The Future Could Be Really Bad For Extroverts

by Frank J. Kenny

Does it drive you crazy when a person has their nose buried in their mobile device when they should be paying attention and participating in a group discussion?

This Trend Could Be Really Bad For Extroverts

I want to run a theory by you.

It pertains to introverts, extraverts, modern technology, and cultural changes that are upon us.

It seems to me that for the longest time society was hell-bent on creating more and more extraverts. If one had a natural proclivity towards introversion, that was something to be remedied.

This would not be good for the extroverts around us.

Picture a kid’s camp drop off area. You might envision dozens or hundreds of screaming and laughing little kids disembarking from cars and buses for a week or two in nature.

Picture now Little Johnny getting out from mom and dad’s car. Instead of running around making a ruckus, all he wants to do is find his bunk and get started reading his new books.

This would generally be considered a problem, from society’s standpoint, right? This would be viewed as troubling behavior, for Johnny to sequester himself away.

Johnny, to be a good little boy, needed to participate. He needed to socialize, meet new kids, roast marshmallows, drink hot chocolate and listen to the stories.

Of course, this isn’t what Johnny wanted to do at all (because Little Johnny is introverted). But Johnny would give in, relenting to the strong peer and adult pressure for him to “participate”.

For Johnny, small talk and mundane chatter just won’t do much for him, so he soon fades deep into the background, comfortable (if not excited about) being an attentive listener.

The Johnny’s of this world make great audience members.

So Johnny makes the best of it. At times, when the conversation was actually important or interesting to him, he would be an active participant. But mostly, he listens.

Extroverts Everywhere

The aforementioned scenario has occurred countless times in countless ways around the world. Around family dinner tables, people like Johnny try to engage and be “part of the family” or part of the group, but really, the effort is intense for them. It isn’t fun. It is uncomfortable. It is taxing. It is like being at work.

But they do it anyways because, what is the alternative, laying on the couch while everyone else is talking and laughing at the dinner table? Imagine this at a cocktail party. Unheard of. Unthinkable.

The fact is though, it is just plain hard work for introverts to listen to small talk and trivial matters for hours on end. Introverts know that the conversation can’t always be deep. But they also know that the vast majority of the chatter will be small talk. They may even make an attempt to turn the discussion to the recent find of life on Mars, for instance, but they know that the loudest extrovert will be looking to wax eloquent on their topic of interest. The extrovert is the group dynamics expert here, the introvert a babe in the woods.

So they fade into being an audience for the extroverts.

You may ask, if they don’t like being an audience member, why don’t they just go do something?

The answer is, if they excuse themselves and do something interesting, productive, and fun, like reading a book or working on a hobby, they risk being ridiculed as unsocial and uninterested in others. Their behavior can also be interpreted as aloof, or even stuck up.

Ancient History

(If you are an Anthropologist and can shed light on this section, please do.)

If I am right, what I have written so far has probably been the norm since the dawn of man.

The cool kids in the cave sat around the fire, laughing and telling stories about the fish they caught today and where they would hunt tomorrow. They held court, each extrovert waiting their turn (or more likely practicing in their minds what they would say). These extroverts were in attention heaven, having a trapped audience (unless the introverted cave man wanted to brave a Sabre Tooth Tiger outside the cave just to escape the small talk).

If the caveman went deeper in the cave, to read the cave paintings, they were separating themselves, being unsocial. The last things a tribal person needed to was to be ostracised, expelled from the group for not being part of the clan. So they listened.

Back to the theory….

Let’s Add Modern Technology To The Discussion: Handheld Mobile Devices

Today, when a conversation among a group is dull, there is a pretty good chance someone, probably an introvert, will grab their handheld mobile device and check the news. Or social media. Or anything that allows them to get fulfillment while not being entirely rude and walking away from the group.

Picture a recent business meeting where attendees were on their handheld device. Or picture a typical restaurant with the tables full of people. Almost invariably someone at each table will be disengaged, checking out their phone. Sometimes the whole table will be on their phones.

Looking out into the future. With the massive trend towards universal mobile device adoption, all the introverts can now maintain their physical presence but detach mentally. If the conversation is painfully dull, the introvert can basically go back to work in their office without actually leaving the table.

The Point of All Of This

Glass for extravertsThis ability to just grab your phone could cause real problems for the die hard extroverts of the world. Imagine the dynamics of a small group where ALL the naturally attentive listeners (introverts) have gone to their comfort zone and are doing something productive on their phones, while ALL the extroverts are fighting for the floor.

Can you picture it? That seems like a challenging scenario to me. Can extroverts be happy without introverts? Are introverts at fault here? Or have the tables simply turned?

I can see why some people are so upset today about people, their audiences, using their mobile devices when they should be listening to them. This must be incredibly threatening. What does the future hold for forced gatherings like boring meetings? For family holiday dinners?

And just think, Google Glass is just around the corner. Wearable Internet access. 24x7x365. The age of the introvert has arrived.

   
 
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