A pandemic sweeps the entire world almost overnight, causing businesses to close, schools to pivot to online instruction, and people to panic -- except, perhaps, for one small subset of the population.
It's as if introverts had been waiting for this moment their whole lives.
No longer having to attend social engagements?
Being able to work from home for 18 months?
Enjoying a Friday night at home without being chided for it?
Most of us probably thought we were having a dream -- one from which we did not want to wake up.
It's not to say that introverts haven't missed meeting up with family at a busy restaurant for dinner, celebrating birthdays with co-workers, or attending concerts with friends.
The difference now is that saying "I'll pass" (if an outing is proposed to begin with) doesn't rub people the wrong way like it used do. It's become acceptable to decline if your concern relates to catching the virus, whether because of crowds, lack of social distancing, and so on.
Even with the situation improving thanks to the rollout of vaccines, introverts know they can get away with using "staying safe" as a pretext for staying home and doing introvert-friendly stuff like reading and binging on Netflix.
I don't condone lying to people that way, but the reality is that introverts are always made to feel like party poopers for wanting to stay home. The pandemic has turned the tables, giving introverts the upper hand.
If it were up to us, we would somehow be accorded this flexibility during normal times -- as nobody wants to see others get sick and possibly die.
But since we have no other choice, here's how introverts have been trying to make the most of it:
- We've leaned into texting and social media as ways to stay in touch with others (which we were already doing anyway). This is fine by most introverts since we tend to prefer written communication to drawn-out phone conversations and gatherings.
- We've leveraged social distancing protocols in parks and other public spots to enjoy a personal space in which to quietly read or drink coffee.
- We've seized the opportunity to work from home to get much-needed downtime. Because we haven't had to deal with a commute or getting dressed up for the office, it's left us with ample time to get even more done -- both personal and work-related. (Who says you can't go for a walk, catch a few minutes of a show, or put a load of laundry to wash?) Best of all, we haven't had to sit in those dreadful in-person meetings. While Zoom and Teams can be a drag sometimes, we view them as the lesser of two evils.
My more extroverted counterparts, however, don't express themselves nearly as well via email or IM, which likely makes them miss the days when they could just suck up all the air in the office with their bluster.
While many extroverts have yearned for the opportunity to leave the house and meet with lots of people like they did before March 2020, introverts, on the other hand, have taken every opportunity to catch up on their reading or writing and do other stuff around the house.
We introverts feel that the whole "out and about" thing is overrated. We're perfectly content ordering in and watching a good movie.
As I noted in a previous post, we don't need stimulation from the outside world.
Yes, many of us like to travel, but are you likely to see us at nightclubs or karaoke bars every night? Nope.
You're far more likely to spot us checking out a few museums or art galleries in the daytime and unwinding in our hotel room at night.
Again, I'm not suggesting introverts can't appreciate a good party. I'm just saying that spotting us in loud, crowded location is more likely the exception than the rule. Such environments drain us beyond measure.
To be fair, though, not all of my extroverted colleagues have a beef with working from home. They enjoy the flexibility it affords them, though they do miss the social factor that comes with working in an office.
We all know that sooner or later, the pandemic has to end.
Will we ever return to the world we inhabited in 2019?
I sincerely doubt it.
Here are some ways I feel things will be different:
- A growing number of employers will continue to allow employees to work from home at least a couple of days each week. The hybrid format is here to stay because job seekers will persist in demanding that flexibility.
- Cleanliness protocols in public spaces -- from restaurants to hotels to furniture showrooms -- will remain in place.
- Capacity limits of some kind at movie theaters, cafes, and other venues will likely outlast the pandemic.
- Online shopping and delivery will continue to boom as companies try to compete with Amazon.
- Introverts will not be as harshly criticized for wanting to do their own thing, in solitude.