter how you might dress it up with a title were…at the proverbial end of the day…all about cold calling. I sucked. But give me a warm intro to someone or some meaningful connection that I feel good about, it’s a very different story. I actually love public speaking. I am always stressed before getting on stage but afterwards I have the equivalent of a runner’s high. I think for me…and many of us…it’s about having some feeling of control. In a roomful of people you’ve never met, you tend to feel you don’t have much control and naturally you tend to ‘turtle’. It’s at these exact moments when–more than ever–you have to dig deep to push past the fear, anxiety and doubt and remember you’re only human. (Right now I’m hearing the song from The Human League in my mind.) And being a Gemini, I think it’s normal to be intro/extro. I don;t always succeed, but when I’m faced with a situation that I typically would be an introvert, I try to be a bit more of an extrovert than I normally would and remember it;’s all about the journey and yet another opportunity to learn something about myself and others. And yes, there are times when I need to dial back on the extrovert side and allow for a bit more calm reflection and perspective before acting. Isn’t a question of balance? And isn’t that a famous Moody Blues song?

Mack Collier March 25, 2011 at 10:21 pm

Mark I can COMPLETELY relate to your thoughts on public speaking. I am the exact same way, I get nervous and sometimes even dread it right before I speak, then when it’s over I get a sense of dread because I enjoyed it so much.

Tobey Deys March 25, 2011 at 10:35 pm

Props, Mark, for your insight. Pushing past all of the anxiety and actually laughing a little (Human League/Moody Blues made me chuckle – everyone should have a ‘comment soundtrack’)
As you say, Mack, it is a weird experience; I haven’t done a lot of speaking (biggest group maybe 100 people) and it’s almost an out-of-body experience (not in a Shirley MacLaine kind of way ;-) ); more like it wasn’t really me up there. And after it’s done, I think I kind of liked it.
What a great post – and a great topic, Mack :-)

Jody urquhart March 26, 2011 at 12:47 am

I often suspected many introverts would love this venue. Hide behind a computer or device and still express yourself. Because introverts seem to be deep thinkers, they are likely superior bloggers

Mack Collier March 26, 2011 at 3:13 pm

Jody I mentioned this earlier, but I really think blogging lends itself well to introverted souls. We tend to want to deliberate and organize our thoughts before we speak, which makes blogging a great vehicle for that. At least that’s my story ;)

Kimba Green March 26, 2011 at 11:09 am

*standing up* Hi, my name is Kimba & I am an introvert!

Thank you for ‘coming out’! I often say I would rather be alone with my computer then with people! Yet my online social life doesn’t reflect that because it is easier to hid behind the key pad & be an extrovert. In person there is nothing to hid behind.

Mack Collier March 26, 2011 at 3:14 pm

Hi Kimba, welcome ;) I agree completely with everything you said, it’s far easier for me to be outgoing online than it is offline. Especially among strangers.

Jenifer Olson March 26, 2011 at 1:08 pm

Excellent post, Mack.

I’m not a card-carrying introvert, but I can relate. According to Myers Briggs, I’m actually an extrovert. But if you look closer, my extroversion and introversion scores are almost identical. So yes, while I can do what I need to do in a business situation, I would much prefer to be the one who influences than the one who’s out front. And in a purely social situation, I can see where people might be confused as they try to reconcile who I am at the office or online with the more reserved person standing in front of them.

I love getting to know people and I need and enjoy social situations, but at the end of the day I get my energy from family, close friends and from reading, reflecting and spending time alone – all typical ways that introverts recharge.

Our online personas are only part of who we are IRL. The people who really matter will take the time to appreciate the whole package.

Thanks,
Jenifer

Mack Collier March 26, 2011 at 3:24 pm

Jenifer I’ve seen several people here say that they try to be more extroverted in office/business settings. This makes sense, but I wonder if this is also draining? I also wonder how this could impact your feelings toward your job? Not meaning ‘you’, but speaking in general.

Jenifer Olson March 26, 2011 at 4:26 pm

Yep, being an extrovert all day at work can be very draining, especially when you’re in a leadership position and don’t have much down time. For me, it’s why I tend to shy away from group lunches and after work parties. It’s not that I don’t need to unwind – I do. And it’s not that I don’t enjoy the company of people I work with – I do. But after being “on” for just so long, I need to decompress. Not necessarily alone, but with people who I with whom I can completely relax.

I don’t think it’s affected how I view or do my job, but I think sometimes it’s affected how others on the job see me when I don’t show up for a Friday night bash at the boss’ house. ;-)

Jenifer

Justin Osterholt March 26, 2011 at 1:30 pm

Both the post and conversation has been interesting to follow. Many things I can relate to myself as a fellow introvert, including the tendency to naturally slip into a listening mode and reflect. And this is where the online scene compliments my style of being social. A good deal of my social time (offline) is more or less “tricking” the other person into doing a majority of the talking by getting them to give me their opinion on something. While they talk I get to comfortably navigate the conversation from behind the scenes. Through social media I get the same comfort.

Thanks for inspiring such an involved discussion Mack.

Mack Collier March 26, 2011 at 3:34 pm

Justin you just hit on something very interesting. The idea of having the tendency to naturally slip into a listening mode and reflect. Maybe as such, that makes introverts better suited to online communication, versus offline? And maybe that’s why spontaneous offline communications can be more difficult for us?

Patricia Weber March 26, 2011 at 1:37 pm

One person commenting described what introvert and extrovert REALLY means and that is where some of people misunderstanding us begins. Not knowing that introverting and extroverting is not black and white. We all introvert and extrovert all day long: giving a presentation in front of 10 or 1,000 – that’s extroverting. Researching some further details for a presentation – that’s introverting. And ONE of those actions will have you more energized than the other. It IS about our source of energy. I think it was Marti Laney who said, extroverts are like solar panels taking in energy and introverts are more rechargeable batteries.

So when it comes to social media, because of the structure, the control it affords us, how even if brainstorming you don’t have to say “pass” but instead are allowed think time, this and more are ingredients that help the introvert thrive – being who they are.

We are ALL social beings regardless of the negative press we introverts (I’m an INTJ) get but that is all it is – negative myths actually. I’ve been blogging just for introverts for two years helping us to see that we CAN fit in being just who we are. And social media is just helping us do it more globally.

Mack Collier March 26, 2011 at 3:19 pm

Thanks to everyone for their comments, this has been amazing learning more about each of you! As I’m reading this, I am seeing many of you say that you find it easier to be extroverted online. Do any of you feel you are just as introverted online as you are offline? I don’t think we’ve really heard from this group yet, and I’d love to get the perspective from any of you that are introverts that see no difference in your comfort level in communicating online vs offline. We’d love to hear your thoughts as well!

Amy Nabors March 27, 2011 at 11:05 am

I can totally relate. I’m such an introvert in real life. But for me blogging and social media have helped me come out of my shell. I’m finding more confidence.

Mack Collier March 27, 2011 at 11:29 am

Amy I think it’s fascinating to see how social media and online interactions can make introverts even slightly more outgoing in real life. I definitely think it’s helped me. I am still uncomfortable in groups of strangers, but even with people that I know somewhat, I will say something now, where I wouldn’t have as easily before I started using social media.

Thefarmerslife March 27, 2011 at 12:05 pm

As a new blogger I have to say this real world introvert started blogging and tweeting to give myself a bigger platform to talk about modern agriculture. However, I’ve noticed a nice side effect to expressing my views online. In order to be a reputable source for my followers I feel I must put forth some effort to back up what I say with other blogs, news articles, or research. What I’m finding it’s that I have probably leaned just as much if not more than my readers have. I’ve always said you don’t always realize what you know or don’t know until you ask the question out loud, not just in your head, and using SM helps me put those questions out there for myself and others to answer.

Kevin Behringer March 28, 2011 at 9:28 am

Mack;

I don’t know that I’m AS introverted online as offline, but differently introverted. I do find that I’m more likely to voice an opinion online, but I still pull back a bit.

On numerous occasions I’ve had a comment, tweet, post, whatever that I wanted to write, but figured someone else had already written it so I’d just be “copying” or I figured that I may be wrong or viewed as uniformed, so I didn’t write it.

I am more likely to join in a conversation online than off, but still find myself being uneasy about the reaction to what my comment may be.

Kevin

Becky March 29, 2011 at 12:48 am

This is great Mark! I’m an introvert too, and you totally described me. I love knowing that it’s not just me and that there are others too. Great post!

Audrey Mora@totem poles March 29, 2011 at 3:14 am

I am an introvert and I find it easy to communicate with People I don’t know online rather than start a conversation offline. I find it easy to express my thoughts online rather than in person.

Lisa Gerber March 29, 2011 at 7:45 am

Hi Mack,
I’m a fence-sitter when it comes to introvert/extrovert: depends on the situation. But I wanted to comment for two reasons:
1. I wanted to check out your nifty new plug-in for new commenters. : ) and 2. I’ve always thought about that expression from radio: “he has a face for radio” and have compared it to social media: “he has a personality for social media” You just wrote the post that was trying to materialize in my head!

Mack Collier March 29, 2011 at 4:53 pm

Thanks for commenting Lisa, even if I had to ‘trick’ you into doing it ;)

Chris Eh Young March 29, 2011 at 7:46 am

Introverts of the world unite. Just quietly and when we’re ready.

I think the appeal for introverts to be extroverts online is the sense of immediacy is diminished however slightly. We can control the pace and flow of the conversations. We can duck out unnoticed to regroup should the need arise. It affords us the opportunity to prepare our dialogue, to be comfortable with it. It takes the pressure off.

There is no in your face, I wonder what they’re thinking, what was that facial tick for, did I say something wrong immediate negative response thinking. It allows us to open up more.

Yes, it’s true. Those of us that are online extroverts are expected to be extroverts offline too. That pressure makes it even more difficult for us to adjust. It increases the social awkwardness that we all try to avoid.

Sue MacQuarrie March 29, 2011 at 1:07 pm

I loved the article and looked for a comment by someone (like me) who’s still an introvert in both worlds! It’s been a couple of years that I’ve been working/playing in social media and it hasn’t changed. I love the access to really, really good sources of information and the conversations that spring up with hints of something bigger to dig at..but I can grow weary just as quickly as I do talking to strangers at a conference. Still good to know there are other introverts in this space! :)

Beth Buelow, ACC, The Introvert Entrepreneur March 29, 2011 at 5:19 pm

Great conversation here, Mack!

As Patricia and a few others pointed out, the real definition of introversion has to do with how we gain and drain energy and how we process information (we do both internally, as opposed to extroverts who do both externally). In the most fundamental sense of the terms, they really have almost NOTHING to do our social skills. We are at choice around that (unless there’s shyness or social anxiety going on, and that’s separate from introversion). Some might disagree with me about that; my belief is that by understanding and owning what it really means to be an introvert, we can assert what we need and take care of ourselves better, rather than suffer through situations that lead us to think that we’re socially inept or that we have to be something we’re not to fit in. We need to debunk the stereotypes and end the self-fulfilling beliefs that introvert = shy.

To reinforce Patricia’s point, I think it’s accurate to say that an introvert who is really active in social media, but more reserved IRL, is not *becoming* or *being* an extrovert, or leading a double life with split personalities. It’s that s/he is extroverting, as a verb – getting energy interacting with others and processing publicly instead of privately.

We all fall somewhere on an introvert/extrovert continuum; social media has proven to be an outstanding equalizer that gives space for the introvert to extrovert in a safe, positive way, on his/her own terms.

As for being equally comfortable on- and off-line, my favorite form of connection will always be writing, followed by public speaking. I will say that social media has improved my off-line skills, because I get to stalk people online – I mean, do research – before I meet them :-) Still don’t ever think I’ll like walking into a room of strangers, but it has gotten easier as I’ve discovered how to show up authentically, introversion and all!

Alison Golden March 29, 2011 at 7:47 pm

I’m introverted but to others appear extroverted.

That’s because in real life, I spend hours alone before I go out, and online I can dip in and out as I wish, the sensory stimuli is less, and I’m in control.

Gotta love social media and working from home for introverts!

Karl April 21, 2011 at 12:21 pm

Interesting, Mack. I just did a search about why I feel more comfortable online than I do offline and your blog was near the top of the results.

When I’m in an online community, I seem to become some sort of a leader. People frequently call me the “voice of reason”. I can defuse tense situations easily and can mediate solutions when people disagree.

In the offline world, while I’d be perfectly fine speaking to a crowd of 300, in a 1:1 or 1:few situation with people I don’t know well, I freeze up. And in conflict situations I’m nearly useless. I’d be willing to bet that nobody from my last job knows my wife’s name or how many kids I have.

When I sit behind my computer screen, I feel peaceful. I remember when I was spending a lot of time online that I would come home from a hard day, sit behind my computer desk and sigh with relief.

Still exploring this side of my personality, but just wanted to drop a note saying that you (and your commenters) have given me some things to think about.

Katie April 29, 2011 at 10:56 am

Mack,
I linked to this post from Gini’s #FF post….and can I just say, I’m 100% with you on this one! I love, love, LOVE Social Media and meeting new people through it. IRL? I love meeting new people, too, but I’m just not great at going up to them and striking up a conversation.

That being said, I think one of the coolest things that Social Media does is it provides a “soft intro” and it lessens the “deer in headlights” first meeting IRL :).

From one introvert to another, thanks for sharing.

Mack Collier April 29, 2011 at 11:04 am

Katie thanks for coming over from Gini’s place! I think this also ties into Alison’s point above, social media lets you dip in and out as you feel free. Makes communication MUCH easier for introverts ;)

Have a great weekend!

ibrowej June 15, 2011 at 1:20 am

Very helpful guidelines. Being an introvert myself, I could really relate to your article. Naturally, I would prefer to go to the dentist rather than have to interact in a room full of strange people. It’s not that I’m afraid, I just have my mind made up to be uncomfortable. It’s all about mindset. I believe this type of hang-up requires a lot of practice in creating positive networking experiences. Social media can be a great outlet for introverts. I did find some other free informational tools that could be of help at: http://relationshipcapital.co/op/?utm_src=bl

Tom47 July 1, 2011 at 3:23 pm

To answer your question, I’m just as uncomfortable communicating online as off. And that’s so uncomfortable that I have nothing to do with social media; no

Facebook, no MySpace, no Twitter, etc. In fact, I had to do a fair amount of arm twisting on myself just to post this reply. In most cases, I weigh the risks versus the rewards of communicating online and conclude that I’m better off saying nothing…just as I do offline. This time was an exception.

Only now I’m wondering, “How many others who read your article are like me, or did they just decide, as I usually do, not to reply?”

Anyway, thanks for asking.

ibrowej July 21, 2011 at 11:54 pm

Yes, social media can be a great outlet for introverts. This is where we can go and be completely free of our perceived limitations. Introverts are generally shy and self conscious so it is a great release to be free of all the hang-ups associated with person to person interactions. I think social media can be a great confidence builder that could eventually transfer to real life skills. Of course there can be a down side to this also because it can serve as a place to hide. Nothing to excess they say. Some other helpful tips for introverts can be found at:

http://relationshipcapital.co/op/?utm_src=bl

JPlovesCOTTON July 26, 2011 at 10:32 am

Not sure how I missed this but you have shined a light on a very close SM friend of mine! This fits to a tee! I keep thinking the people in his hometown would be amazed with how outgoing he appears online. The little testing I’ve done (Briggs-Myers, etc) made it clear that I tip the scales off the other end. I don’t think either orientation makes it easier to be successful at connecting through social media but understanding who you are has many benefits within social media.

JerryBrower October 3, 2011 at 2:57 pm

Yes, social media can be a great tool for introverts if used properly. It shouldn’t be used as a place to hide but rather as a confidence builder. I think some skills can transfer to real life offline. I believe it’s important to achieve a balance between the two. More tips on introversion at: http://www.helpforthenetworkingintrovert.com/

Vena Jensen October 22, 2011 at 5:59 pm

So glad to find other social networking introverts! I can relate to so much that has been said here. I’m new to the social networking world, but very happy to be here now!

justme2011 October 31, 2011 at 4:13 pm

I’m an introvert. I also live by the golden rule “do unto others as you would want done to you.” I believe I have no right to interfere with other people and yet people today are pretty invasive. I guess I’ve been an introvert all my life but i know people are much more intrusive in other peoples lives today than ever. Not sure if this compounds my introversion or just extends it. Either way, I don’t want any part of it. It’s not that I’m antisocial, I really enjoy time spent with other people, its just that if I spend time with them , I don’t want to adopt them or their beliefs, I don’t want to be expected to be there the next time and I don’t want to be labeled. I’m still me no matter where I went yesterday and no matter who I conversed with. I am an individual who is talented and responsible for my choices. I don’t like call calling and high pressure sales. I have a huge extended family that creates lots of obligations and I can’t keep up. Not that I don’t love them, just that I can’t keep up. And after a long hard day of work I need time alone. I think I’m ok but in today’s economy being introverted and needing time to recharge alone has become a bad thing. How do I adjust?

Ben February 28, 2012 at 3:13 pm

I realize this post is old but I just came across your blog today and this headline immediately caught my attention. I had to offer some devil’s advocate input. :D

The fact that people feel more comfortable behind their keyboard than they do in a room of people has been a topic of study since the early days of the internet. I’m no professor, but I did study psychology and it’s interesting how many people behave as ‘someone else’ depending on if they’re online or offline.

Social media, gaming, online dating, they all provide a way to portray the character you WISH you were, but as most comments support, in person (offline) is a different story.

As these online ‘escapes’ become more and more popular, it’s alarming to wonder how the ‘offline’ social skills of the online community could be affected.

Mack Collier February 28, 2012 at 4:33 pm

Hi Ben, I think that’s a great point on how people act differently online because they are ‘role playing’ to a degree.

But I think there’s a world of difference between how we act when we use our REAL IDENTITIES on social media sites, versus a pseudonym. For example, Carl is more likely to act the same online (or at least a lot closer) if he communicates as his real name of Carl Jenkins than he is if he communicates as HokiesFan4Life and no one knows his real identity.

But definitely agree with your point that if we are wearing a ‘mask’ online, we’ll act differently than we do in person. Usually.

Joey V. Price, MS, PHR February 29, 2012 at 8:06 am

Mack, great post!

The part of a conversation when you no longer have anything left to say can be very awkward. Especially in networking and meeting someone for the first time. Haven’t quite perfected that yet but if you or someone else you know does, let me know!

Joey
Jumpstart:HR – Strategic HR Outsourcing and Consulting Firm
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/jvpsaid

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