Contrary to the popular belief that introverts are a minority population, a recent study sheds light on the prevalence of introverts. According to the data collected by the Myers-Briggs Foundation, approximately 51% of the sample indicated being an introvert (Statistics Brain, 2016). In other words, there were slightly more people who identified as introverts than extroverts in this sample.
How could this be? Historically, the media has taught us that introverts are shy, recluse, and anti-social. If that is the case, why are we not seeing roughly half of the people we interact with avoiding us. More so, why would 51% of this study’s sample engage in being participants in this study? The fact of the matter is that while some introverts may be reserved, comfortable being alone, and perfectly fine with interacting with just a few people, it does not mean that introverts do not enjoy interacting daily on social media with a wide range of online friends. As such, can you still be considered an introvert if you are active on social media?
Though the question seems paradoxical, the endless sea of topics and groups on social media can surely cater to the most recluse of recluses as long as they have two thumbs and internet access. In fact, a simple Google search of “recluse online community” yielded roughly 4,670,000 recluse-related sites in 0.33 seconds. In other words, virtually anyone can use the Internet for social communication anytime at almost any location. More so, the Internet environment has an added feat for people who feel like their identity carries a stigma: anonymity (McKenna & Bargh, 1998).
An anonymous Internet environment makes it possible for users to find like-minded people to build meaningful relationships with, from almost any part of the world. With approximately 40% of the world having access to the internet (Internet Live Stats, 2015), the probability of finding someone who shares similar interests as yours is extremely high. In addition to having anonymity, with the ability to form relationships without being physically present and or in proximity, the Internet environment provides the users complete control of logging on and off and editing their texts whenever they please (McKenna & Bargh, 2000). Bargh, McKenna, and Fitzsimons (2002) suggest that the two primary reasons that introverts interact online are (1) self-related motives and (2) social-related motives.
Rooted in Carl Roger’s theory of the “real self,” McKenna and Bargh postulate that self-related needs are based on the “self’s” desire to interact with society when the conventional method of real world interaction does not work. According to Rogers and colleagues (1951), to achieve true happiness, a person must be able to express themselves in society, despite whether the platform is online or in person. In a study conducted by Amichai-Hamburger, Wainapel, and Fox (2002), forty participants were recruited to examine the “personality characteristics of the user affect the meaning and importance of Internet social interaction in comparison with “real life,” face-to-face interactions” (pg. 125). Results found that introverts found their “real me,” or self, via the Internet, while extroverts found their “real me,” via traditional social interaction.
In sum, can you still be considered an introvert if you are active on social media? Most definitely! Why are introverts active on social media? Similar to extroverts in the mundane world, introverts are actively socializing. In retrospect, introverts seem to socially blossom in platforms that are non-linear, with eco-systems that are not restrained by factors such as income, race, or social economic status. As the digital grows and becomes more ubiquitous, perhaps online platforms will become the norm and the primary method for social interaction. If that is the case, introverts may be the innovators of social interactions compared to their extroverted counterparts.
Amichai-Hamburger, Y., Wainapel, G., & Fox, S. (2002). ” On the Internet no one knows I’m an introvert”: Extroversion, neuroticism, and Internet interaction. Cyberpsychology & behavior, 5(2), 125-128.
Bargh, J. A., McKenna, K. Y., & Fitzsimons, G. M. (2002). Can you see the real me? Activation and expression of the “true self” on the Internet. Journal of social issues, 58(1), 33-48.
Internet Live Stats. (2015). Internet users in the world. Retrieved from http://www.internetlivestats.com/internet-users/
McKenna, K. Y., & Bargh, J. A. (1998). Coming out in the age of the Internet: Identity” demarginalization” through virtual group participation. Journal of personality and social psychology, 75(3), 681.
McKenna, K. Y., & Bargh, J. A. (2000). Plan 9 from cyberspace: The implications of the Internet for personality and social psychology. Personality and social psychology review, 4(1), 57-75.
Rogers, C. R., Rogers, C. R., Freiberg, H. J. R., Rogers, C. R., & Rogers, C. R. (1951). Client-centered therapy: Its current practice, implications, and theory (159.9). Houghton Mifflin.
Statistics Brain (2016, January 24). Myers Briggs Statistics. Retrieved from http://www.statisticbrain.com/myers-briggs-statistics/
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