Why Gadgets Are Great for Introverts

Critics argue that wireless communication is a poor substitute for social interaction, but our wired world gives voice to the quieter half of the population

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A husband and wife sit companionably over bowls of cereal, heads bent not toward each other but to their smartphone screens. Three teenaged girls in sundresses gather in a friend’s living room, silently typing missives into their respective gadgets. A businessman attends a meeting but fiddles with his smartphone under the boardroom table.

These are the images of disconnection presented by Sherry Turkle, the MIT professor and author of Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other, in her widely viewed TED talk. Turkle argues, as many now do, that wireless communication is a poor substitute for social interaction and human connection. She’s right, of course; we’ve all felt the power of a pinging smartphone to pull us away from conversations with a friend, a colleague, our partners and children.

(MORE: Read about the TIME Mobility Poll)

But our online gadgets have arguably enhanced the social lives of one large swath of the population: the introvert.

Introverts are often brimming with thoughts and care deeply for their friends, family and colleagues. But even the most socially skilled introverts (of whom there are many) sometimes long for a free pass from socializing en masse or talking on the phone. This is what the Internet offers: the chance to connect — but in measured doses and from behind a screen.

When I was researching my book, QUIET, I noticed that many of the introverted academics I corresponded with were much warmer via e-mail than when we finally met in real life. The keyboard and screen allowed them to express their caring and friendly natures.

(MOREDon’t Call Introverted Children “Shy”)

Similarly, when you’re blogging or tweeting, you don’t have to wade through small talk before you get to main point. You have time to think before you speak. You can connect, one mind with another, freed from the distractions of social cues and pleasantries — just the way readers and writers have done for centuries.

And you can do all this from the quiet of your own home. “Sitting at home in the dark, on Google+, with my 1.6 million followers … is perfect for me,” Guy Kawasaki, the seemingly sociable entrepreneur, founder of alltop.com, and self-described introvert, told the crowd at a tech conference earlier this year. “Social media allows me to pick my times for social interaction.” (As of this writing, Kawasaki has over 2.6 million Google+ followers.)

(MORETouré: Why I Won’t Turn Off My Gadgets on Planes)

Of course, not all introverts see the Internet as a godsend, and not all forms of social media are alike. Some introverts have told me they prefer Twitter to Facebook, for example, because it emphasizes the exchange of information over chatter and photo-sharing; a 2010 study published in Computers and Human Behavior suggests that users of some social media sites have become increasingly extroverted as online anonymity decreases.

Still, a distinct breed has emerged: call it the “offline introvert/online extrovert.” That’s how Mack Collier, a social media strategist, describes himself on his Facebook page, and there are many others just like him. Chris Guillebeau, the author of the popular blog The Art of Non-Conformity, calls himself an introvert, and so does Lisa Petrilli, a leadership strategist who co-hosted a “Leadership Chat” with fellow introvert Steven Woodruff on Twitter every Tuesday evening for almost two years. One of their topics? The power of the introvert in cyberspace.

(MORE: Why Cell Phones Are Bad for Parenting)

A wired world can be alienating, but its great virtue has always been democratization. When we bathe in the blue light of our gadgets, we’re doing many things: surfing, working, gaming and, yes, tuning out the world. But we’re also hearing ideas from people whose voices might not have carried in the pre-wired era, who might not have broken through the chatter. One of the most unremarked advances of the online revolution is that we now hear loudly from the quieter half of the population.

MORERead TIME’s special report on how your phone is changing the world (and your life)

 

12 comments
JerseyJosie
JerseyJosie

"Introverts are often brimming with thoughts and care deeply for their friends, family and colleagues."--Happy to be informed of this! Before reading this article I thought they were all mindless psychopaths, hiding away in their corners, plotting the overthrow of the free world.

Noor Alam
Noor Alam

Dear

       Sir

           Assalam-o-allikum

 

                                   Sub;- tow sister from Bangladesh

to Pakistan

repatriates

                                             Karachi date17/10/1982 gove of Pakistan allotments

                                              Plot no,2905 new

majeed colony sector ii landhi

                                              Karachi Pakistan,

       

1982 REGISTRSTATION DF DATE.17/10/1982 KARACHI PAKISTAN

FORM TO BE FILLED IN DUPLICATEBY REPATRIATES FROM BANGLADESH. I.C.R.C REGIATION

1973-1974 PLOT.2905 SCTOR II AREA MAJEED COLONY LANDHI KARACHI DUTY OFFCER

DATE18/10/1982, OCTOBER ,1973.a huge air repatriation Citizenship of Biharis

who moved to Pakistan General M.Zia-ul-Haq 1978 General ziaur rehman agreements.25000

people date.23/12/1978 at Islamabad,pakistan a huge air repatriation

Citizenship of Biharis who moved to Pakistan Dear madam, Most of them spoke

urdu which bound them to accepted by Pakistan ,1973 OCTOBER pakistan Bangladesh

agreements 4800people from Bangladesh to moved by biman air lines to Pakistan,

1, Miss Mony D/o Late A.H Lari 2, Miss Sony D/o Late A.H. Lari Regards

verification from Bangladesh to Pakistan Chittagong Haji camp in date15/10/1982

Pahartali area. and Dhaka moved date16/10/1982 Dhaka to REPATRIATES

DATE.17/10/1982 KARACHI PAKISTAN FORM TO BE FILLED IN DUPLICATEBY

REPATRIATES FROM BANGLADESH,

from Bangladesh to

Pakistan Chittagong Haji camp in date15/10/1982 Pahartali area, and Dhaka moved

date16/10/1982 Dhaka to REPATRIATES DATE.17/10/1982 KARACHI PAKISTAN FORM TO BE

FILLED IN DUPLICATEBY REPATRIATES FROM BANGLADESH,

but feow people hi brother his plot kabza in

Karachi plot

no,2905

nushrat jahan@miss mony Your comment is awaiting

moderation.

Posted August 12, 2012 at 5:51 PM

 

 

 

 

 

 

                          

 

 

Take over house captivate

2sistter disturbance Qabiza Makan  in Karachi Pakistan,

Do not do today what you will repent of tomorrow,

Do not be in a hurry to tie what you cannot untie do that

which is right and let come

What come may,

Do well and aoubt no men 

Hondur  yourself to allah God is

called religion to our

Piety I hope justice to knows neither father nor justice is

a firm and continuous

Desire to render to everyone that which is his due,

The mouth that fies slays the soul

The name of allah lord is a very strong tower

SweetieClimber
SweetieClimber

Of course, I totally agree that introverts can gain a lot more info and confidence from gadgets partly because they feel freer to interact with people and explore more things they are interested in when there is no need for them to talk to people face to face. In that case, they tend to act more naturally and gather courage to air their voice and to share their interest with others. In short, it is definitely a fantastic way for introverts (also for extroverst)! Besides, what I wanna point out here is that although gadgets are beneficial,it is still pretty important for people, including introverts, to socialize with people around them in the real world. Certainly, people can get many info from those words and photos on the Internet. But still there are plenty of things that we can learn and enjoy during the time when people get together, have a small talk, smile at each other, and make eye contact to eaach other. And most of the time, the impact that the real experiences exert on us is not only profound but also precious cuz the interatcion with people in reality can teach us many things we cannot learn both at school or work, and on the Internet. So, it is of huge significance for us both to use the wireless interaction and to be more outgoing when we are with others.Then it'll be a win-win situation for us!

SweetieClimber
SweetieClimber

Of course, it is absolutely correct that introverts gain a lot more info and confidence from gadgets mostly because they feel more comfortable to interact with people and explore more things they are interested in when there is no need for them to talk to people face to face. In that case, they tend to act more naturally and gather courage to air their voice and to share their interest with others. In short, it is definitely a fantastic way for introverts! However, what I wanna point out here is that although gadgets are beneficial,it is still pretty important for people, including introverts, to socialize with people around them in the real world. Certainly, people can get many info from those words and photos on the Internet. But still there are plenty of things that we can learn and enjoy during the time when people get together, have a small talk, smile at each other, and make eye contact to eaach other. And most of the time, the impact that the real experiences exert on us is not only profound but also precious cuz we different experiences will help up learn different stuffs. So, it is of huge significance for us both to use the wireless interaction and to make more friends in reality.

LVVG
LVVG

Too many venues, both in-person and electronic, demand that statements on complex topics be distilled into brief word bites, for either the eyes or the ears. Many live interactions require that this distillation happen within seconds, with instant pithiness valued over substance and accuracy. "If's", "and's",  "but's" and thoughtful questions are too often prohibited, so that ideas aren't  challenged, developed or followed to logical conclusions, and so that the most gregarious are seldom held accountable for what they say. 

This same demand for often hollow instant pithiness pervades the electronic world, but I find that, in electronic venues, I can more easily sneak in a little substance, and a more accurate representation of my personality. I'm an "outgoing introvert" who finds that Facebook, comment threads in intelligent forums, instant messaging; etc. are my friends. I value precision and clear understanding among individuals--and, when using electronic communication, I don't appear aloof  when all I'm doing is taking an extra few seconds to gather my thoughts, choose my words and make sure that I am clearly understood. I use Facebook, but mostly to post entire paragraphs of fully developed thought, phrased in a manner that invites the same from others. I do the same with links to thoughtful articles, video; etc--and soon, my own blog, no doubt. 

This type of exchange seldom acts as a stand-in for in-person communication: Without the electronic tools, these exchanges would likely never occur at all, because I would never get a word in edgewise--a shame, because, in all modesty, my words are often wiser for being the product of a little more thought and reflection. Because I don't necessarily have to be thinking up witty responses while engaged in live conversation, I can more fully focus on actually listening to what others are saying. People appreciate it if I can sincerely say, "You've given me a lot to think about. Let me send you an email to continue this conversation."

With slightly different phrasing, I can defer to electronic communication to keep from being railroaded in live conversation by more aggressive personalities who love to press others into instant thought-free decisions, and benefit greatly from the extent to which appropriate reflection is difficult during live conversations. Ask any used car salesperson about this--in an email.

Conversely, I can start in-person interactions with all parties better understood because certain points that might otherwise be rife for potential misunderstanding have been cleared up in electronic communication before the live conversation has even begun. This allows the live  conversation to be more about the participants, and less about fine points of content and semantics. 

Amir Sharify
Amir Sharify

Let's see it this way, Technology has CREATED more introverts that helping them becoming extrovers!!

xtreemneo
xtreemneo

Why would an introvert like me need help to 'become' extroverts?

I was not pushed to become an introvert.

Talendria
Talendria like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

I'm an introvert, but as much as I dread smalltalk I hate social media more.  Facebook is banal and insincere.  Twitter is intrusive and superficial.  If you want to explore an idea or maintain a friendship with someone, you have to invest more than 140 characters.  Many people lack the etiquette or vocabulary to express themselves in writing, so they sound terse or unintelligible.  It's especially disturbing to see children sitting next to each other with their eyes glued to an LCD screen.  I fear we're raising an entire generation of sociopaths.  I like technology insofar as it increases productivity or entertainment, but it's a poor substitute for fellowship.

Robert Schwab
Robert Schwab

This is exactly why we need a refined collaboration tool that encourages people to contribute their own voice, perspective and ideas on issues that are simply too complex. As you have pointed out, statistically, introverts are typically some of the smartest individuals and if we can leverage the internet to help encourage them to express their ideas more openly, we will all be able to benefit from their insights.

Our goal with The Picket Project is to aid social innovation by enhancing our ability to create, evaluate and comprehend ideas.

http://www.picketproject.org

http://blog.picketproject.org

Jessica Sainz
Jessica Sainz

It has a lot of sense, at least for me as an introvert.  I love twitter because it has much more usefull information and is really direct.

AdrianarmtRoben
AdrianarmtRoben

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