Some ramblings on introverts and online friendships

Originally blogged almost a year ago, this was one of my most read posts. It seems to resonate with a lot of people. I’ve edited it slightly with some new observations

I am very much an introvert, and I loved this article that my friend recently sent me a link to.

Now, I’m not a secret introvert as suggested by the article, I’m a loud and proud introvert (contradiction intended). I spent years assuming I was shy and wondering why I acted weird in groups, or with people I didn’t know. I recall sitting beside a girl in History class, who bitched to others that I didn’t speak to her, but I couldn’t. I absolutely couldn’t and I didn’t understand why. I now know it was simply because I can’t do smalltalk. I’ve got better over the years but even now, it wears me out. I had a large group of friends but I barely spoke when I was with them. Yet when it was just me and a couple of them, I was fine. I just can’t handle groups. End of. This has never changed; I can stand up in front of 70 people and talk about recycling with just a flutter of nerves, yet I dread my monthly team meetings. There’s only seven of us in the team.
The article surprised me though, as there are things I do that I didn’t necessarily put down to being an introvert. I’m a writer, and I’m definitely a more succinct writer than speaker. I screen all calls; I rarely answer my mobile, I tend to leave it then gather the mental energy to call the person back. I definitely shut down if I’ve been active or with people too long – I feel I need to be alone and to recharge – and I get distracted very easily. If there’s too much going on, be it at work or at home, I’m overwhelmed.
Being an introvert and being shy don’t go hand in hand, as extroverts can be shy too. I can confidently talk to people, its just taken longer for me to develop that skill. On the plus side, it means I only have ‘good quality’ people in my life. By that, I mean that if a friendship is going nowhere, or if I don’t click with someone, I let the relationship die a natural death. I don’t force myself on folk and I don’t let them force themselves on me. I simply can’t afford to waste mental energy on anyone who isn’t worth it. This probably makes me sound like an arse, but it makes sense. People always know where they stand. I won’t pretend to be their friend then bitch about them behind their back. We’re friends or we’re not. And those who I class as close friends (there aren’t many) are worth their weight in gold to me.
I guess many bloggers are introverts. Blogging (or any online interaction) is a great way of communicating with like-minded folk but without using up the mental energy of conversation. It’s done in our own time, at our own pace and if we decide we’re not clicking with someone, we just stop following their blog.

No only that, but sometimes I feel I know my blogging friends better than I know some people in real life. Take Sarah for example. I followed her recent pregnancy on her blog, and I’ve been following the development of her daughter Matilda too. I felt I invested more in her pregnancy and parenting experiences than I’ve previously done in that of friends and family, because I only see them occasionally to catch up. With Sarah, I was checking in probably about once a week, so I felt that bit more involved. And I guess with blogging there’s less room for the dreaded small talk or gossip. It’s a public arena yet it seems so much more intimate sometimes.

I believe that genuine friendships can be created online, and I don’t think its necessary to meet someone in real life in order to class them as a friend. There was a time where I wouldn’t have agreed with this, whereas now, I know from experience that it’s possible.

Are you an introvert or an extrovert? What about online friendships – are we ‘friends’ or just ‘people who know each other online’?

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