As usual, when I decided I needed to write this blog post, I had not even the slightest idea where to start. I knew exactly what I wanted to say, I just couldn’t figure out how. After about an hour or so of writing, and six scraped introductions, I decided to leave the table of the Starbucks I was doing homework at, and got in line to grab one last iced green tea before I gave up and headed home. Looking around me, I saw one women seated at a table near where I had just been working, typing away on her Mac. To the left of her was a young man, a student I presumed, who too appeared to be lost in an e-textbook and his coffee stained notebook. To the left of him was another girl carefully scribbling away on an iPad, and to the left of her was a long line of people eager to grab their afternoon pick-me-up on their lunch break, each consumed by the contents of their phones. I would say 9/10 people in the room had their headphones in, blocking the world out.
As I looked around me, the more aware I became of how many people I was surrounded by in that moment, and how none of them seemed to be aware of this. Two of the business men in line were more concerned with talking to their associates through an earpiece than talking to each other. Groups of friends ignored each others presence as they sought attention from their other friends online, and it was at this moment I realized exactly what I needed to say.
We as humans are the most connected we have ever been in history, through means of the internet, social media, and electronic gadgets. In a matter of decades we managed to go from communicating by mail to being able to reach our friends across the world in a matter of seconds at any time of the day. While this has brought a world of good, a world of connectivity, and an era of technological innovation and advancement, it has also brought certain death to the introvert.
One’s own self worth is often viewed as something that is determined and gifted to us by others.
How many friends you have seems to be a consistent factor in how other people view you. People with the most friends are deemed the most legitimate, sociable, and friendly, so everyone strives to have as many as they can. In the last ten years this notion has been amplified through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, etc., except the “friend” factor is replaced with likes, comments, and followers. The people who have the most comments on their selfie are considered the most beautiful. The people who have the most followers supposedly have the most friends. The people who get the most retweets are the funniest; need I go on. We are taught from the time we begin to understand the world as a child, that we should strive to gain friendship, approval, and acceptance from other people, so that’s what we do.
We put on fake smiles, we make small talk, and we spend hour upon hour perfecting the outward appearance of our lives. We update our status to let everyone know we are travelling to Paris for a rendezvous, we take pictures of our food to keep everyone on their toes about what it is we’re eating, and we check into the gym to show our followers our active and healthy lifestyle! Admittitley, none of this is really that harmful except for the fact that we went from knowing our peers, family, coworkers, friends, and maybe a good majority of our town, to knowing each meal consumed by our cousins friends mailmans sister in a very short time.
Sharing every aspect of our life isn’t the problem though, it’s the belief that we share every aspect of our life.
When someone posts on their story 12 times a day, you think you know them, and you think you know their life, when the reality is quite the opposite. I’ve said it before and I will continue to say it: people only post what they want to post on social media. They post the vacations, the good food, their friends, their family, their achievements, and so on. No one posts about their divorce. No one posts about losing a family member. No one posts about their depression. No one posts about any of the struggles in their life really, because that’s not what they want to show people. I think that it’s great that people keep these things private, but an unintended result of this is that people’s lives end up appearing as if they are straight from a movie, and then other people compare their life to that standard, or try to live up to it, and it just isn’t feasible.
No one has “the perfect life.” It doesn’t exist. In today’s society we are all reaching towards unrealistic expectations, quantity of friends over quality, and followers over genuine human interaction, because that’s what we’re supposed to do, right? That’s what will make us happy, that’s what will make other people like us, that’s what will fill the void. No one tells us that it’s okay to be alone, when in fact, it’s healthy to be alone. People can’t be alone for a second nowadays, we reach for our phones as soon as we are in a social situation where we don’t know anyone, as seen in the Starbucks this morning. We are more connected than ever, yet experience more loneliness than ever.
Growing up, I always thought something was wrong with me because I was okay going to the bathroom by myself. Now I know that sounds weird, but if you’re a middle school girl, have ever been one before, or have ever known one at any time in your life, you probably know that a girl going to the bathroom alone is basically the equivalent of going to war by yourself against 100,000 armed soldiers. Why this is? No clue, all I knew was you went to the bathroom in groups. You also walked to class in groups, worked in-class with groups, played sports as a team, lived in a family, had a group of friends, and likely also had some sort of religious affiliation, which again, there was a group for. Now I want to make it very clear that I do not think groups are bad at all; groups are great, they teach us teamwork, compromise, sharing, and so on so forth while simultaneously providing us with a system of support, however, when every single aspect of our lives is lived and spent with other people, we rarely have time to ourselves.
I find solstice in being alone. When I tell some of my friends this it’s like talking to a brick wall; they can’t even begin to comprehend why or how someone could possibly enjoy being alone, because like I said, we are taught that we are supposed to be surrounded by people 24/7. An estimated 1/3 of the population in the United States are introverts, but Western culture caters a lot more to the extraverts. Being alone is most often seen as a bad or “weird” thing, when the reality is, alone time is necessary in order to refuel for a large fraction of people. I love being alone. There, I said it. I love to run errands alone. I love to shop alone. I like eating alone. I can enjoy pretty much anything alone, because what I find most draining, is oftentimes being around other people.
I prefer to surround myself with a few people who are true friends, rather than surrounding myself with a thousand people who will abandon me as soon as the waters get rough. I’d rather turn to myself for fulfillment, instead of seeking for it in others; i’d rather validate myself than wait for someone else to do it. People have thought i’m a bit off all my life for this, and I admit i’ve always been a little ashamed of it for some reason. They’d think it’s odd i’d walk to class alone, that I was quiet, or that I simply just didn’t go out much. I admittedly, have a lot of social anxiety because of this. I hate running into people I know, because I never know if I should say hello or if I should wait for them to say hello. So if you’ve ever seen me in public and I just stared awkwardly or avoided eye contact i’m sorry! I hate meeting people that I don’t know, because i’m like the awkwardest person you’ll ever meet for about a month until you get to know me. There’s nothing wrong with me, and nothing wrong with you if you relate- we’re just introverted, and that’s okay. Despite the social constructs that tell us we should never be alone, a lot of good comes out of being solitary.
I feel as though I am more myself when I am alone. I can better gather and articulate my thoughts, unbothered by outside influences. This doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy being around friends and family, because I do, I just also need my alone time.
I’m also the most creative when i’m alone, and this isn’t a coincidence. According to studies conducted by the psychologists Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Gregory Feist, introverts have been found to demonstrate higher levels of creativity than extroverts. Many famous intellects throughout history, such as Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Elon Musk, Dr. Suess, Nikola Tesla, Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi, Warren Buffett, Ayn Rand, Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Wozniack, Barack Obama, and J.K. Rowling to name a few, have all proclaimed themselves as introverts as well.
Lastly, I feel that in the times I have been most alone, I have found the most of myself. While it is incredibly easy to get caught up in trying to find yourself through others, only you can find yourself. Only you knows how to make yourself happy, because everyone’s definition of happiness varies. In order to change your life, and be truly happy, you must begin from within. No matter how much effort you put in to making your life appear amazing, your life will never actually be amazing unless you are able to be alone and look from within.
As always, thank you for reading this. I hope you could relate or were inspired in some way, as that is always my goal.
– Bela, on behalf of many introverts