Survey: Old Men are the Happiest
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Blogging and Solitude

[Crabby Old Lady has published a new story, Cosmetic Surgery For Teens and Tweens?, at Blogher this morning.]

What a strong and interesting reaction to yesterday’s story about happiness and solitude. It appears that quite a number of us bloggers or, at least TGB readers, consider ourselves introverts. I hadn’t thought of myself in that way until I read a remarkable 2003 story by Jonathan Rauch in The Atlantic that John Franklin recommended and linked to. Some points that resonated with me:

  • “…for years I denied [being an introvert]. After all, I have good social skills. I am not morose or misanthropic. Usually. I am far from shy. I love long conversations that explore intimate thoughts or passionate interests.”
  • “…introverts are people who find other people tiring...after an hour or two of being socially 'on,' we introverts need to turn off and recharge.”
  • “Extroverts...cannot imagine why someone would need to be alone; indeed, they often take umbrage at the suggestion.”
  • “…many actors, I've read, are introverts, and many introverts, when socializing, feel like actors…”
  • “I suppose this common misconception [that introverts are arrogant] has to do with our being more intelligent, more reflective, more independent, more level-headed, more refined, and more sensitive than extroverts. Also, it is probably due to our lack of small talk, a lack that extroverts often mistake for disdain.”

(These quotes lose the flavor and wit of Mr. Rauch’s piece; you really should read the entire story.)

I often feel that I’m acting when I’m in large groups of people – even small groups sometimes – but I’m fairly adept socially. And since childhood, people have called me out when I’m sitting quietly. My father used to ask, “What are you doing, meditating?” I wasn’t; I was thinking, but the message I got was that thinking and meditating were not altogether acceptable activities. (Please don’t judge my father on this one mis-step.)

I’ve been accused of arrogance, too, when I just didn’t have anything to say. Sometimes people ask me if I’m sad when I’m only thinking and once, a boss called me in to her office to tell me to smile more. (Go ahead and judge her if you want.)

In all these instances, I was emotionally neutral, pondering something. Well, neutral until someone questioned me.

Jean of This Too took the words out of my mouth with this comment:

“…one of the reasons I've found so many like-minded friends through blogging is probably that we all enjoy this very self-sufficient activity.”

[Be sure to check out the two photos on that link to Jean’s blog - a timely and beautiful representation of solitude.]

A study reported at the Eide Neurolearning Blog tells us that blogging, among other benefits, promotes critical and analytical thinking, is a powerful promoter of creative, intuitive, and associational thinking and, apropos of this topic:

“Blogging combines the best of solitary reflection and social interaction.”

Perhaps it is in the nature of blogging to attract people who are introverts and those who enjoy their solitude.


Comments

I often have problems when I'm with only one other person rather than a group. My habit of quiet listening and not jumping into the conversation with my every thought often annoys people when they are expecting a response. It's as if I'm not holding up my end of the conversation. Luckily, I have a few friends who are willing to give me a bit of space rather than yelling at me to "say something."

Want to torture me? Send me to a SXSW party and ask me to network!

Ronni, thank you so much for the link! Actually, the woman in my photos was far from physically alone. She was operating a cash register at a food and drink outlet in the British Museum! Her self-containment was what attracted me, though, as well as her beauty.

Fascinating posts and discussion, Ronni! And thank you for the link to Rauch's article. I could not help nodding and saying to myself, "yes, Yes, that's me!".

Ronni,

I also am socially adept and can hold my own at a large or small party or gathering but many times I need to recharge by sitting quietly at my computer.

I sometimes think I am communicating with myself rather than an unseen audience. Whichever it is, blogging makes me feel as if I am in a safe bubble where I can relax and express my thoughts.

I think this probably describes me to a tee. I'm not very good at small talk and can sit quite happily and watch the world go by, even if I'm with friends at the time. Sometimes I want to be more extroverted but I just can't.

What is interesting to me about this topic is that some mistake shyness for being introverted. They are not the same. You can get along quite well with people, easily create conversations, have friends, but still be an introvert. I think it's more about your need for alone time than about whether you have social skills. More it's that extroverts get recharged by being in groups where introverts are recharged by being alone

This post has clarified some things about myself that have bothered me. People think of me as an extrovert, yet I need lots of time alone to -- as you say -- meditate, think. When I'm in public, I think I become a performer -- I give a performance of myself for my audience. I have known many actors in my time, and, yes they are introverts. And now I see that is true for me as well.

For me, blogging is also a way of "performing" for an audience. It doesn't mean I'm being inauthentic; it's just that, when I have an audience of any kind, I put on a show.

And blogging is, indeed, both reflection and performance.

You've given me much to think about here.

I generally find trying to classify, then label people into "either/or" groups an over-simplification. At various times in my life I am, or have been shy, introverted, or extroverted. Where I may fall, or have fallen on the spectrum has depended on my age, environment, experience, what's going on in my life, my mood, the individual(s) with whom I'm interacting. I tend to view most others fluctuating in that same sense, too. I perceive a need to be sensitive to "where they are on the continuum" at any point in time. This can be challenging if there is a lack of honesty from others, or they are busy being "on" for whatever their reasons. I also, think most of us can choose to be "on" if for some reason we do not wish to reveal our true feelings at any given time, or if we lack awareness about ourselves. I recall reading about this subject when it first came out, and thought the same thing then.

My family constitutes a whole tribe of introverts! With a smattering of extroverts . . .and not terribly extroverted at that. It's just fine to be with them.
Introverts "need" people just as much as extroverts but in much smaller doses! And "shy" is not necessarily to be equated with "introvert"! That's a common mistake people make in describing those of us who are introverted but not at all shy. We just don't want to "be with" to the extent that extroverts want to!

Hi Ronni...this is interesting stuff...

I'm more of an extrovert than an introvert--but it's taken me years to own that about myself(for a lot of dysfunctional reasons I won't get into here.)

Yet, still, talking too much to too many different people will cause me to go off and "meditate" so to say--even in the middle of a conference! It probably sends some kind of signal to people, but these days I'm working on not worrying too much about what others think of me (novel concept.)

So for me, when I'm home alone, I'm tolerating the solitude. I've found things to do in my solitude, so it doesn't bother me all that much. Blogging is one of them. For me, it's like starting a conversation at a party :-)


I can ditto everyone's feelings about the difference between being an introvert and liking solitude. I am also often asked if I'm sad. No, I just have a saggy face. Even as a child my incipient family jowls made me look sad. About 35 years ago I was alone on an Alaskan cruise and a family invited me to have a drink with them. I learned later they thought I might be a young widow. It turned out the young mother and I shared a birthday. We became friends, though many miles apart, and still are altho we've only seen each other in person once about five years ago. On the phone we gab like teenagers. It's not the kind of person you are, it's the kind of friends you have. You need to fit.

Though I enjoy solitude, I like being alone better when someone else is around, another part of the house is fine. Now that I live alone, just knowing my next door neighbor is a tap on her door away is nice.

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