The Introvert as Extrovert

Free stuff of the day: Fractal Desktop designs, linked by The Free Site.

I’ve made a new Anomaly category for weird science, exotic syndromes, and personality typing. Tonight I’m finally starting my long-promised foray into online personality types, with the first letters of the MBTI alphabet: E/I.

MBTI critics rarely stick at the distinction between extroversion and introversion. The continuum is clear and most people can identify both themselves and others as either extroverts or an introverts. Technically, E/I isn’t about sociability per se but about whether a person is more interested in the outer world or the inner life.

I started wondering about E/I on-line because E/I determines whether one prefers to use the judging or perceiving process in one’s interactions with the outside world. Never mind the J/P dominant/auxiliary process technobabble for the moment; the question I found myself facing was, Is the Internet the outer or the inner world?

I concluded that on most counts, the ‘net is the inner life. There are little clues, like our habit of referring to the off-line world as RL (real life), no matter how much of our real energy and real time we devote to the virtual life. There are big clues, like the prevalence of virtual extroverts who are introverts according to the RL MBTI. (Seema, can I use you as an example?)

The determining factor, though, is the mediating nature of the net. Real extroverts prefer immediate contact with real people in the flesh, rather than asynchronous communication through writing. Stop and think of typical extroverts you know in RL - are they ‘net fiends? Everyone I know who has a net.problem is a classic introvert in RL. Otherwise, they’d be out there in the bar scene, associating with Real People.

So we are all introverts here - and yet an on-line introvert is an oxymoron. If you don’t communicate on-line, you fall below the radar and you aren’t even here. So we are all extroverted here, if we are here at all - I’m brash and yellow with unsought enemies on-line, despite my RL introversion.

What happens if an extrovert does happen to get involved in, say, on-line fandom? Would she morph into a troll? I don’t think so. I think she’d be just a flash-in-the-pan AOL user that comes along, tries to chat but can’t quite grasp the lingo or the appeal, perhaps makes some contacts with people she can meet in RL, and goes away again. Extroverts have better things to do with their time.

Next time on MBTI Theatre, S/N

5 Responses to “The Introvert as Extrovert”

  1. Seema Says:

    Go for it. Just do it before I’m a leavin’ on the jet plane .

  2. Melina Says:

    This is interesting, because I usually consider myself as quite an extroverted person in RL, but I’ve been addicted to the web and various communities now since 1998.

  3. Jerie Says:

    Interesting post, Jemima. Thought provoking, as usual.

    Extroverts have better things to do with their time

    I’m not sure I would agree that rubbing elbows with a bunch of drunks in a smoke-filled bar is “a better thing” than laughing with AIM buddies while listening to favourite tunes. But that’s just semantics. To each his own. I guess all of us need social outlets and the net has become a wonderful way for those of us who like finding it in their inner life.

    Looking forward to the next MBTI Theatre.

  4. Lori Says:

    The crucial thing with E/I is “where do you get your energy?”

    If your idea of a great time is to go to a party and associate with people, if that’s what gets you turned on and motivated, if at the end of the party you’re energized and ready for more — that’s an extrovert per MBTI.

    If you associate well with others and enjoy their company, yet find it necessary to retreat to a quiet place; if you prefer to associate with one or two people at a time rather than hang out and play with a dozen or so; if you find yourself trying, at work, to solve all your difficulties on your own and not instinctively going to someone else first; if your way of recharging in the evening after a hard day of associating with many people at work is to sit in front of a computer playing games or perhaps reading a book — this is the MBTI introvert. It doesn’t mean you don’t like people; that’s a pathological problem. It doesn’t mean you prefer not to associate with people. It means you need time to process stuff in your own way, internally.

    The more common idea of extravert = good with people, introvert = loner, is not MBTI-based. It’s not that simple.

  5. Jemima Says:

    Seema: I already did. Your 15 minutes are up.

    Jerie: Better is, of course, from the extrovert’s point of view.

    Melina and Lori: I was thinking of the inner/outer world distinction, which is also part of the MBTI concept of E/I. It’s entirely possible that an extrovert could identify the Internet with the outer world and/or get energy from it - it’s just not something I’ve seen in RL extroverts. But then, I don’t get out much.