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Are we as a society becoming more introverted?

Woman working remotely

As technology has continued to expand, we've become more and more reliant on digital communication -- and the pandemic has only accelerated the trend.

People are no doubt communicating more via social media, text, and instant messaging apps than ever before. 

Let's enter a time capsule and go back to the late 90s/early 2000s, when America Online (now AOL) was in its heyday. While many people jumped on the chat room and IM train, it was nowhere near as ubiquitous as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp are today. 

We must acknowledge, of course, that smartphones weren't a thing yet. Now, thanks to the wide adoption of WiFi and data plans, we can keep in touch with friends and family at the push of a button, no matter where we are. 

As I've addressed in prior posts, COVID helped to usher in a new era of remote work. Yes, some companies were already allowing employees to work from home, but it was more sporadic, on an as-needed basis. Now we're witnessing people -- introverts and extroverts alike -- leaving jobs that don't afford them the flexibility to work remotely at least a few times a week. 

One other striking change is how universities now let you complete your Bachelor's and Master's degree entirely online. When I was in college, we had the option to take select courses via a fully online or hybrid format, but the vast majority entailed in-person instruction. So if an introvert wishes to forgo the traditional college experience and go virtual, they can.  

Back in the 18th and early 19th centuries, people like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Alexander Hamilton had only two modes of communication they could lean on: meeting up in person or staying connected through correspondence. Social media and instant messaging constitute the letter writing of today -- a more virtual and instantaneous incarnation of it, of course. 

Does this suggest that society, by and large, is becoming more introverted? Not exactly, as much as I wish that were the case. 

It merely suggests that people prize convenience. If working remotely means spending more time with family and juggling work and laundry to save time, why wouldn't they favor it? They can always socialize with friends over the weekend. People aren't as eager to partake in water cooler conversations  as employers might think.

I think the world -- namely the U.S. -- will continue to favor extroverts. But thanks to the pandemic, staying in on a Friday night may no longer be viewed as sacrilege anymore. 


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