In Defense of the Introvert

By The Beacon | August 29, 2013 12:05am

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By Kathryn Walters

It’s your freshman year at UP and before you can even catch your breath, you’re swept up into a never-ending whirlwind of Orientation activities, quad mixers, soccer games and workshop classes. While this constant hustle and bustle is no doubt overwhelming for everyone, it’s also a chance to make new friends and have a great time.

But for introverts, who make up at least one-third of the population, this fraternizing frenzy can come agonizingly close to their own version of hell.

Of course, I understand the need for freshmen to bond with one another and with their new school. However, looking three years back, it seems to me that Orientation weekend, and heck, college in general, is yet another example of our society favoring the extrovert and disregarding the introvert. And please, can we make it stop?

Hello, my name is Kathryn, and I am an introvert. No, that does not necessarily mean that I am shy, nor that I dislike people or that I enjoy sitting alone in my room all day watching “Doctor Who” (well, not the whole day). It just means that I require less social stimulation than extroverts to be happy. In fact, I quite enjoy hanging out with my friends! But I need my alone time to unwind from social interactions and not work myself into a ball of tightly-wound stress.

Unsurprisingly, discrimination against introverts starts at school and plagues us throughout our lives. In true introvert fashion, as a little girl I read my beloved books under a big tree on the outskirts of the Red Bank Elementary playground instead of swinging on the monkey bars or playing four square with other kids. I was happy as could be, until my concerned second grade teacher spoke to my mom about my behavior and suggested that I trade the company of my books for my peers.

While I am sure my teacher had the best of intentions, this clear instance of a bias toward extroverted activity is all too common in our society, no less in college. It’s an extrovert’s world, and we’re just living in it.

At college, extroversion and success go hand in hand. The parties you attend and the number of friends you have are directly linked to social status. Things are no different in the real world. Extroverts are more likely to be hired and promoted in the workplace, a fact which weighs heavily on my mind as graduation looms next May.

But try this on for size, extroverts. Studies have shown that we introverts tend to be more creative, get better grades and are even more effective leaders than our extroverted counterparts. We’re excellent listeners, and since we are thinkers at heart, give great feedback to those who ask for it.

A common misconception about introverts is that we don’t like to talk. Hate to burst your bubble, but no. Introverts enjoy talking very much, but we’re more selective about what we choose to share with others. We prefer discussions about the merits of evening constitutionals with our chosen circle of friends to rehashing the predictable “name, hometown, major” spiel around a bowl of jungle juice at a noisy party.

We’re also in the company of some of the greatest figures in world history. Mahatma Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln, Albert Einstein and J.K. Rowling are all card-carrying members of the introvert club.

So you see, introverts are pretty awesome and have valuable talents to share with the world. We might be a minority, but even in the softest of tones, our voices will be heard. Introverts of the world, unite (or not)!

Kathryn Walters is a senior sociology major. She can be reached at Walters14@up.edu. Follow her on Twitter.

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