Although the word ‘introvert’ dates from the mid-17th century, it wasn’t until psychologist Carl Jung published a book describing the introvert and extrovert scale in 1941, that the concept gradually took on the prevalence which we all recognize today.
To be an introvert in 1941 could have led to a very difficult life! Although there were many more jobs which were more physical in nature, still, the process of approaching a new employer and asking for work could have been one which sparked off a lot of anxiety. I can imagine being conscripted into the army and being around a squadron 24/7 would have been another level of hell, before the horrors of actual war even entered the picture!
Society has never catered very well for the quieter, more sensitive, loner types of people. In fact, throughout history they have been ostracized. Although it was often the introverts who created the artistry for which they were recognized after their death, they have always struggled to ‘fit in’ and be accepted; making the plight of shyness become one of increasing anxiety, often leading to mental health issues and depression.
Vincent van Gogh is a classic example of an introvert who struggled greatly with day-to-day life, but focused his angst into a collection of masterpieces which are now highly acclaimed and esteemed.
Imagine for a moment, Van Gogh today. We have the recent film of course, which may make this visual easier for many of us. How do you think he would deal with modern society? Living in his hut now, with a Wi-Fi connection and a laptop… perhaps his life would have been very different?
Van Gogh on Instagram, tagging his paintings; #sunflowers #starrynight #selfportrait! Of course the chances are he would have become incredibly successful during his lifetime, had he lived now. Imagine, from the comfort of his own, anonymous, private dwelling he could have created commissions for people under a pseudonym, never once revealing his location and risking fame or exposure.
There is no doubt at all that the invention of the Internet was a game changer. Most of us cannot even imagine life without it. So accustomed are we to having a library, a travel guide and all of our friends in a pocket-size electronic ‘carryall’.
For the introvert – for those like Van Gogh, and many others who are a little more integrated but struggle with daily life – the electronic world has become an adventure playground. No longer do we need to have our faces exposed to the glare of fluorescent lighting, squashed into a row of desks whilst desperately clamoring for personal space and fresh air.
Now those of us who wish to be below the radar, can stay there. We all know that it is often the quiet ones who are the secret geniuses. We also know that it’s easier for them and everyone else if we all operate in an environment in which we are more comfortable.
The modern world has allowed the once impossible to become a reality. Furthermore, for those who find company tiring, but loneliness a bigger burden, the option is available to create personas, to chat with strangers behind the guise of an avatar, to connect with like-minded people; neither of whom would for a moment consider approaching a stranger in a face-to-face environment.
Of course the downside to this is that the grasp we have on ‘reality’ is becoming more and more subjective. Sure, perception between one person and the next has always differed, but now we don’t only have a different outlook, we have a whole different environment. So much of our time is spent in the ether – whether in games, social media, chat rooms, etc. – that our reality has become our list of habitual websites. We could be sitting in the same room with somebody else, yet living in a completely different world!
It is a great thing that introverts are not forced to ‘fit in’ to try to be the same as the gregarious yins to their yangs. There is of course the concern that when one is not encouraged to confront their fears or worries, they don’t slowly slip away, but rather become more profound. By sidestepping our issues, we are in fact allowing them to rule us, to become the very framework of our reality.
A balance has to be struck. We should always honor our true character, but we should never make choices from a place of fear, not if we wish to continue to be expressive and authentic.
It’s wonderful to use technology. We should never, however, get to the point where it uses US!